We did the ARC this year (2013) and thought it was very enjoyable and fun.
We didn't need to do the ARC since this was the last leg of our circumnavigation
, back to the Caribbean
where we started, but thought we would join it.
What we liked were the seminars, safety inspection
, making lots of new friends and the parties of course. Also having a guaranteed berth at the beginning and end in St. Lucia were a BIG plus for us. You simply cannot get a berth in either place unless you are with the ARC because of space limitations.
Safety at sea is why we also joined - there are many other boats around to lend assistance and a very good SSB
net to coordinate any problems.
The safety inspection is very rigorous and quite a few of the big boats did not pass the first go-around. Every boat had to correct deficiencies before they were allowed to proceed with the ARC so you knew every boat had the necessary safety equipment
onboard should the need arise.
We also thought the timing for the start was ok. It is not advisable to leave earlier because of the chance of a late season hurricane
. Leaving later you risk the Christmas
winds that kick in resulting in worse weather. That said, our winds of 25-30 sustained for nearly 2 weeks were way above normal but they were not predicted prior or in the week after the start. It is just a roll of the dice because the passage is so long.
Even though the Fleet Tracker showed boats near each other this just doesn't happen after the first day. People would tell us there was a boat near us and we would never see them so there is very little chance of running into anyone out at sea.
in St. Lucia is also fantastic with discounts offered at the marina, restaurants and chandleries. There are also seminars to describe the places to visit in the Caribbean given by Chris Doyle and other experts.
All said, I believe the ARC is worth the money
and we thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it.
I hope this helps answer your questions.