Cruisers, racers, and multihulls; sleek ocean racing machines, alongside comfortable family cruisers; superyachts with professional crews, and excited couples living the dream - these were the boats and sailors departing Las Palmas de Gran Canaria today to start the 33rd Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC).
Bound for the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, today's departure is the beginning of an exciting adventure crossing the Atlantic Ocean. For many, it is the culmination of years of planning, months of preparations and weeks of checking off the jobs lists. The final days in Las Palmas Marina have been full of excitement and anticipation as crews have loaded provisions and made last minute equipment fixes. Experienced ocean sailors from ARC organisers World Cruising Club have helped ensure the crews are well prepared with a pre-departure programme of seminars and safety checks, and a social programme of nightly gatherings has meant crews have got to know each other well, enjoying the camaraderie of setting sail together.
In the two weeks of ARC activities in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the boats and crews also become an important part of the city, receiving a warm send-off today from their hosts in the city. The boats left the docks accompanied by thumping salsa beats from the PA system of the fuel dock, calls of support from staff at businesses around the marina, and crowds of well-wishers lined the seawall to wave off the boats on their Atlantic adventure.
While the ARC is a cruising rally, there is a start and finish line, and the boats are split into divisions according to size, type and competition. 8 boats have delayed their departure, and 165 yachts sailing under the flags of 36 nations crossed today's start lines.
Unusually for an ARC start, the wind this year off Las Palmas was from due north, giving boats the option of starting on either port or starboard gybes. In both the multihull and again in the cruising monohull starts, the fleet split into two groups with the very long line providing plenty of space for all at either end of the line. The gentle F3 breeze, gave a calm and relaxed start for all the boats, with the last few cruisers crossing some 30 minutes after start signal!
22 race boats were certainly less patient, eagerly positioning themselves at the start. Performance Yacht Racing's Beneteau First 47.7 EH01 was expertly manoeuvred by skipper Andras Bakody to cross the line first, swiftly followed by the Russian Mobile 53 Anna then class favourites Scarlet Oyster. Spinnakers and gennakers were put to full use as the racers gybed out to seaward and away from the coast of Gran Canaria to find clear air away the land affected coastal winds.
Sharing their adventure with loved-ones at home, the starts were streamed live on the ARC Facebook page from on board the Alonautica Highfield RIB, giving the crews an opportunity to give a final wave to those watching online. All ARC boats are fitted with YB Tracking satellite trackers, and as their journey continues friends and family can follow the fleet from the comfort of home on the online Fleet Viewer and YB Races app.
Whilst breezes at the start were sufficient for gentle passage south from Las Palmas, ARC weatherman, Chris Tibbs has forecast lighter winds close to the island of Gran Canaria overnight. In these conditions, boats are likely to head offshore towards the southeast, rather than west around the tip of the island. Gentle tradewinds are expected, favouring a more southerly route this year, rather than the rhumbline course to Saint Lucia.
In tandem with the ARC's Gran Canaria departure today, the ARC+ St. Vincent fleet waved goodbye to Mindelo São Vicente in Cape Verde. Following a brief stopover breaking their transatlantic journey, they have begun their own crossing to Blue Lagoon Marina in St. Vincent.
In all, the ARC this year is formed of 3 waves of boats departing throughout November from Gran Canaria, with the first two touching into Cape Verde, and final wave today heading direct to Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia.