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Settling in to life at sea

After a gentle introduction to their Atlantic crossing, a swell time is being had on board the boats of ARC 2016. “We enjoyed a tremendous send off from Las Palmas.” wrote David Mason of White Satin in his first log of the voyage. “The ARC team were at the entrance to the harbour cheering us all on our way, along with hundreds of other people, perched on the rocks on the harbour wall. Rousing music was transmitted over loudspeakers; the atmosphere was amazing. There were a few nerves around this morning but not nearly as many as expected; we were all just caught up in the excitement of the occasion. The fleet en masse was a glorious sight; we feel very privileged to have both the equipment and the ability to make this passage.”

As the island of Gran Canaria faded away, spinnakers were duly raised and the fleet enjoyed a wonderful introduction to the Atlantic. “So far we are having incredibly nice wind. 11-15 knots, from the NE (45-55°). We are heading south at 6-7 knots of speed 95-105° flying our Asymmetrical Spinnaker.” Reported Fernando on Solaris ONE 42, Albatross following their afternoon sundowner. What better way to begin their voyage to Saint Lucia.

Fleet Update
Within the ARC fleet, a number of boats initially delayed their departure from Gran Canaria, but with the exception of Diamond Girl, they have now all set sail. Hot Stuff returned to Las Palmas following a collision in the pre-start sequence; they intend to depart for Saint Lucia tomorrow (Thursday). Norwegian Arcona 400 Tiffin is currently on her way back to the Canary Islands with rig damage. 

The five crew members of the yacht NOAH have been successfully evacuated from the yacht after it started to take on water today, Wednesday 23 November. The crew members, all from Germany, were evacuated onto the Royal Research Ship James Cook (90m LOA) at 16:45 today, following a MADAY call by the yacht. The rescue was co-ordinated by MRCC Tenerife with assistance from several ARC boats close to the position. Further information is available here.

North or South
At the pre-departure skippers briefing, ARC meteorologist Chris Tibbs ran through the forecasts for the first few days, and it was clear playing the weather game was going to be the conundrum of the crossing. A mid-Atlantic low pressure system is currently positioned over the shortest rhumb line route to Saint Lucia and on day 1 crews had to choose between the traditional 'go south until the butter melts' route or head west through the wind shadow of the Canary Islands to pick up the brisk northerlys to the north. Both options have their bonuses and pitfalls.

Ross Applebey of Oyster Lightwave 48 Scarlet Oyster is one of the most experienced ARC’ers on this year’s crossing and a perennial Class Winner in the Racing Division. “The issue is that the trades are not as well defined as sometimes, and there is a good breeze showing North at first. However the North route will be less comfortable, with upwind sailing, and leaves us exposed to low pressures later on. Getting South later could also prove difficult. With the low pressure sucking out all the wind in the middle of the course, once committed one way or other we will need to live with the consequences.”

In the past 48 hours, good progress has been made by the fleet as they emerged from the wind shadow of the islands, and by Tuesday night the fleet were enjoying some text-book Atlantic wave surfing and occasional squalls to keep them on their toes. “We are in company with another Danish Elan 434, Frigg, both of us on the northern rhumb line whilst the bulk of the fleet are taking the traditional southern route.” Wrote Doug, on Chance Encounter, “After a day of light winds we got some breeze this morning and we are reaching west in 15-20 knots of wind sitting on high 7's and early 8's. We've been in cloud most of the time but the sun is just starting to peer through the clouds as we approach the end of the day.”

ARC+ yachts make the most of light airs
Meanwhile one week after their departure from Mindelo, Cape Verde, the ARC+ fleet are now devoted to their course around the low pressure system. Their main dilemma is whether to employ the old ‘Iron Topsail’ (engine) as they skirt around the system ( ARC+ is a cruising rally, yachts are permitted to use their engine, and the hours under motor are logged and taken into account when the results are calculated). 

Overall, the mood is buoyant among the ARC+ cruising crews, “If you have to be stuck somewhere, then it’s not bad to have clear blue skies, endless calm azure seas, and temperatures of 34 degrees. What’s not to like?” commented Colin in his role of Chief Blogging Officer on board the British-flagged Fleet II. The picture of Eau Too in the enjoying a mid-Atlantic swim is enough for anyone in the grips of the winter to wish they were there with them too!

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