With one day to go, it’s countdown to the start and last night crews let their hair down at the ARC farewell party held at the Real Club Nautico. Managing Director of World Cruising Club, Andrew Bishop gave a moving speech, thanking all the supporters here in Las Palmas including: Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Patronato de Turismo de Gran Canaria, Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Port Authority of Las Palmas and Rolnautic Chandlery for their support during the 32nd edition of the ARC. Fernando del Castillo Morales, Presidente del Real Club Náutico de Gran Canaria thanked participants for taking part and wished them fair winds for the crossing. Having just flown in, Thomas Leonce, Chief Executive of Events Saint Lucia Company, part of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority gave the 1040 sailors in the fleet a hint of what to expect on arrival - hot, hot sunshine, a warm Saint Lucian welcome and of course the obligatory rum punch!
Food and drink flowed, the DJ cranked out a selection of favourite tunes from across the decades, and the dance floor filled up. Participants had a chance to mingle with friends they had met during their time here in Las Palmas and it was a good opportunity to relax with their own crew after what has been a very hectic couple of weeks. Everyone is looking forward to heading out and getting into the rhythm of daily life at sea for the next few weeks during their 2,700 nautical mile ARC Atlantic adventure.
The bulk of the fleet are sailing in the ARC Cruising division, but there will still be a healthy level of competition within the various classes. Although most will relish having a long period of time at sea, as they get closer to their final destination on the other side of the Atlantic, they will be keen to arrive at their tropical Caribbean destination and have a chance to catch up with others to relive their experience.
The 27 boats in the racing division will of course be pushing all the way, and there’s keen competition amongst the fleet, which includes some serious race crews. Navigators will be looking closely at the weather forecast for the first few days and making a decision on which route, debating whether they can break the existing record, set last year by George David’s American maxi, Rambler 88 in 8 days, 6 hours, 29 minutes and 15 seconds.
After all the fun ashore and hard work preparing the boat for Sunday’s start from Las Palmas, it was now time to begin the official checking out process where skippers from each of the 186 yachts lined up from early morning at the ARC office. Armed with the passports of each person on board to be checked against their crew declarations by the ARC team, it is one of the final things to tick off the list before the comprehensive Skipper’s Briefing at midday.
With the skippers assembled, Andrew Bishop began the briefing with an overview of procedures for tomorrow’s starts. The multihulls will lead the departures with their start at 12:30, followed by the Racing Division at 12:45 and then all other classes at 13:00. It will be a special experience to be part of for the 186 boats, and create a wonderful spectacle for friends, family and local supported watching from the shore.
ARC meteorologist Chris Tibbs, then began the all-important weather briefing, detailing the forecast for the start of the crossing. A ridge of high pressure currently over the Canary Islands has been providing lovely sunny days in Las Palmas, and will deliver light E-NE winds for the start, expected to be at 8-13 knots (force 3 to 4) for tomorrows’ departure. On Sunday afternoon, this will increase as boats sail away from Gran Canaria, before easing on Monday morning. It will be a comfortable introduction to life at sea with the winds for first couple of days of the ARC expected to stay light – good for fishing and sunbathing – however a low pressure mid Atlantic will eventually affect weather for the crossing, leading skippers to consider their route options. A westerly route is expected to be faster however there will be some beating to get to the wind. A southerly route towards the Cape Verde Islands will have less wind and waves however it will be a slower but more comfortable route.
Closing the Skippers Briefing, World Cruising’s Andy Bristow reminded that the wonderful camaraderie that has been evident between the crews whilst in port will continue during their crossing with the SSB Radio Net, and they can send blogs and photos to the rally website to share their days at sea with those following from home.
It was then time for some last minute provisioning, final boat checks and probably a quiet crew dinner before a spectacular farewell firework display this evening over the marina to bid sailors from 40 countries a fond farewell and safe passage to Saint Lucia.