After months of preparation, hard work and determination to take part in ARC+ 2020 in challenging circumstances, last night’s firework display lit up the skies above the fleet of 24 boats, acting as a final farewell from organisers, World Cruising Club and our hosts in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Participants woke up on start day to sunny, light wind conditions for their Atlantic adventure and the atmosphere was one of excitement around the marina that it was finally time to slip lines and head out to sea. Around 100 sailors on 24 boats from 11 different countries including: Norway, France, Great Britain, Germany and Luxembourg were waved farewell by spectators as they headed past the breakwater in Las Palmas.
Jorn Aalefjaer from Norway, sailing with his family on their Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 469 Ticora III explained: “It’s been great to be here in Las Palmas but now we are ready and eager to begin this great journey. We feel like Coronavirus has been biting at our heels all the way down as we made our way to the Canary Islands. The whole crew is assembled, we know the boat is in top shape and we are really looking forward to getting out there for the start today. I think the whole dock feels the same. Fingers crossed for a little more breeze and we can fly our colourful spinnakers and have a fantastic start.”
In yesterday’s Skippers Briefing, renowned sailing meteorologist Chris Tibbs delivered good news to the watching skippers and crews with the prospect of excellent winds for the 850nm passage to Mindelo in Cape Verde. The current large Low opposite Iberia has resulted in light winds on start day in Las Palmas, with classic conditions for an ARC+ start – dappled sunshine and light NE breeze. To the south of the island of Gran Canaria, the much feared Wind Acceleration Zone is also predicted to be lighter than usual, although boats are advised to route to the South rather than keeping to the coastline of Gran Canaria.
During the morning, clouds gathered as the boats slipped their lines and made their way to the starting area for the start at 13:00 local time. Boats were blasting music to add to the atmosphere as they left Las Palmas marina, with a huge wave of relief and excitement for the eager crews. Sails set, the fleet were led over the line by Swedish-flagged Ydalir II a Malö 45 owned by Anders and Gunilla Ullman. As ARC+ Rally Control confirmed the clear start, and wished the crews fair winds to Mindelo, boat horns echoed in response to say thank you to the World Cruising Club team and the people of Las Palmas.
Once clear of the land affects caused by Gran Canaria’s 2,000m height, a route to the East of the rhumb line is advised for best winds and current for the passage to Mindelo, expected to take 5-7 days for the majority of the fleet. Moderate NE tradewinds of around 18-23 knots are forecast for the first few days as an area of High pressure builds over the Azores. A building area of Low pressure, around 1,000NM to the NW of the route is expected to move NE along a front and not affect winds on the passage to Mindelo.
Predicted swells of 1 to 1.5m from the NW with a 12s frequency mean that it should not be an uncomfortable passage once boats clear the wind generated turbulence to the south of the Canary Islands. On Monday and Tuesday the winds should veer ENE and from Wednesday they are expected to ease as boats close on Cape Verde. As the winds fall away, the swell period will also reduce.
Meanwhile in Las Palmas Marina, the docks will not be quiet for long as crews on the ARC direct route from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia will begin their pre-departure programme from tomorrow, Monday 9 November. Whilst the ARC+ crews enjoy their sail, there's plenty more excitement to come in Gran Canaria.