At 21:52 local time on Thursday 4 December (01:52 UTC 05 December), the first yacht of ARC 2003 finished in style, smashing the course record by several hours.
Spirit, one of the two Volvo 60's taking part in the ARC, skippered by Hamish OLIPHANT and his crew of 15, steamed across the ARC finish line under full sail at 18 knots.
It was an incredible sight as she rounded Pigeon Island in the dark, approaching the finish line with her crew hanging out high on the windward side, huge smiles on everyone's faces as cold beers and rum punch beckoned them ashore.
What a great achievement for all the crew, with a finish time some 10 hours ahead of the previous ARC course record, Spirit now holds the new ARC course record of 11 days, 13 hours, 12 minutes and 20 seconds. The crew remarked that their top speed had been 21.3 knots surfing down a wave, although one crew member commented that the only soft surfaces on the boat were the crew's backsides! It seems the excitement of racing such a yacht across the Atlantic Ocean also means a trade off in the galley department and several cries of joy were heard from the few that had missed fresh fruit and vegetables for the last 11 days as the welcome fruit baskets were loaded aboard.
At anchor tonight, the skipper opted to keep it simple rather than attempt to squeeze their 12 foot draft through the narrow cut leading to Rodney Bay marina. Tomorrow sees St. Lucia welcome their record breaking arrival in style with a special welcoming ceremony at 1100 a live band and undoubtedly a carnival atmosphere.
Next ARC boat due to arrive looks to be Venom, most likely arriving the morning of Friday 5 December (local time), so keep an eye on the site for the latest news!