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An eclectic fleet gathers

The docks are filling up rapidly here in Las Palmas and although there’s been a few showers throughout the day, the sun managed to shine through and there’s a buzz around the place as crews from around the world are busy reuniting and preparing before the start. The attraction of the ARC is that it has something for everyone, bringing together an extremely diverse group of sailors, crossing the historic ocean rally in a wide variety of boats – both in size and design.

This year, as usual, there are many familiar faces - previous participants; some of whom have taken part in numerous World Cruising rallies over the years. There are also 15 World ARC boats across the three routes who will be starting with the rally before setting off on their circumnavigation in January from Saint Lucia. Crews in the ARC are made up of many types too: family members, doublehanders, those who are taking part for the challenge and adventure as part of a ‘pay to play’ individual charter, crew who have signed up to join a boat on Ocean Crew Link, and more often, groups of friends who have come together to make their dream of making such a crossing, come true.

They include old friends on James Fiske’s solid Gitana that was designed in the 1970s for the Cape to Rio Race. Gathering together his old Plymouth University mates to sail on his Gitana 43, including teacher Kirsty, who is making the ARC part of the curriculum for her students over the next few weeks, he is thrilled to also have his Father on board as the two of them have talked about sailing across an ocean since he was small. “Dad is super excited as this will be his first ocean crossing,” says James who explains that: “There’s a really nice camaraderie here in Las Palmas.

As well as ‘newbie’s’ who have never crossed an ocean, or perhaps hardly sailed offshore before, there are plenty of highly experienced sailors amongst the fleet. Once such couple is Eric and Tamara Barto from Maui, Hawaii who will be culminating a nine year circumnavigation with the ARC as they make their way home on their Aikane 56, Sea Child. “We can’t wait to share the excitement of this last leg with our fellow ralliers,” said Tamara, who, with her husband has sailed over 38,000 nautical miles on board their 56’ catamaran. Their experiences will be invaluable to other ARC participants who are just starting out and they are very happy to share this information with everyone. “Our whole trip has been an incredible experience in bringing people together and learning about others that are not necessarily from our own community, but the greater world at large, which has been fascinating.” 

Tonight at one of the regular Sundowner drinks gatherings in the Federación de Vela Dinghy Park, there’s an opportunity for crews to get together and to meet other sailors on different boats in the rally. It’s always a fun way to make new friends and to talk about how everything is going before departure. This evening’s informal gathering is sponsored by Ahembo & JP Rosper Butchers so there is sure to be some very nice tapas and local foods to taste.

Meanwhile the start is drawing near for the pioneers on the ARC+ St. Vincent route. This evening they’ll be enjoying a Farewell Dinner ashore, ahead of checking out and the Skippers’ Briefing tomorrow.

Following their start last Sunday, the ARC+ fleet are continuing to make good progress towards Mindelo. As predicted, conditions have been somewhat variable for their first 48 hours at sea; “Well as the saying goes, ‘What a difference a day makes’.” Wrote the crew of Allegrini. “So far, we’ve experienced hardly any wind, to 20-25 knots, and from flat calm to 3-4m swells. We're having a terrible time keeping the pieces on the Monopoly board!” The forecast is now for steady favourable winds to fill in helping the first wave of boats crunch the miles to the Cape Verde. You can follow their progress on the Fleet Tracker.

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