It’s the final countdown here in Las Palmas, with less than 24 hours to go until the departure of the first leg of the 2021 ARC+ fleet to Mindelo, Cape Verde Islands, some 865 nautical miles from Gran Canaria. There’s a buzz around the docks and an air of expediency and anticipation as skippers and crews of the 73 boats taking part make their final preparations and checks before setting off tomorrow (Sunday 7 November) on the next stage of their Atlantic adventure.
For some this will be their very first offshore passage as well as their first rally experience, but for others it is a regular event in their annual sailing calendar. However, all skippers were keen to attend the Skippers Briefing and find out what’s in store for the sail ahead.
Skippers could attend in person at the Club Metropole seminar hall or join virtually from the comfort of their own boat as the briefing began. Introduced by Event Director, Andrew Pickersgill, assisted by Mark Burton, leading the event in Mindelo, and presided virtually by World Cruising Club’s Managing Director, Andrew Bishop, skippers were given a warm welcome to the informative briefing. ARC+ meteorologist, Chris Tibbs also gave a comprehensive overview of the expected weather conditions for the start and skippers were guided through the Sailing Instructions and given local information and procedures ahead of their arrival in the Cape Verde Islands.
Participants from over 20 different nations can expect good tradewinds and a lively start as Chris Tibbs explained: “The tradewinds are expected to be moderate on the morning of the start tomorrow, and will increase as the ARC+ boats head south. There will be some cloud building over the land, however it should stay mainly dry with increasing amounts of sunshine.” He alerted skippers to the likelihood of a significant acceleration zone south of the airport with 28-33 knots of wind and stronger gusts. However, offshore the wind will tend to be generally lighter and steadier.
“The first 24-36 hours moderate to strong tradewinds look likely to stay, but will decrease as the ARC+ yachts get further south. There may be some squally showers, but I do not expect them to be strong, so it will be a good voyage south.”
Talking to a few skippers following the briefing, it was obvious that although they had enjoyed their time in Las Palmas, they were more than ready to get started on their big Atlantic adventure, such as Jerry and Sophie Norton who will be sailing across on their Beneteau Oceanis 51.1 Khamsin: “Our crew haven’t sailed together before so there’s always a little bit of apprehension with that and the weather, but following the information in today’s briefing, we will be wary at the acceleration zone. We found it all really useful and informative. We’ve been here for a couple of weeks now and the excitement has been building, so we are all ready to go and are really looking forward to it.”
Andrew Bishop, World Cruising Club’s Managing Director bid all skippers and their crews a very safe and enjoyable passage and as a ‘thank you’ for choosing to sail across the Atlantic as part of ARC+, he hoped participants will enjoy tonight’s farewell firework display as part of the rally finale before departing Las Palmas.
However, there were still some important last-minute formalities to attend to before tomorrow’s departure. These included the skippers of every boat bringing the passports of all those on board to a formal check-out procedure by World Cruising Club’s ARC yellowshirt team.
The first start for the ARC+ fleet will be for the Multihull division at 1245 local time, closely followed at 1300 by the Monohulls and all other divisions taking part in the first ARC+ to the Caribbean island of Grenada on Sunday 7 November. The best vantage point on shore to watch the boats depart is as they leave Las Palmas Marina or from the seafront promenade (Avenida Marítima) in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where the required social distancing can easily take place.
It is easy to follow the fleet or individual boats on the YB Races app and Fleet Viewer page, plus many boats will use their YB Trackers to keep in touch with those at home by sending messages, and posts to social media via the YB Connect app. The rally website will also include blogs, photos and all the latest news: https://www.worldcruising.com/