A gentle swell, warm sunshine and an easy F4 ENE breeze, were the order of the day for the 64 strong ARC+ fleet heading off from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria today – Sunday 08 November. Whilst the island of Gran Canaria pulled in a few clouds – typical for a 2,000m high mountain in the trade winds - it was all sunshine and smiles offshore as the warm breeze launched the 2015 ARC+ fleet south towards Capo Verde, and the port of Mindelo on São Vicente, 825NM SW of Gran Canaria.
At the pre-start skipper’s briefing, ARC weatherman Chris Tibbs, described the forecast for the start as “near perfect for the passage” although, as is typical of the route, the first night at sea is likely to be lively. Stronger easterly winds overnight are expected to reach F6/7 for a while, before settling into a more gentle pattern of sunshine and ENE winds F3/4 all the way to the Cape Verde islands, the destination for leg 1 of this two-stage Atlantic crossing.
Taking advantage of the easy wind conditions, many of the fleet pulled out their coloured sails, with cruising chutes and parasailors on display soon after the start at 13:00 today. Catana 472 El Gato (USA) sailed by former US Olympic sailor Annie Gardner and husband Eric, were first to pop up their kite just as the starting signal was hoist, although they were narrowly beaten across the line by Leopard 48 Widago, sailed by fellow Americans, the Moseley family from Key Largo FL.
Amongst the monohulls, starting on a separate line, it was X-612 Nix, sailed by ARC veteran Nico Cortlever from the Netherlands, that was the first over, but the big Russian Shipman 63 Bepa, soon made the running, pulling ahead to lead the fleet south along the coast of Gran Canaria. With start lines to the east and west of the impressive committee boat, the Salvamento Maritimo rescue vessel the MS Punta Salinas, the start offered a fine spectacle for participants and spectators alike. A fitting send-off after a warm and friendly few weeks for the crews in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
As often happens with ocean preparations, several ARC+ boats have been hit by last minute technical problems causing them to postpone their departure. Beneteau First 40 Arriba (CAN) and Moonshine (GBR) a Franchini 45, hope to restart tomorrow (Monday). There was also an unexpected pit-stop in Pasito Blanco on the south of Gran Canaria for Vitamina (ESP) a Lagoon 420 to correct a fault on a recently fitted watermaker.
With fair winds set to hold, leg one of the rally should be a classic sail south and the first arrivals are expected to make landfall in four days. Even the smaller boats, often with double-handed crews should have a fast sail and will all arrive in good time to enjoy a few days of exploration and relaxation before tackling the longer Atlantic stage to Saint Lucia in the Caribbean.