The docks of Muelle Deportivo in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria were a hive of activity this morning as crews of ARC+ 2018 prepared to lead the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers across the Atlantic. As so many boats now want to sail in the ARC, the traditional route of the rally has now grown into three waves of boats; the first of which set sail today bound for Mindelo, Cape Verde, then onto the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.
Start Day is the culmination of years of planning and the excitement was intense as final preparations were made, the last stores put away and crews made ready to slip their lines.
"So this is it!" said the eager crew of British-flagged Allegrini, "For us, it has been six years of planning for ARC+ 2018! It's so exciting that those years, weeks, and the final days of preparation have been all leading up to this - we can't wait to start!"
This year there are boats registered from 22 countries around the globe including Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States of America. Crew on board represent 24 different nationalities and are aged from 3 to 78 years old.
The ARC+ route has been exceptionally popular with family boats crossing the Atlantic this year with 21 children under the age of 16 taking part. Regular ARC mascot 'Ed the Iguana' will make his annual ocean crossing with the Finnish family boat, Lunni.
"We have really enjoyed the ARC+ rally program here in Las Palmas," said Satu Morri-Niemelä, skippering the Colin Archer 40. "From the beginning when we arrived to check-in, it was clear that the staff or 'yellowshirts' of ARC are so experienced that all you need is to go with the ARC+ flow to get all the information and duties done. The Children's Club has been great and meant us adults could attend the really informative seminars; we've got plenty of good tips and useful ideas for coming weeks. Now with our crew of six: three adults, two children and one Iguana, we are so happy to start."
Gentle breezes from the NE, so typical of an ARC start, helped push the boats out to sea and on towards their first stop in Mindelo, a passage of 850 nautical miles. The starts were streamed live on the ARC Facebook page from on board the Alonautica Highfield RIB, giving the crews an opportunity to wave to friends and family watching online.
The Multihull Division, comprising of sixteen catamarans, and one trimaran were first to take the start, led over the line by British-flagged Nautitech Open 46 Offbeat, and closely followed by Passat II from Germany and LaDiala from Switzerland.
It was then the turn of the fifty-five boats in the Cruising Division. Crews prepared spinnakers and parasailors just as the sun emerged from the overcast sky and the clouds began to part. Leading the charge, Norwegian Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 42i named Thilde crossed the line first.
Light winds at the start will help settle the crews into life at sea. Forecast winds are expected to build, freshening to 20+ knots so it should be a fast sail to Cape Verde. ARC+ Rally Control expect to be welcoming the first arrivals in four days' time and the smaller boats should all arrive in good time to enjoy a few days of exploration and relaxation before tackling the longer Atlantic stage to Saint Lucia in the Caribbean.
The latest YB Tracking Satellite trackers have been fitted on board each boat, allowing family and friends to follow the fleet from the comfort of their own home via the online Fleet Viewer and YB Races app. Boats can also send blogs and photos, posted on to the rally website to share life on board.
As the ARC+ fleet left today, the pre-departure programme continues for the pioneers of the newest route choice, ARC+ St. Vincent. They will follow in the wake of today's fleet on Thursday, 15 November and depart for Mindelo.
Fully preparing crews for the voyage is an important part of the ARC programme in Las Palmas and the experienced team of 'yellow-shirts' from World Cruising Club provide invaluable advice to help participants prepare for their own start day. There are also tours to explore Gran Canaria, nightly sundowners to meet and mingle with other crews and the infamous ARC parties.
Whilst the ARC+ crews enjoy their sail, there's plenty more excitement to come in Gran Canaria.