The 22nd Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) started in spectacular style today as 235 yachts from 28 different nations sailed across the start line off Las Palmas de Canaria headed for their final destination, 2,700 nautical miles away in Rodney Bay, St Lucia.
With a large swell running after two days of strong northerlies, the wind abated and the sun came out just in time for a perfect start. The fresh NNW 20 knot breeze meant fewer spinnakers that usual were to be seen on the start line. Winds are expected to remain from the north with tradewind conditions likely to remain, offering the prospect of a fast passage on the rhumb line route to St.Lucia.
Mostly fine weather for the start, with only a short rain squall, meant a wonderful sight for the hundreds of spectators watching afloat and ashore.
Racing yachts start first
Starting 20 minutes ahead of the main fleet, the 22 yachts competing in the RORC IRC Racing Divisions were all tight on the line and enjoying the excellent breeze. Sticking to the Island end of the start line, the two Beneteau 40.7’s Combat and Coyote were neck and neck at the start – Combat just claiming the honour of first across. The well trained crew of Russian Swan 45 – Murka 2, were first up with their spinnaker, delighting spectators at the committee end, with a slick gybe hoist right on the line.
Cruisers set sail
However, it is the mass of cruising yachts that creates the spectacle, and a few minutes before the scheduled 1300 start of the ARC 2007 Cruising Divisions, there were a forest of masts and sails surrounding the committee vessel – the Spanish Navy ship Atalaya. Oyster 72 Kealoha 8 looked impressive as they crossed the line first, narrowly edging out Swan 62 Berenice.
Some yachts return to port
Not all of the 235 yachts managed to make the start, with six yachts remaining in Las Palmas due to a variety of mechanical or equipment problems. All six - Taima, Christiania, Philippides III, Cadans, Kasuje, and Perseverence – are hoping to leave tomorrow (26 November). VOR 60 Pindar has also returned to Las Palmas having broken their boom-vang four hours into their race – falling victim to the notorious wind acceleration zone off the south eastern side of the island of Gran Canaria.
Carnival atmosphere all morning
There was an air of excitement throughout the marina this morning, as crowds of spectators waved off the fleet. At Don Pedro’s Texaco station, the dock was full of well wishers in carnival mode, cheering and dancing to the loud music blaring out in celebration of the start. Two bands 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.
Follow the fleet
News of the fleet can be found on the official ARC website where daily yacht position reports will be displayed and visitors can watch individual route maps for each yacht. Crews will also contribute daily logs and images direct to the site. www.worldcruising.com/arc