A light southerly breeze and bright sunshine accompanied the 156 yachts in the 38th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers as they departed Gran Canaria bound for Saint Lucia, 2700 nautical miles away.
Leading the ARC 2023 fleets were Pierre de Saint-Vincent’s Piment Rouge (FRA) an Outremer 51 in the Multihull Division, followed by Marjolijn van Oordt’s Swan 52-3 Gaia (NLD) in the Racing Division. The 91-strong Cruising Division was led out by Svante Jacobsson on Farr 65r Celeste of Solent (GBR).
Although there was a little light-airs hustling between the more competitive boats, all three starts were relaxed and happy, in keeping with the ARC spirit. After two weeks of seminars, socialising and safety inspections, the atmosphere on the docks was one of anticipation and relief to be finally setting sail. ‘You can feel the energy in the air’, said a crew member on X-Yachts X4.6 Ipanema (NDL). As always, a huge crowd of family and friends, supporters and local people lined the marina breakwaters, cheering, waving and shedding a tear as the boats left for the start line, marked by Spanish Naval vessel BAM Rayo.
ARC 2023 Starts
Winds from the northeast and a couple of metres of swell are usual for this time of year in Las Palmas, but 2023 delivered a white sail start in 8-10kn and calm seas. A tactical and trimming challenge for the racier teams, and a gentle reintroduction to life at sea for everyone.
First to start at 12:30 were the Multihull and Open Divisions, with Piment Rouge (FRA) timing it to perfection to pip the three More Sailing Excess 15s to the line with Marsaudon ORC50 Ti ana (FRA) powering through shortly after. Seawind 1600 Pure Joy (JEY) with the Poole family made a good start – young Elliot Poole won the ARC kids’ cuddly mascot ‘Sailor Ted’ who has joined the crew for the voyage. It’ll be interesting to see how the two Marsaudon ORC50s Ti ana (FRA) and Calamity (VGB) and the three Outremers, Piment Rouge, Uhuru (GGY) and Swan (SVK) perform in the variable conditions.
Next off was the 13-strong IRC Racing Division, with Marjolijn van Oordt’s Swan 52-3 Gaia (NLD) taking the line first, followed by Solano (POR), Pascal Feryn’s Latini 52 then the beautifully turned-out Swan 90 Berenice Cube (ITA). Smaller Racing Division boats Sidney II (GBR) and Emily of Cowes (GBR) made a good showing in the light airs. Many of the Racing Division boats will be busy enjoying the Caribbean race circuit this winter.
At 13:00 the gun sounded for the 91 boats in the Cruising Division. Despite the miles ahead and boats well laden with food and necessities for a season in the Caribbean, there was a sprightly start with ex-race boat Farr 65r Celeste of Solent (GBR) skippered by Svante Jacobsson crossing first, with Hallberg Rassy 57 Saltair (USA), the classic Swan Saida (CHE) – the oldest boat in this year’s fleet – and two X-Yachts, XP-50 Madness (FRA) and XP-44 Xummer (NLD) in the mix.
The ARC isn’t about who is first though. As Remi Palandri, owner of Hallberg Rassy Serenity (FRA) explained, ‘We’re doing our first transatlantic, and it was better to do it with the safety structure of the ARC’.
As the boats sailed towards the south of the Island, the wind built and backed to the east and sheets eased for a nice Force 4 beam reach. With the trade winds currently disrupted due lows to the north, the classic route of ‘sail south until the butter melts’ will be the most popular. It is unlikely that the 2016 ARC record of 8 days and 6 hours set by George David on Rambler 88 (USA) will be challenged.
Once clear of the island of Gran Canaria, the fleet are set for three days of light east or southeasterly winds, with the best routing closer to the African coast. By Wednesday, winds are forecast to back to the east or northeast, increasing to 15+ knots. With lows over the Azores affecting winds to the north, there are unlikely to be any boats attempting the northern route, or even sailing the rhumb line, the shortest distance to Saint Lucia. This year will be a classic ‘south until the butter melts’ sail down to the latitude of Cabo Verde, before boats turn their bows west with steady trades blowing them to the Caribbean.
There are now 253 boats and 1,300 people aged from 8 months to 89 years crossing the Atlantic with ARC rallies, as the ARC+ fleet departed Cape Verde on 17 November, bound for Grenada. Follow the fleets on the YB Races app, or on the rally website Fleet Viewer.
World Cruising Club Managing Director, Paul Tetlow, said, ‘With the departure of the second wave of boats, the ARC Atlantic sailing season is truly underway, and everyone at World Cruising Club is so proud to play a small part in helping to realise the dreams of so many sailors. Fair winds, and see you all in the Caribbean for the next chapter of your ARC adventure’.