Amateur sailors celebrated on the Caribbean island of St Lucia after conquering a high-profile transatlantic yacht race.
The 12-strong crew, which signed up for the voyage with Southampton-based specialists First Class Sailing, finished the 2,700-mile Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) in 52nd place overall and sixth in the Racing B class after spending 18 days at sea.
Starting in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, alongside more than 200 vessels, the team on Challenger 3 battled through the many challenges of transatlantic racing to achieve a respectable result.
Skipper Ricky Chalmers, 55, who competed in his second successive ARC, was full of praise for the crew, with some experiencing ocean yacht racing for the first time.
He said: “The light and variable winds which we experienced during this year’s ARC race across the Atlantic created challenging racing conditions for the crew.
“We made best use of every zephyr of wind and spent hours and hours plotting and scheming our way through the weather forecasts to place the boat in the best possible place.”
Challenger 3 beat their nearest rivals on the Challenger 2 and Challenger 4 yacht in a nail-biting finish.
Ricky added: “Hats off to the crew, it was a hard fought and well deserved victory.
“Congratulations to the skippers and crew of the other Challengers for keeping us on our toes and at some stages we thought they had snatched the win from us.
“We raced hard, had fun and arrived safely in the Caribbean.”
The team gained vital ocean racing experience crossing the Atlantic having dealt with mixed weather, physically demanding deckwork, sail repairs, light winds, a rotational watch system and more.
During the race, crew members encountered dolphins swimming beside them, crystal clear starry nights, 30C degrees heat, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, torn sails and squalls. The team even had time for a mid-distance fancy dress party, ocean swimming and fishing.
Crew member Bill Southcombe, 74, was elated after finishing the voyage and completing a memorable transatlantic crossing.
He said: “Racing in the ARC exceeded my expectations. We raced the whole distance and we were very emotional at the end.
“All the hard work was worth it and I would race the ARC again – but it’s not for the fainthearted.”
First Class Sailing principal Charlie Tulloch applauded the crew for their spirit and teamwork after reaching their destination after a challenging crossing.
He said: “Crossing the Atlantic is no mean feat. The crew had unusual conditions to deal with, such as light winds and the challenges that that brought.
“They have done fantastically well to beat the other two Challenger yachts and come home sixth in class.”
After the success of 2016, Charlie is planning to run another First Class Sailing entry in the 2017 ARC.
“We have started taking bookings already. No two ARCs are the same – who knows what will be in store for next year’s participants? There’s no doubt it will be a lot of fun.”
Prior to the 2016 ARC, team members took part in a training weekend, held in the Solent, where they were put through their paces on an identical 72-foot long yacht to the one they would later complete the race with.
First Class Sailing provides the full range of RYA sailing courses, plus a 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.
Contact account director James Tourgout on 07827 806400 and firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.