ARC race is ultimate take-away for ex-McDonald’s employee

CAREER CHANGE: Andrew Northall, 22, from Birkenhead in Merseyside, quit his job as floor manager at McDonald’s to pursue a career in sailing. He will be watch leader with First Class Sailing during the 2016 Atlantic Rally for Cruisersn (ARC). The race begins in Las Palmas on November 20 and finishes in St. Lucia just over two weeks later.

GOLDEN ARCHES: Andrew Northall, 22, from Birkenhead in Merseyside, quit his job as floor manager at McDonald’s to pursue a career in sailing. He will be watch leader with First Class Sailing during the 2016 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). (Picture by Deep South Media’s head of visual Paul Collins)

A former McDonald’s employee from Birkenhead will compete in a high-profile transatlantic race that starts this weekend – having left his job just two weeks ago.

Andrew Northall, 22, a watch leader, is a former floor manager at the fast food chain and forms part of an expert quartet that will oversee a crew of 12 amateur sailors in the 2016 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC).

All 12 of the team, who will also be guided by skipper Ricky Chalmers, mate Kirstie Rowe and fellow watch leader Nic Allen, have signed up for the ARC with Southampton-based sailing specialists First Class Sailing.

The 2,700-mile ARC attracts over 200 vessels and starts in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria on Sunday before finishing on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia just over two weeks later.

Andrew’s love of sailing has provoked a dramatic career change – and he hopes to become a professional next year.

He said: “I got the job at McDonald’s to fund my yachtmaster qualification with the aim of turning professional in 2017.

“This will actually be my second ARC and my fourth Atlantic crossing. The sense of achievement and feeling you get after completing the ARC is unparalleled. Ocean racing is both rewarding and risky but there’s nothing like it and I hope to have a long sailing career.”

The crew began their preparations at a recent training weekend held in the Solent and skipper Ricky, who will compete in his second successive ARC, flies out to the Challenger 72, a 72-foot yacht, on Thursday.

He said: “The first few days of the ARC are full on and it acts as a great training base. Once the team’s experience builds up we can start to push it.”

Originally from Durban on South Africa’s east coast, Ricky, 55, has been a full-time skipper for six years and has a wealth of racing knowledge.

He said: “I did the ARC in 2015, the Atlantic Challenge in 2014 and have completed the last four Fastnet Challenges, plus I participated in the 2007-8 Clipper Round the World race – I guess you could say I love my ocean racing!”

The Rolex Fastnet is a race from Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, to Plymouth via Ireland.

Ricky is joined by mate and partner Kirstie Rowe, 29, from Runcorn in Cheshire and now based in Llanberris, north-west Wales as an outdoor education teacher.

She said: “Ocean racing is so exciting and my passion for it began when I was 16. I went to sleep during a voyage and awoke to a beautiful sky, surrounded by blue sea and thought ‘I’d like to do this more often,’” she said.

Originally from Sheffield, Nic Allen, 53, is now based in Fareham, near Portsmouth and is a general practitioner by trade. His love of sailing stems from a desire to give something back to society.

He said: “I’m a youth mentor and putting effort into the development of young sailors is so worthwhile.

“Crossing all three major oceans is a big ambition having already sailed the Atlantic and Indian oceans – the Pacific is the biggest challenge by far.”


First Class Sailing principal Charlie Tulloch is delighted to have the expert quartet on board.

He said: “Between Ricky, Kirstie, Andrew and Nic there is an extensive stock of sailing know-how and their combined experience in both ocean racing and sailing in general will be of great benefit to the 12 amateur sailors. They really are in good hands.

First Class Sailing provides the full range of RYA sailing courses, plus a huge variety of yachting experiences – including delivering the ARC yacht to Las Palmas via Biscay and back across the Atlantic to the UK from St. Lucia.

The company has been awarded a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence three years running.

Sailing holidays to various parts of the world are on offer, including Norwegian fjord cruises next year and participation in races such as the 2017 ARC Rally, The Rolex Fastnet – a race from Cowes to Ireland, finishing in Plymouth – and the Round the Island race circumnavigating the Isle of Wight.

Anyone wishing to book a place at the 2017 ARC with First Class Sailing should contact Charlie Tulloch on 0203 006 3717 or via email

You can follow the race via First Class Sailing’s blog:

Contact account director Neil Walton on 07469 140446 and