‘Hiiiiii HOOHHH!’ ARC Europe Fleet is Azores Bound

The classic Desiderata pulled onto the Dinghy Club just as the fleet departed Bermuda.

Click here for the event gallery to see all the photos from today's start. Or scroll to the bottom to see a few of my own.

Waking up on a rally start day is always bittersweet. Knowing that the fleet will be heading to sea in a few hours is a relieving sensation. The work is nearly over, and after one more big push we know it’s soon time for a cold beer and a relaxing afternoon exploring Bermuda. But knowing that there are 30+ boats about to cross the Atlantic, and I’m not on one of them, is painful too.

For the first time in ten days it dawned cloudy in St. Georges. The brilliant sunshine we’ve experienced here gave way to low, gray scudding clouds that threatened rain. The breeze was back, thankfully, though still light out of the north, so we were hoping for a sailing start. The wind direction, if it filled in enough, would be perfect for the yachts to sail through the Town Cut and out to sea. Always makes for a fun spectacle.

The start time was moved up to 1100 this year, an hour or two earlier than in years past to accommodate the ferry schedule. Jockeying with a 150-foot motorboat in narrow town cut would not be an option, not with 30+ boats under sail. Bermuda Radio would be none too thrilled with that. So the morning started early, with the rally office open by 0830 and us yellowshirts scrambling around to tie up all the little loose ends that inevitably get left to the last minute by boats and crews too eager to get to sea. A propane bottle delivery to Tosca. Borrowing an airhorn for the start from Amalie II. A few bits of paperwork to collect for Lady Lisa. Last minute water top-up with the Hayes family on Morning Haze. Cycling back and forth between the Dinghy Club and Bermuda Yacht Services in town to keep Sandra and Mark happy and make sure all the boats scattered around St. Georges have paid their dockage bills. At times it feels like we yellowshirts are everywhere, and all at once.

Back at the Club, yachts started slipping lines by 0930, and making their way to the ‘inside’ starting area in the harbor just south of Ordnance Island. On occasion in years past we’ve have near disasters on the Dinghy Club wall, as anchors inevitably got crossed when boats were Med-moored and lines were inextricably fouled. Not this year. Thanks in part to the new mooring balls that Bermuda Yacht Services laid when they took over management of the Club docks, the departing process went smoothly this morning. Webster – hiiii hoohhhh! – led the way.

Lyall Burgess and Mark Soares from BYS took Mark’s small lobster boat out to set the starting line just after 1000, first helping the remaining yachts on the wall retrieve their mooring lines. The first warning signal came at 1050, with the ‘ten-minute’ horn sounded to announce the imminent start for the Multihull Division. With three catamarans over 60’, three starts were arranged this year to give the fleet plenty of room to maneuver going through the cut.

Easy Rider easily took the line at the gun at 1100 sharp and led the multihull fleet out through Town Cut, followed closely by Tosca, Malisi and Mariposa. The lightweight flyer Tosca, with all plain sail set, were overtaken just before entering the cut by a charging Malisi, who’d aggressively set their big genneker. 

Ten minutes later the boys on Webster – hiiii hoohhhhh! – grabbed the honors and just barely took the 1110 start for Class A monohulls, followed by Sparta III and Bonnie Lass. The final start at 1120 for Class B was won by Gertha 4. 

As the yachts entered Town Cut and aimed for the open sea, a remarkable thing happened; overhead, a small helicopter UAV (drone) was seen buzzing around the fleet just outside the cut. Two guys from Bermuda Aerial Media had heard about the rally start and set up their gear on top of little Gates Fort, erected just on the north side of the cut. The UAV had a gyroscopic stabilized and remote-controlled camera onboard, and the Aerial Media boys were filming the fleet as they headed to sea. One flew the UAV with a remote control, while the other manned the camera, viewing the action live on a small screen he’d positioned on a tripod. The footage will be available on worldcruising.com shortly, and participants will have the opportunity to buy prints and video from the guys at Bermuda Aerial Media when they reach the Azores.

At press time, five yachts remain in Bermuda due to various delays. Lady Lisa, Sea Eagle and Annettine are all waiting on parts and small repairs; Amalie II is expecting a new crewmember to arrive in the next day or so and will depart then; Puerki, who only just arrived into Bermuda this morning after they were delayed leaving the BVI, arrived onto the Dinghy Club dock just after the start, and expects to leave in a few days, with hopes of catching up with the fleet in the Azores. Finally, Andromeda of Plymouth remains in the BVI but is set to depart imminently and sail direct to the Azores, as with Puerki hoping to catch the rest of the fleet up.

As for us yellowshirts? After a busy afternoon wrapping up the website and cleaning up the office, we’ll be off for a swim and a relaxing meal ashore! We’ll be on airplanes tomorrow, though I promise you we’d all rather be sailing. Good luck out there, stay safe and have fun!