Under glorious warm sunshine, with a light breeze, a truly special atmosphere swept through the marina in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Sunday morning, as months of preparations became final farewells. Yachts made their final checks Sunday before heading out to the start line for the 32nd edition of the ARC.
Over the past two weeks, crews from 40 nations around the globe have enjoyed the pre-departure program in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with a series of organised seminars, safety briefings and social activities before their crossing. The crews have become an important part of the city, which was evident as the boats left the docks accompanied by a salsa band and calls of support from staff at businesses around the marina, and hundreds of well-wishers lined the seafront to wave off the boats on their Atlantic adventure. The Tourist Board of Gran Canaria, the Port Authority of Las Palmas, the city government of Las Palmas, and Rolnautic chandlery have been wonderful hosts to ARC participants for the past two weeks and it is their continued support that makes the atmosphere in the lead up to start day so spectacular.
It is a particularly diverse fleet this year with boats from 30ft to 95ft setting off on the same transatlantic course, including 156 monohulls, 28 catamarans and two trimarans. The sailors themselves are just as varied, aged from three years old to over 80. For some, today’s start was a new experience, but there are also plenty of familiar faces who have sailed with the rally during its 32 year history.
Many participants are now coming full circle, following in their parents, or grandparents, footsteps by sailing in the ARC with their own families, and in some cases on board the same boats. With 20 children leaving Las Palmas today on the ARC, the tradition looks to continue for future generations too!
While the ARC is a cruising rally, there is a start and finish line, and the boats are split into divisions according to size, type and competition. The first start Sunday was for the Multihull Division, led over the line by American flagged Lagoon 42-4 Libélula, followed by Seawind 1160 X86 and the fleet’s largest trimaran, Rapido, living up to her name coming over the line third before storming off down the Gran Canarian coast.
Following on, 27 boats in the ARC Racing Division were equally eager to stretch their sea legs and sail out into the Atlantic. Experience paid off for the top three boats to cross the line, with returning Austrian training boat Godspeed leading the way. Regular ARC Skipper and Class winner Ross Applebey brought through Scarlet Island Girl hot on her heels, swiftly followed by Valerio Bardi’s Swan 46 Mk II Milanto.
Arguably the biggest spectacle of day for the hundreds of well-wishers watching from the shore was at 13:00, as the Cruising Division assembled for their start. It was quite a sight to see them spread along the line with a few flying bright asymmetries in the light breeze. Representing the truly international diversity of the rally, first boats to cross the line were Norwegian Arcona 400 Tiffin, Swedish Najad 460 Ellen and British Grand Soleil 56 Mad Monkey.
Of the 186 boats in the ARC, as of Sunday four were still in Las Palmas with technical problems delaying their departure. All are hopeful that these can be resolved swiftly and they will be able to depart Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as soon as possible.
Once again In St Lucia the 32nd edition of the ARC did not go unnoticed, but celebrated and highlighted with the Annual ARC Flotilla on Sunday. Boats of all size and description made their way from IGY Rodney Bay Marina to the Castries Harbor.
At 12 noon the Flotilla with very little fanfare compared to previous years, made the return trip to the IGY Rodney Bay Marina in a festive atmosphere – most notably those onboard party catamarans courtesy of St Lucia Distillers and Heineken Light.
Minister of Tourism, Dominic Fedee who was on board the VIP vessel “Reel Extreme,” jumped ship and came on baord the dive boat “Sea Titan” to address the media. When asked about expectations for this year’s ARC he replied: “Very fantastic, I think we have an increase in the number of boats coming and it continues to be a very good event. The yachting sector as you know is one of our main sectors and continues to contribute significantly towards the development of tourism and the enhancement of our economy. It is really a good day out and it is good to see so many of our sailing fraternity out supporting this event.”
The majority of boats will take 18-21 days to make the 2700 nautical mile Atlantic crossing, arriving in Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia. Whatever time they make landfall, every boat will be met at the dock by Saint Lucia Tourist Authority and World Cruising Club staff bearing rum punch to welcome them ashore. There is a full schedule of events in Rodney Bay for all ARC crews and their friends and families, culminating in the ARC Prize Giving Ceremony on December 16.