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Special celebrations conclude the 25th edition of ARC Portugal

by World Cruising Club 28 Jun 22:26 UTC

Right from the beginning, ARC Portugal 2019 was going to be an extraordinary sail south. As well as being the 25th edition of World Cruising Club's multi-stage sailing rally, this year it is also 25 years since the Marina de Lagos, sponsor and final destination port for the rally, opened in early July 1994.

Good cause for a double celebration as ARC Portugal 2019 concluded yesterday at the marina where a total of over 500 yachts have arrived as part of the rally over the years. For the crews on the eighteen boats sailing with the 2019 edition, it has taken almost four weeks of sailing, months of preparations and years of planning to reach the pontoons of southern Portugal; a great personal achievement and yet another reason to toast to a successful finish of the rally.

Assembling at Mayflower Marina in Plymouth at the end of May, little did crews know quite how their adventure would unfold. The pre-departure programme quickly set the tone of support from rally organisers World Cruising Club, but also from amongst their fellow crews as everyone prepared for crossing the Bay of Biscay for the first stopover in Bayona. All World Cruising Club rallies are designed to be a social and safer way of sailing to destinations, with the idea of knowing there are other rally boats in the vicinity whilst at sea. ARC Portugal often attracts crews who are venturing on their first real experience of longer distance offshore sailing, aided by the experience and support of the rally team.

"The camaraderie and social side of the rally is not to be underestimated - we have certainly met lifelong friends and sailing companions through this experience." said Jonathan Farrow on Moody 376 Diablito. Judy Aslett, of Hans Christian 48T Fair Isle agreed, "It's been an excellent adventure. We have met some lovely people and some really experienced sailors to help those less experienced." Departing on schedule from Plymouth on Sunday 2nd June, crews waved goodbye to England's shores and headed off to complete the coveted bucket-list item of crossing the Bay of Biscay.

Offshore challenges and onshore highlights

The weather for ARC Portugal this year has been unusual, starting with the unexpected and fast developing Storm Miguel, during the latter part of the Biscay crossing. Whilst most boats reached a safe haven and avoided the passage of the storm, there were a few who remained at sea, making passage away from the predicted track of the low, who had a few uncomfortable hours hove-to, before continuing to make landfall in Bayona.

Continuing the theme of ARC Portugal 2019 being anything but a 'typical' cruise south, conditions continued to be very different from normal June weather, and frustrating when making passage to their destined Marina de Lagos. The day sails south along the coast of Portugal to Lagos, normally characterised for excellent sailing in the northerly Portuguese trades, were a mixture of light airs, southerly winds, and on one occasion thick fog! There was some good sailing, the leg from Peniche to Oeiras being the best of the coastal sails this year.

Whilst days at sea may not have been textbook cruising, the itinerary of ARC Portugal 2019 has supplied some unforgettable experiences ashore. For this reason, the rally is always referred to as 'much more than a delivery trip', sharing the diverse and fascinating culture of the Iberian coastline with an extensive programme of organised tours and social events. From visiting famous sights in Santiago and Coimbra, sampling port wine in the cellars of Porto, experiencing the gracious hospitality of the Mayor of Figueira da Foz at Quinta das Olaias, and enjoying celebratory evening at the Casino da Figueira, there have been some great rewards to joining the rally. "ARC Portugal has made a long relocation voyage so much more enjoyable." said Colin Prebble skipper of Beneteau Oceanis 400 Aurora.

A special welcome to Marina de Lagos

Reaching Marina de Lagos, manager Ingrid Fortunato was delighted to see the smiling crews of ARC Portugal and hear their tales. "The arrival of ARC Portugal to Lagos marks the start of the season in the marina, when we receive a fleet of enthusiastic and passionate sailors that arrive as a big, tightly-knit, "family". Every year, ARC Portugal brings Marina de Lagos more boats and sailors, and the marina shares its treasures with them - the protection from the conditions, weather and Portuguese hospitality. We love to receive them and they love to arrive here; it's a special two way relationship."

Andrew Bishop, Managing Director of World Cruising Club, and founder of the rally, comments, "Arriving in Lagos it is always a pleasure to bump into previous participants, many of whom have made Lagos their cruising base, and in some cases their home. Within in a few hours of arriving this year I had met participants from the 2002 rally, who have only spent four years away cruising out of the last seventeen, and another couple who arrived with the 20th ARC Portugal in 2014, who have been based here ever since and now have a house in Lagos where they spend three months a year. And yesterday I met a crew member from a previous rally who has settled and started their own marine business here in Lagos. These are typical of the stories one hears from previous participants, and goes to show why amongst cruisers locally Marina de Lagos is known as Marina Velcro - as once you are here it is hard to leave!"

Andrew Bishop further comments about the sponsorship by Marina de Lagos "We are extremely fortunate to have such generous sponsors in Marina de Lagos. Without their initial support to help launch the rally we would not be here today, and it is testament to them, and in particular the long standing management team of Ingrid and Martinho Fortunato, that they continue to support the rally, for what is now a long standing sponsorship agreement that has endured the test of time. The win-win sponsorship relationship works well for both of us, and long may it continue."

Milestones and future plans

As the rally marks the special milestones of 25 editions and 25 years of sponsorship, Martinho Fortunato was quick to credit that it is the shared vision of those involved that has delivered its success each year. "Marina de Lagos and World Cruising Club have formed a partnership that is based on a great friendship between the two. The initial aim of the event was to promote the new marina in the UK through a Rally that would, at the same time, share the values and vision of our marina hospitality. The success of these objectives, I would say, are intact and continue to be the same; we love sailing, we love the sea and we are keen to deliver great boating experiences. I am looking forward to receiving the next five editions of ARC Portugal and reach the 30 years milestone!"

With the 2019 edition now concluded, crews will also be looking forward to their future cruising plans, enjoying the Algarve, exploring the Mediterranean, or cruising back north to re-visit some of the rally ports. They will take with them many memories from this special event, and no doubt build on the friendships and camaraderie that has developed from their month long cruise south together.

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