The majority of the ARC fleet is now gathered in Las Palmas for what promises to be a spectacular start on Sunday November 22nd. The marina is packed to the gills and bustling with activity and colour as over 200 yachts display their courtesy and national flags, helping to create a visual feast for the myriad of onlookers. The skippers and crews are make their final preparations with last-minute rigging and equipment checks being done and the pontoons are full to bursting with boxes of provisions.
As well as the tourists and local visitors who are joining in the fun and flavour of this pre-ARC gathering, the ARC continues to attract terrific media interest and the rally organisers, World Cruising Club, is hosting a large group of international journalists at the start and at the finish in St. Lucia. There are 32 nationalities represented amongst the entries this year; all helping to spread the message further and wider about what a unique event this is. It's akin to the United Nations on the quayside.
A hectic schedule
An impressive official opening ceremony was held last Sunday since when practical seminars and workshops have taken over as the norm for the crews during the day. These have included 'Sea Safety Day' with helicopter, liferaft and flare demonstrations. However, it isn't all about work! It is the extraordinary mix of practical as well as entertaining activities that truly sets the ARC apart ensuring its ongoing success with sailing enthusiasts around the world. There's an informative seminar schedule but there's also much fun to be had with nightly happy hours, crew suppers and parties to attend! A special effort is made every year for the 'party of the week' and the display of creativity for costumes is often astounding. The farewell function tomorrow evening (Friday) is hosted by the Patronato de Turismo, bringing the shoreside festivities to a conclusion and allowing for those final preparations and some shut-eye prior to Sunday's start at 1300hrs.
Weather predictions are good…for the start
With 215 yachts expected on Sunday's start line and a predicted Force 3-4 north easterly breeze, the participants, organisers, sponsors, media and the rest of us should see a picture-perfect start. Watched by thousands of spectators, ashore and afloat, the yachts taking part in the Racing Divisions under the auspices of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Racing, will set off at 1250, closely followed by the bulk of the fleet as the gun is fired from the deck of the Port Authority committee boat Medes.
The ARC's very own meterologist, Chris Tibbs, is hedging his bets as to whether the yachts are likely to have a fast or slow crossing this year: “We are expecting Force 3-4 north easterly conditions, mostly sunny with moderate trade winds predicted for the first few days. There is likely to be a fairly large acceleration zone as the yachts get down to the south of Gran Canaria, but the weather patterns in the Atlantic are not very well established yet, so it is difficult to say, at this stage, whether this will be a fast or a slow crossing.”
For the very first time, the yachts in the ARC Racing Divisions and some of the yachts in the Cruising Divisions who have requested it, will carry Yellowbrick satellite tracking devices, providing automatic position reports uploading to the Event website every six hours via the Iridium Network.
ARC 2009 will depart from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Sunday 22 November.
The finish destination is Rodney Bay Marina in St Lucia, a distance of 2,700 nautical miles from Las Palmas and it's a passage that will take most of the yachts between 18 and 21 days.
Whilst fundamentally a fun rally for cruising yachts, the ARC does have a more serious Racing Division, run under the auspices of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC). Yachts in the Racing Division are not permitted to use their engines for propulsion (unlike the cruisers), although use of autopilots is allowed.
The current ARC course record is 11 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 30 seconds, held by Italian maxi yacht Capricorno (Rinaldo Del Bono), from ARC 2006
The 24th ARC starts at 1300 on Sunday 22nd November
215 yachts; 32 nations; 1,100 crew members
31 children taking part, the youngest will celebrate his first birthday en route
Passage takes 18 – 21 days to cover 2,680nm
The start is from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
The finish is at Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia
Largest yacht is US registered Swan 112, Highland Breeze at 34.34m
Smallest yacht is Zahara, a British registered Sadler 29 (8.67m)
Oldest Skipper: Alberto Roemmers – Alexia B (ARG), 83 years old
Youngest Skipper: Jakub Pawlub – Barbara (POL) is 24 years old