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T-1: Countdown to the start

With less than one day to go until the start of the world’s largest transatlantic rally, participants are on countdown to departure from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Their Atlantic adventure is nearly upon them and it’s a busy time around the docks as final preparations are made for the 2,800nm crossing.

Last night, crews from many of the 220 yachts taking part were invited to a farewell cocktail party hosted by the Gran Canaria Tourist Board at the prestigious Real Club Nautico. It was an enjoyable evening with music, drinks and tapas being served on the terrace overlooking the impressive Olympic sized pool and Las Palmas Harbour. Crews mixed and mingled and made the most of their last few nights ashore. The party atmosphere ensured everyone had a good time before going to sea for many nights (and days). Next stop Saint Lucia, a warm Caribbean welcome and rum punch on arrival!

Today is a very busy day for skippers and crews with passport check out and the Skippers’ Briefing taking place. There’s a buzz around the docks as final items are ticked off the endless jobs list and last minute provisions such as fresh fruit and vegetables are stowed on board.

The ARC yellowshirts were on the platform early this morning, ready to make the formal check out procedure by boat number as efficient as possible. Crew and passport details for every person in the fleet are checked thoroughly and those with crew arriving late, will do the same on the morning of the start.

At the obligatory Skippers’ Briefing, representatives from each crew were given the ARC Sailing Instructions, a list of the handicap divisions with class splits and the latest weather and radio net information. World Cruising Club's Andrew Bishop lead the briefing, welcoming crews and running through the procedures for tomorrows start. 

ARC meteorologist Chris Tibbs then gave the all important weather forecast, running through the conditions that crews can expect for the first week at sea. With high pressure ridging over the Canary Islands, light E-NE winds are expected for tomorrow's start and it looks to be more gentle introduction to the ocean than last year's rock and roll departure. On Monday, a weak cold front will swing the wind northwesterly, and there are likely to be some showers. Crews will need to watch how conditions develop during the first week to decide on their route to Saint Lucia - light winds initially may fill in for boats considering the southerly route; those intending on heading west at first will benefit from better winds this week but the forecast is looking uncertain for the latter part of the crossing.

There's a final sundowner tonight for crews to come together one last time in Muelle Deportivo. The evening is sponsored by Spinnakers Bar in Saint Lucia where they will all meet on arrival in the Caribbean.

The start of the 31st Atlantic Rally for Cruisers will be as follows:

1230 Start 1: Multihull and Open Divisions
1245 Start 2: Racing Division
1300 Start 3: All other Divisions

The best spot on shore to watch the superb spectacle of the boats departure is from the seafront promenade (Avenida Marítima) in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

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