Volvo Ocean Race yacht Team Brunel (NED) has broken the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) course record sailing from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia in an elapse time of 8d 7h 39m 30s.

This is the third consecutive year that the course record has been beaten; a year ago, super-maxi Farr 100 Leopard by Finland took over two days off the previous record set by Caro, a Knierim 65 in 2013.

‘Near-perfect’ conditions for this year’s crossing have seen Team Brunel propelled towards Saint Lucia and into the ARC history books for breaking the record in the rally’s 30th edition.

Prior to the ARC, the Dutch Team Brunel yacht had raced around the world with the Volvo Ocean Race, achieving second place overall. A great result for Gerd-Jan Poortman who has three Volvo Ocean Races under his belt and who skippered Team Brunel in the ARC Racing Division.

Poortman was joined by fellow ‘pro’ Volvo sailors, Jens Dolmer and Rokas Milevicius. The 15 strong crew consisted of five professional sailors and 10 experienced amateurs – the boat’s owner and some of his good friends made up the less experienced crew – who were chasing a bucket list adventure and they have not been disappointed!

Celebrations on Team Brunel after receiving a heroe's welcome to Saint Lucia © WCC

From the day ARC 2015 set sail from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Team Brunel has sprinted to the sun-soaked shores of Saint Lucia, with an average VMG of 13.5kts since the start and top wave surfing speeds of double that at times.

The one-design VO65 is a pure racing boat, with no freezer on board and no proper cooking stove, so aside from some fresh fruits for the first few days, the crew had a diet of freeze-dried food for the crossing.

Persistent north easterly winds due to the well-established Azores High allowed Team Brunel to zig-zag the rhumb line route for much of their crossing. Interestingly, the total distance covered on their transatlantic route is greater than the two previous record holders at 3342NM.

But their ARC experience has not been without drama and on Sunday, on board reporter Koen Lockefeer announced a potentially disastrous mainsail tear had occurred during a routine gybe.

After a night reefed down, it was all hands on deck for a race ready repair the following morning: ‘Johnny and Tomas started to organize the ripped sail part, climbing up the end of the swinging boom. They tied the top and bottom end of the sail together with lashes between the sail battens as if the ripped middle part had never been there. All hands on deck again to hoist the sail to max height, about as high as 1.5 reef and carefully sheet in the main again. To everyone’s joy the boat started speeding off again … As the old sailor’s wisdom states: before you can win a race you first have to finish it. The broken mainsail and subsequent repair were a very close escape from not finishing at all.’

Team Brunel were welcomed to Saint Lucia at 16:24 local time (20:24 UTC) yesterday, 30 November, and greeted by representatives from the Saint Lucia Tourist Board and IGY Rodney Bay Marina. The crew were presented with an ice-cold rum punch and welcome basket of island gifts to celebrate their arrival.

Celebrations are likely to continue for much of the evening around Rodney Bay. Team Brunel’s nearest ARC rivals, Durlindana 3 (ITA) are still some way off reaching their berth in the marina, and are currently expected to arrive around 20:00 local time on Thursday 3 December.

In the ARC Multihull division, trimaran La Caravelle (FRA) has consistently led the fleet and is expected to arrive on the 5th December if conditions hold. Boats in the cruising division will enjoy life at sea for a while longer; over the coming days many will celebrate their own milestones reaching half-way and are enjoying calmer conditions after a breezy departure from Las Palmas just over a week ago.

However the Team Brunel crew will no doubt be embraced by their fellow arrivals from the ARC+ fleet. Departing from their stopover in Mindelo, Cape Verdes five days earlier than the ARC fleet left Las Palmas, and with a shorter distance to sail to Rodney Bay, 18 of the 59 ARC+ boats have made landfall so far.


The ARC+ Monohull fleet setting sail for Leg 1 from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria © WCC/Claire Pengelly

ARC+ 2015 sets sail

The 64-strong ARC+ fleet set sail from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria amid a gentle swell, warm sunshine and an…