WORLD ARC 2015-16
Round-the-World Rally Makes First Colombian Stop
by Sally Erdle
A major indicator that Colombia is now firmly on the international sailing destination map was the arrival at Santa Marta of the World ARC 2015-16 fleet. A fleet of 15 boats from eight different countries tucked into IGY Marina Santa Marta in mid-January, having sailed 815 nautical miles from the start of the globe-girdling yacht rally in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia on January 10th.
Organized by World Cruising Club, the now-annual circumnavigation event lasts 15 months and covers a total of 26,000 nautical miles. As boats join in at different stages, the World ARC 2015-16 fleet is expected to total 25.
English sailor Caroline Frew aboard the Oyster 575 Juno, the first boat to arrive in Santa Marta after the brisk downwind leg from St. Lucia says, “We had winds of 20 to 25 knots, good for Juno”, which enabled a passage of exactly four days. Scottish skipper Peter Jennett aboard Exody, a Sadler Starlight 39 that arrived the following day, says, “We had lots of wind, with 45 knots in squalls. Exody is a good sea boat, and we were mostly under double-reefed main and poled-out jenny.”
Another boat’s crew contained family members ranging in age from 82 years to two months. “All in all it was a pleasant trip with the wind and the waves behind us. We spent five nights at sea — we took it easy for the grandparents.”
All boats were in by the 16th. Since everyone arrived with no major problems, the marina’s still-expanding maintenance facilities weren’t tested.
In previous editions of the World ARC, the first stop after the St. Lucia start was Panama. Stopping in Santa Marta not only cuts nearly 300 miles off the challenging shakedown leg, but it also provides a knockout first port of call: a still-lively Spanish colonial city founded in 1525. Colombian Coast Guard boats, WCC and marina staff and local media greeted the arrivals. Participants then enjoyed a week of city and national park tours, a beach barbecue, live music and dance performances, dinners and parties.
Running throughout was the famous Colombian hospitality. Marina Manager Mauricio Culcalon says, “The World ARC is important for us, and of course we want everything to be perfect. But the warm, friendly welcome we give — for us Colombians, that’s normal.”
WCC director, Andrew Bishop, tells Compass, “We’re excited about adding a new stop on the Caribbean coast of Colombia to introduce World ARC participants to a culturally rich stopover and give them the opportunity to explore a different part of South America in addition to Brazil near the end of the rally. Another advantage for participants is breaking the potentially longest leg of the rally, from St. Lucia to Panama. The participants have all arrived having had a cracking sail from St. Lucia and have been overwhelmed by the tremendous warmth of their welcome in Santa Marta. They now have the opportunity to explore a country they might not otherwise have considered visiting — and arriving by boat is very special.”
“It’s a great stop for any rally, and World ARC has organized excellent tours for us,” acknowledges Caroline Frew.
After the announcement was made at a press briefing in the marina on January 14th that World ARC would be making a stop here for the next five years, Manuel Julián Dávila, owner of Marina Santa Marta, said, “This is a great win-win.” It’s a Caribbean bonus for the participants — a quite different experience from the Lesser Antilles — and a stellar opportunity for Santa Marta to promote itself as a sailing destination.
Many cruisers don’t realize how much Colombia has changed in recent years, and the rally’s arrival was a chance to demonstrate to a group who will be talking to other sailors around the world that it’s a fun, friendly, interesting, and above all safe place to visit. Several World ARC participants remarked on the friendly welcome they received from men in Armada uniform when completing arrival formalities. Coast Guard Captain Diaz, in charge of the Santa Marta area, says that the change is often noticed in the way officers now interact with yachting visitors. He explains that Colombian coast guard personnel were once trained to approach yachts cautiously, if not aggressively, because in the bygone narcotraficante era some officers had been killed during routine inspections when vessels turned out to be smuggling drugs. “Now we can balance a welcome with maintaining security.”
Changes being made to simplify yacht clearance procedures are also being noticed. And although the World ARC fleet won’t be able to take advantage of it, the maximum length of stay in the country has been extended from six months to one year, and is renewable.
The 53 sailors who were fortunate to be in World ARC fleet inaugural Santa Marta visit did, however, pack a lot into their stay. Highlights included a visit to the historic former sugar estate of San Pedro Alejandrino where South American liberation hero Simón Bolívar spent his last days, joining in with a high-energy local dance troupe at the marina’s Tropical Party, and being whisked by local sportsfishing boats to Bahia Concha, set in the splendid Tayrona National Park, for a traditional Colombian barbecue. Joined by Mauricio Cucalon and Colombia’s Vice Minister of Tourism, Sandra Howard Taylor, the World ARC sailors were the guests of Manuel Julián Dávila, who organized the laid-back beach barbecue as his personal welcome.
In association with the Red Cross and Marina Santa Marta, the sailors also engaged in a fundraiser for Fundehumac Foundation, a charity for underprivileged children in Santa Marta.
On the ultimate night of their stay, a gala prizegiving dinner for the first leg of World ARC 2015-16 was held at the elegant century-old Club Santa Marta, adjacent to the marina.
The fleet departed Santa Marta on January 20th, with horns blowing, cameras clicking and water spouting from tugboats. The Swedish crew of the 42-foot double-headsail sloop Ayama wrote in their log, “A sad but wonderful send-off from Santa Marta, her charming and friendly people and all the amazing hospitality we were given.”
Marian Borde on Exody says to anyone thinking of joining World ARC, “Have a go! Give it a try!” Her husband, Peter Jennett, says, “I heard somebody call it ‘concierge sailing’ — but it’s really good!”
Thanks to ProColombia for making Compass’s first-hand coverage of this event possible.
Visit www.worldcruising.com/world_arc for more information on World ARC.
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