With one week to go before the ARC 2014 fleet leave Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia, crews from across the world marched and danced behind their national flags in a stirring parade around Las Palmas Marina.
At midday on Sunday November 16, hundreds of ARC participants took part in the Official Opening Ceremony for ARC 2014. Flag bearers representing Gran Canaria, Spain, Saint Lucia, the European Union and the 22 national flags of the ARC boats paraded behind the Banda Gran Canaria, with the Banda H Mencey beating a salsa rhythm at the back. The grand parade had a real festival atmosphere as participants young and old waved flags and cheered.
A warm welcome to the ARC sailors was made by Mimi Gonzalez from the Concejal del Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas (City Hall of Las Palmas) and Sr Melchor Camon, of the Patronato de Turismo de Gran Canaria. John Emmanuel, Public Relations Manager for the Saint Lucia Tourist Board told participants that they can expect a warm welcome on arrival in the Caribbean and wished them a safe crossing.
Andrew Bishop, Managing Director of World Cruising Club declared ARC 2014 officially “open” and the country flags were proudly hoisted on flagpoles around the marina as the band struck up once again and fireworks were launched in celebration of the opening of the 29th ARC.
The fiesta atmosphere continued with ARC participants and local people taking part in Don Pedro's Dinghy Race around the marina. Coming out of retirement to host the race, Don Pedro is a long time supporter of the ARC and used to manage the fuel dock in the Marina. The race across the marina encourages crews, dressed in a variety of amusing costumes, to use any tactics they like to outwit their opponents.
In the first week of ARC activities in Las Palmas, crews have enjoyed daily social events, seminars on cruising topics and the opportunity to plant another 200 trees in the ARC Forest in the mountains above the city.
The ARC+ fleet that departed Las Palmas a week ago has experienced lighter winds than expected on the first leg of the crossing to reach their stopover in Mindelo Marina in the Cape Verdes. Intrepid Elk, an Outremer 51 was first to arrive on Friday night, and the final arrivals will reach Sao Vincente this afternoon. They have a few days to explore the islands before they head off across the Atlantic on November 19 bound for Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia.
The ARC entry list for the start on Sunday 23 November stands at 180 boats, the majority of which are family cruisers, sailed by family and friends on the adventure of a lifetime. Multihulls are again popular, with 25 booked for the crossing.
Start from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Las Palmas has been the start port for the ARC since the very first edition of the rally in 1986. Official activities began on Friday 7 November and from now until the start there are parties, seminars and all kinds of activities for ARC sailors young and old.
ARC activities continue this week, with more crew flying in to join their boats. 163 of 180 the confirmed entries are now in the marina, and the remaining boats are expected in the next few days.
Start day is Sunday 23 November, and thousands of spectators will line the city shore to watch the boats start. The first start gun will sound at 1230 for the Multihulls, followed by the Racing boats at 1245 and then the cruising boats, making up the majority of the ARC fleet, at 1300.
Landfall in Saint Lucia
ARC boats will make landfall in IGY Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia after 2700NM of sailing. This distance will take the fastest boats around 12 days, and the family cruisers 18 to 21 days.
The final festivity of ARC 2014 is the awards ceremony on 20 December, which rewards the fastest boats and special categories like 'Spirit of the ARC'.