ARC+ ralliers were welcomed today as the Rally Office opened its doors in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. A rush of participants were met by the multi-lingual yellowshirt team to 'check in', and receive lots of information to make the most of their time on the rally. Not even a few rain showers could dampen the excitement of the programme finally getting underway for ARC+ 2018!
Now in its fifth year, just over 70 boats are sailing with ARC+, and a further 19 on the new ARC+ St. Vincent route. Both fleets share a pre-departure programme before their respective starts - on 11 November for ARC+ to Saint Lucia and on 15 November for ARC+ to St. Vincent. Each fleet break their Atlantic crossing with a 3-5 day stopover in Mindelo, Cape Verde, giving them enough time to briefly explore the enchanting islands, and heading south places them in the path of the trade winds for their onwards sail to the Caribbean.
Back in Las Palmas, the pontoons are already busy and many ARC+ and ARC flags are flying proudly from the masts. It's great to see that many of them have already got to know each other well, sharing their experiences and comparing notes on their sail to Gran Canaria. The first pontoon parties have already started cropping up; Tonight sees the inaugural "Two-Songs-One-Beer" party on pontoon L!
In total, 42 boats were checked in today. The process takes about 30 minutes and is a useful introduction to the rally. Each skipper and their crew meet with the Rally Control team to receive a welcome pack of maps, discount vouchers and guidance on where to find things locally, as well as book a time with the Safety Team to walk through the equipment they'll be carrying on board for the crossing. Each crew member receives a special pass for access to the busy, programme of seminars and social activities, and each yacht is given a boat number to proudly display on start day!
The social programme begins tomorrow with Welcome Drinks for ARC+ crews, and on Saturday children from on board 10 different family boats can look forward to beach games and a BBQ. For those wanting to explore beyond the marina, which is certainly recommended, there is a Historic Quarter guided tour on Saturday morning which includes a stop at Casa de Colón (Columbus House), where it's claimed that Christopher Columbus stayed during his own ocean sailing adventures.
After the weekend, crews will head out to the hills of Gran Canaria to contribute to the ARC Forest Project; Since 2010, over 1,200 native trees have been planted by ARC volunteers, offsetting carbon emissions, and helping to recreate one of the most threatened eco-systems on Gran Canaria.
With seminars, nightly social activities, provisioning deliveries and technical support on hand, it'll be a busy week ahead on the docks of Muelle Deportivo. More arrivals are coming in daily and the ARC buzz will be felt in the restaurants and bars around the marina, and into the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as excitement builds before start day.
You can keep up to date on all the news and plenty of photos from the ARC on our Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/arcrally
and via twitter @ARCrally