Thoughts turn to weather and final preparations

20 November 2020

The final boat to arrive ahead of Sunday’s start is now in Las Palmas. Mack Storey’s Excess 15 Binx kept in touch with ARC rally control and have already passed their ARC safety check with flying colours. The team from New Zealand are now able to provision and prepare for the Atlantic crossing with less than two days to go.

The crew on British Bavaria 37 Selkie shared their first entry on the ARC log: “We still have a lot of last minute things to do, including some cooking and shopping for fresh produce, mainly fruit and veg. We got the spinnaker up today, just to run through the process and make sure we've got it off pat. Also the storm jib, so we should be ready and able to cope with both extremes. We left all the downwind running rig out and ready to use. So many lines! A foreguy, two afterguys, two sheets, not to mention the boom preventers. But they are all ready for use now. Spinnaker is bagged up on the pulpit and ready to go!”

As well as counting down to the start and final preparations, thoughts are turning to the weather outlook for the next couple of days. Last night, many crews signed up to one of the most popular seminars on the ARC programme, as renowned sailing meteorologist, author and sailor, Chris Tibbs briefed on the predicted weather and route planning for the Atlantic passage this year.

Chris skippered a boat in the very first ARC in 1986 and he and wife Helen, took their own 40ft yacht across in the 30th edition and then sailed to Australia with World ARC. He’s notched up 27 x transatlantic crossings and has sailed three times round the world in high profile races too!

The team on Oyster 47 Jubilate Mare said in their log about the presentation: “The crew can be seen enjoying Chris Tibbs’ very informative webinar on the weather. Pete, our trusty captain is finishing off final tweaks to the V berth lee cloths. Oh, and good news, our new rainbow cruising chute that we ordered is now on the island - but still not with us!”

The brief overview for the weather for the start is as follows, but Chris Tibbs will be giving a further detailed update at the ARC Skippers Briefing tomorrow (Saturday) at midday local time.

Sunday: “The small area of low pressure in the synoptic chart is sitting to the west and this is something that we need to be monitoring over the next few days and once you leave Las Palmas, keeping an eye on what is happening. It’s meant to be dissipating, but it is still quite a long time ahead so we do want to watch that. It should mean that we’ve got much more easterly winds in the forecast for the start. Maybe east, I’d say east-north-east to east-south-east. That will give us some acceleration at the southern end of the island – perhaps not as aggressive as it sometimes is, but it looks like there will be a good breeze to get us away from Las Palmas and also from the Canary Islands,” explains Chris Tibbs.

“It also means that when there’s a little more east in the wind, that once you are south of the Canaries, you’re not going to be affected by the wind shadow of the islands by what you would be if it was more northerly. One downside of an easterly is that we quite often get a lot of dust in the atmosphere, it’s called the Harmattan, it’s dust from the Sahara Desert which is picked up in the atmosphere and it reduces visibility. So you might find that on start day and the next couple of days the visibility is not 100%.

“Looking forward to Wednesday night and Thursday, a little of the low has drifted over to the west and it is giving us good steady tradewinds. The northerly route is often a little bit faster because it’s the shorter distance, but the downsides are that you will sometimes get some swell coming in from the north, so it makes it a little bit more ‘rock ‘n rolly’ and you also have the risk that if we do get any low pressure in the Atlantic, then you could end up having a period of time beating. The southerly route gets you into the steadier tradewinds earlier and you usually have a calmer passage if you go on this route; a little less swell but year by year, it does change.”

It will be for the skippers to decide their route to the Saint Lucia rum punch, and the YB Fleet Viewer is now live showing the boats in Las Palmas ahead of the start. Once they head off, their colourful tracks will be displayed together with wind information for armchair sailors to follow along.

With check outs, the Skippers Briefing, and all the final preparations, it will be a busy day in Las Palmas tomorrow as the Atlantic ocean beckons.