The 24th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) started in spectacular style today as 209 yachts from 32 nations sailed across the start line off Las Palmas de Gran Canaria headed for their final destination, 2,700 nautical miles away in Rodney Bay, St Lucia.
Mostly sunny skies and a light north-easterly breeze provided a picture perfect start for spectators on and off the water. After crossing the start line in light 8-10 knot conditions, a colourful display of spinnakers were hoisted to help the yachts on their way. Winds are forecast to increase to 18-23 knots and, with the Azores high strengthening today, crews can expect moderate trade wind conditions for the first part of their crossing.
Racing yachts start first
18 yachts competing in the ARC 2009 Racing Divisions, run under the auspices of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) were first to start from a line that ran from the Committee Vessel, the Spanish Navy Ship Medas, to a laid mark inshore to the west south-west. As the start signal was given, the expected winds had not yet filled in, so it was a struggle to keep spinnakers flying in the awkward swell.
In testing conditions, the IOR Maxi Umatalu (Anthony Balme, UK) was early over the line, earning a 3-hour time penalty. The first clear starter, a Grand Soleil 50, Katawa (Andreas Costa, Italy), was closely followed by the sleek black Wally 80 Bagheera, (Kemal Cingilliogle, Turkey) and the German JV53, Auliana II.
For the first time, all the yachts in the ARC Racing Division have been fitted with Iridium satellite trackers, provided by Yellowbrick Adventure Tracking. A special leader board on the event website will show estimated finish times and predicted corrected rankings as the race progresses, with yacht positions polled every six hours, all visible at: www.worldcruising.com/arc/viewer.aspx
Cruisers set sail
At 1300, the cruising yachts, forming the majority of the fleet, created the now familiar ARC spectacle as 190 boats, of varying sizes and design, including the smallest yacht in the fleet, the Sadler 29 Zahara (GBR), set off towards St Lucia. The wind had increased slightly by this time, and at 10-12 knots, was enough to provide the gentle start most cruisers prefer. Gottfried Poessl's Bavaria 51 Celox2 (Austria) was first across in the clear start.
Not all of the 210 yachts on the entry list crossied the start line; one did not make the start and two returned: Su An, Lutz and Gabi Pestel (Germany), unfortunately had engine problems and were unable to complete repairs in time for the 1300 start. They hope to leave tomorrow (23 November) so should catch up with the fleet. The French-registered Himinglaeva, Harald Wendelbo's Hans 350, took the start, but returned to port to await spares expected tomorrow. Ron Stubbington's Bavaria 44, Erasmos I from Canada, also returned to Las Palmas having been struck by a local spectator craft that had entered the starting area exclusion zone. With help from ARC official chandlary Rolnautic, who opened especially to assist, the crew are hoping to set sail again tomorrow.
There was an air of excitement and celebration throughout the marina this morning, as crowds of spectators waved off the fleet. The dock was full of well-wishers in carnival mode, cheering and dancing to the loud music blaring out from the Texaco Dock in celebration. Yachts were bid farewell from Las Palmas via loud speakers around the port and Banda Guayadra provided by the Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas (City Hall) marched around the marina serenading every pontoon to add to the festival feel.
Boats had to identify themselves as they left the marina and headed through a 'gate' before making their way to the start line. To the delight of the spectators, several crews dressed up for their departure and got into the spirit of the event. There were long blonde wigs aboard Blonde Moment; Irish leprechaun hats on Liberty and Mexican waves from the 10-man crew of Swan 62RS Albatros.