It was an exciting start to the 37th edition of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) today, Sunday 20 November, from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as a north easterly swell gave the boats a rolling send off. In total, 138 of the 143 strong fleet took the start for the 2,700nm sail to Saint Lucia, with a long-range forecast promising good tradewinds to whisk them to the Caribbean. Over 800 crew are taking part in ARC 2022 on board a diverse fleet of cruising yachts with monohulls, multihulls and a motorboat leaving Gran Canaria today.
Hosts of the start since the first ARC in 1986, Las Palmas Marina has come alive with the annual event once again for the two-week rally pre-departure programme. Participants have enjoyed exploring Gran Canaria, and the city of Las Palmas has been excellent for provisioning and preparing for the crossing to Saint Lucia, which is expected to take 18-20 days for the average cruiser. Rally organisers World Cruising Club have carried out safety checks for each boat and organised a varied programme of seminars and social evenings in the lead up to the start, fuelling the rally camaraderie evident on each dock of the marina. “It’s been a really slick operation, all the aspects here in Las Palmas,” said Mark Lawrence, crew on board the Australian Dufour 56 Smooth Operator. “The services and facilities have been really good, from the riggers to the provisioners, and it just takes so much stress out of the preparations having all this support. Now we feel, ‘let’s get going’! We can’t wait for some great trade wind sailing to the Caribbean!”
There was an emotional farewell atmosphere as Las Palmas Marina gradually emptied leaving bare pontoons for another year. The Tourist Board of Gran Canaria, the Port Authority of Las Palmas and the Ayuntamiento of Las Palmas, have been wonderful hosts to ARC participants for the past two weeks, and crews said goodbye to the city with waves and cheers as the yachts processioned out of the marina.
Over the past 48 hours in Gran Canaria, as crews made their final preparations for the start of their Atlantic crossing, strong gusting winds from the NE have built up a significant 1.5m swell; ideal for surfers, but causing some discomfort for boats on the start line today. The wind was more easterly than is typical for an ARC start, meaning it was a white sail reaching start in the 18-20 knot winds. The weather forecast for the next 24 hours shows winds around 20 knots, with higher gusts in the acceleration zone to the south of Gran Canaria. The acceleration zone extends 100NM down from the Island, where its 2000m high mountain causes significant increases in wind strengths south of the island. Skippers will need to take precautions, reefing early and navigating a more southerly route away from the strongest winds during the first 24 hours. With daylight tomorrow, they fleet should be moving into more settled trade winds, especially to the south of the rhumb line, a pattern expected to hold for at least the first week of the crossing.
With the committee vessel, the Armada española (Spanish Navy) ship Meteor on station, the first start was for the Multihull and Open Divisions, just as the sun emerged following a cloudy morning. Despite carrying a reef or two, the performance catamarans streamed over the start making 5-6kts, led by all-electric ITA Catamaran 14.99 Nanomole (MLT) skippered by Ulrik Bjerl Nielsen from Denmark.
Up next, a smaller than usual ARC Racing fleet battled the swell on the inshore line and it was a safe and steady start with many days of ocean sailing ahead. Harmony 52 Sao Jorge (GBR) edged out a lead to cross the line first, followed by Beneteau First 53 Firstlady (DEU), and the smaller Beneteau 40.7 Escapado (GBR) following in third. Sao Jorge and Escapado are both charter boats from the British based Sail Racing Academy, carrying guest crews with a professional skipper and mate onboard.
It was a spectacular sight as white sails of over 100 yachts in the Cruising Division peppered the blue horizon of the harbour of Las Palmas at 13:00. Anthony Auger’s Oyster 665 Patience of London (GBR) was at the front of the fleet, with the steady winds already propelling them towards Saint Lucia.
As the fleet leave Gran Canaria in their wake, a classic trade wind sail is forecast as the boats head south before they turn to point theirs bows to IGY Rodney Bay Marina. From the youngest crew, aged just two years old, to the oldest skipper at over 80, the ARC sailors coming from 35 different nations will soon adapt to life on the ocean waves after a rush of pre-departure preparations. All ARC boats are fitted with YB Tracking satellite trackers, allowing family and friends to follow the fleet from the comfort of home via the ARC website or YB Races App.
The departure of the ARC fleet sailing directly to Saint Lucia today means a combined total of 234 yachts are crossing the Atlantic under the ARC banner in November 2022. The ARC+ fleet of 91 yachts departed Mindelo, Cape Verde for their second leg of their crossing last Friday, bound for Camper and Nicholson’s Port Louis Marina in Grenada. A further 43 yachts will join the second edition of ARC January, setting sail in the new year, in a third Atlantic crossing rally organised by World Cruising Club, sailing from Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia.