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Arriving in Las Palmas – when is the best time?

The ARC Rally Handbook advises skippers to get their boats to the Canaries by early October. But why when the start isn’t until mid-November?

Final preparations for an Atlantic Crossing take time. For many it is the culmination of years of planning and the start of their bluewater adventure. We want you to enjoy the experience and not be feeling like you are racing the clock, to meet a false deadline.

We spoke to those in the ARC 2023 fleet who started arriving in Las Palmas in August to find out why…

Dependent on where your jump off point is for your passage to the Canaries, weather systems in the North Atlantic will need to play a significant role in your planning. World Cruising Club advise all participants are south of the Bay of Biscay by the end of August and have passed through the Straits of Gibraltar by mid-September. Leaving later than this increases the risk of becoming storm bound enroute, delaying your arrival at the Canaries further and increasing the risk of sustaining damage.

Ian and Fiona on ‘Asante’ an Oyster 56 are completing the ARC for the second time. As in 2021, they arrived in Las Palmas in early October, Ian commented, “We absolutely did not want to be cross Biscay later than the middle of September, so we gave ourselves plenty of time to head south in case of Atlantic storm systems. We were able to relax and have a bit of a holiday in La Coruña, where we spent two weeks waiting for a weather system to pass. For us it was all about reducing risk of damaging Asante.”

Arriving in good time for the start ensures you have plenty of time to undertake any boat work prior to your crossing. You will be top of the list with local contractors, which is often cheaper both in terms of labour and parts.
Having completed ARC Portugal, Laura and Keith on ‘Fisk’ made their way to Las Palmas via Porto Santo (Madeira), arriving in mid-August. Other than a quick trip home, they have been here, working on their jobs list. They had a fair amount to do and had been advised by the local dealers that if they were here in September, they would get the work done in good time.

Wolfgang and Petra on ‘Gian’ arrived in Las Palmas on the 4th of October. For them having plenty of time to prepare ‘Gian’ as well as themselves for the crossing was key. With a little over a week until start day, they are fully prepared, and are using their time (and skills) to help support others. “As an electrician it is nice that I have been able to help fellow participants resolve electrical problems onboard.

If you need any spare parts, it is worth noting that shipping anything to Las Palmas takes time, which needs to be factored in. There is information about shipping and customs in the ARC Rally Handbook.

Having plenty of time to prepare, means you can find the best places to source your provisions and then secure the optimal delivery slots. The local suppliers can deliver up until 10pm on the day before the ARC departs, but this is really not the time you want to be rushing round preparing and stowing your provisions!

Whilst Las Palmas may be the starting point for your transatlantic adventure, it is also a destination in itself. Take some time to explore the Island, join the local yacht club, and meet your fellow ARC sailors. For many earlier arrivals an added bonus is having the time to get to know their other competitors and the joining in the various social events organised by the ARC ‘Yellow Shirt’ team.

Wolfgang comments, “One of the most special parts of the ARC is the fellow participants you meet. By being here earlier rather than later you have time to get to make friends and share experience.

For many of our early arrivals the key is starting the rally relaxed and certain they have prepared for all eventualities. Fiona on ‘Asante’ explains, “The whole point of doing the ARC Rally is to ensure you arrive in Saint Lucia safely, with plenty of time to prepare, you will be less anxious about the crossing and ultimately enjoy it more.