The majority of boats and crews taking part in the 33rd edition of the ARC - the world's largest transocean rally for cruisers - have now arrived in their temporary 'home' of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Today, it was time to mark the official opening ceremony of ARC 2018. With a spectacular, noisy and colourful carnival procession around the marina, crews from 30 different nations waved their national flags patriotically and got into the spirit of the event.
Following the principal flags of Spain, Gran Canaria and Saint Lucia, the international conga line was led by the La Charanga de la Aldea, with the Batucada Timbalao beating a salsa rhythm at the back of the line. Once the procession had completed its parade around the marina, sailors were welcomed to the ARC by World Cruising Club's Managing Director Andrew Bishop.
A week today, from 12:30 on Sunday 25 November, the fleet will begin their ocean adventure and say farewell to Gran Canaria but before then, there is a packed programme of events for the days ahead. Andrew Bishop thanked The Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for their support, and praised the Port Authority who manage the marina for accommodating the vast number of ARC boats year on year.
Presidente del Autoridad Portuaria de Las Palmas (President of the Port Authority), Señor Juan Jose Cardona welcomed crews on behalf of the Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Port Authority and wished them 'bon voyage' for a good crossing to the Caribbean.
Coming to see the crew's preparations and personally wish them well on the voyage, Guy Mayers High Commissioner for Saint Lucia in London promised the sailors warm weather and a warm welcome when they arrive in Rodney Bay. "The festive atmosphere and marching alongside the participants has been very exciting, and I am very glad to have been part of this morning's Opening Ceremony." he said.
The ARC fleet will set off this year with 178 entries from 30 different countries and is truly a multinational celebration which showcases the international flavour of the rally. The attraction to sail in company as one fleet has continued to have undaunted appeal. Some will be on their first crossing, whilst others are making their umpteenth voyage. Fifteen boats will be sailing across with children and 32 will be part of a family adventure this year, with the youngest crew member being 18 months old on the Dutch yacht Chubby Bunny.
The ARC is very diverse and attracts boats of all sizes and design. This year is no exception; the smallest being the British Halmatic 30, Excalibur at 8.99m, and then there's the mighty Maltese flagged 39m Vitters one-off, G2 at the larger end of the size range - and everything in between! There has been a significant swing towards multihulls this year and 36 catamarans will be on the start line in a week's time. The average cruising boat can expect to arrive in their final destination at Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia in 18 to 21 days, but the competitive Racing Division which will see 21 boats vying for position, will hope to reach the rum punch much sooner.
As start day draws nearer, preparations for the crossing increase urgency as provisions are stowed, equipment is checked and re-checked, and further crew members fly in daily to join the yachts. World Cruising Club, together with local supporters including the Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Port Authority and local chandlery Rolnautic, organise an extensive programme for the participants. In week two of the programme, many will take advantage of the free seminars lead by some of the most respected cruising sailors and marine specialists in the industry. The famous ARC social programme is a fun way for participants to get to know one another, and form an Atlantic crossing community before they head out to sea.
ARC+ arrivals in Mindelo, Cape Verdes
The ARC is now one Atlantic rally with three routes. First to depart, on Sunday 11 November, were the ARC+ fleet of 72 who are now almost complete in Marina Mindelo, on São Vicente. Leading in the arrivals was X-Yacht 65, Nika skippered by Ziga Polanc, arriving after just over 5 days at sea. After a steady start from Gran Canaria, lighter winds have slowed the fleet's progress a little for their final approach to the Cape Verdes. On arrival, tours and social events will be a nice reunion for the crews as they prepare for their ocean crossing to Saint Lucia departing Mindelo on Wednesday 21 November.
The front runners sailing on the new route ARC+ St Vincent, who departed on Thursday 15 November, are now reaching the halfway mark on their own 850nm passage to Cape Verde. On reaching Mindelo, they will enjoy their own programme of events and first arrivals are expected once the ARC+ fleet depart, continuing rally flow in the harbour. Their departure for Blue Lagoon Marina in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be on Sunday 25 November, the same day as the ARC fleet set sail for their ocean crossing.