International celebrations officially opened the 32nd Atlantic Rally for Cruisers today in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Behind the flags of 31 countries, representing the nationalities of the boats in the fleet, hundreds of participants who will be sailing across the Atlantic in the rally came together to showcase the international flavour of the world’s largest transocean sailing rally.
Assembling in the northern corner of Las Palmas Marina, flag bearers from different nations joined the procession as it made its way around the marina. The grand parade had a real festival atmosphere and many crews took part in the patriotic display by bringing a boat’s mascot or dressing up for the occasion. Following the principal flags of Spain, Gran Canaria and Saint Lucia, the international conga line was led by the Banda Gran Canaria, with the Bateria Samba da Ilha beating a salsa rhythm at the back.
A warm welcome to the ARC sailors was made by World Cruising Club’s Managing Director Andrew Bishop who thanked the many organisations who have supported the rally’s time in Gran Canaria. These include Juan Francisco Martin director comercial de la Autoridad Portuaria de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria - the marina that accommodates the multinational ARC fleet. The Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria continue to host over a thousand ARC participants every year providing a wonderful venue for their preparation. Consejera de Turismo del Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Señorita Inés Jiménez then spoke to recognise the importance of the international event to the island of Gran Canaria and wished the sailors all the best for the voyage to Saint Lucia.
Check out the Facebook Gallery of images from the parade
The attraction to sail in company as one fleet has continued to have undaunted appeal for thousands of international sailors in the 32 year history of the rally. Many participants are now coming full circle, following in their parents, or grandparents, footsteps by sailing in the ARC with their own families, and in some cases on board the same boats. 37 children are sailing with the rally and the tradition looks to continue for future generations too! On Saturday, they enjoyed games on the local beach lead by the Yellow Shirts and the ARC Children's Club begins on Monday, leaving parents with a little more spare time for their preparations in the run up to start day.
It was evident as the parade moved around the pontoons that the ARC has one of the most diverse fleets of any sailing regatta with boats from 30ft to almost 100ft sailing the same ARC transatlantic course. The average cruising boat can expect to arrive in Saint Lucia in 18 to 21 days, but the competitive Racing Division will hope to reach the rum punch much sooner. Multihulls have proved extremely popular this year with 29 catamarans, and 2 trimarans taking part.
As start day, Sunday 19 November, draws nearer preparations for the crossing increase urgency as provisions are stowed, equipment is checked and re-checked and further crew members fly in daily to join the yachts. World Cruising Club, together with local supporters including Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Ayuntamiento de las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Port Authority and local chandlery Rolnautic organise an extensive programme for the participants. In week two of the programme, many will take advantage of the free seminars lead by some of the most respected cruising sailors and marine specialists in the industry. The infamous ARC social programme is a fun way for participants to get to know one another, and form an Atlantic crossing community before they head out to sea.