There’s a mix of excitement and slight apprehension with sailors around the docks today as everyone prepares for the departure of the ARC tomorrow. With less than a day to go, the culmination of months, even years of planning to make this huge adventure a reality, is finally coming to a head. There were still a few more formalities for the skipper of every boat to complete before heading off on what, for many, will be their longest ocean passage and greatest adventure yet!
Andrew Bishop, Managing Director of World Cruising Club gave a warm welcome and ‘Bon Voyage’ to all at the 2021 ARC Skippers Briefing at lunchtime today. With 146 boats taking part, skippers were able to choose to attend in person or watch the presentation on Zoom. Handing over to Event Director, Andrew Pickersgill in the auditorium at Club Metropole in Las Palmas, participants attentively listened as he ran through the content of the USB stick and detailed information they had been given a few days before, outlining the start procedure, explaining details in the Sailing Instructions, and arrival information for the finish in Saint Lucia.
Thoughts then turned to the predicted weather for the crossing with the latest update given by ARC meteorologist, Chris Tibbs (sailing-weather.com) - something that everyone was keen to hear after looking at the weather patterns over the last few days where it is looking light this year. “It is going to be fairly light winds for the start and for the initial few days, with a low swell and a bit mixed around 1.2m with 9 second period,” he said. “We are expecting fairly light south easterly winds for the first part of the crossing, with a gentle breeze of 8-13 knots that will tend to ease and become more variable as you move south from Las Palmas."
"Unusually, I am not expecting an acceleration zone down by the airport. By 1800 on start day, the wind will become much more variable and will be switching around a little bit. By midnight, local models are indicating a light westerly, so I think you are going to be kept on your toes with a shifting wind direction and speed, but it’ll still be staying light.” He explained that there is an area of low pressure near the Azores and another towards the west of the Canary Islands, and also to the north putting the Canaries in an area of high pressure which is the reason for the fairly light and variable wind for tomorrow. Encouragingly, Chris said it wouldn’t be long before the boats gets into nice tradewinds and that the ARC sailors have a very good and safe passage.
Later in the afternoon skippers completed their final check-out on the ARC platform with ARC yellowshirts; showing passports of every crew member on board. Catching a few of the skippers who had now completed all the necessary formalities, Ross Finlayson on Blue Mist, his Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 42D, said he was feeling good and ready to go: “Like everyone else, I think we will head south with the light winds forecast. We will treat the first few days as a mini cruise and are all looking forward to it. It’ll be fun,” he smiled. David Kelly on the Irish Hallberg-Rassy 40 Viente agreed: “I thought the ARC weatherman, Chris Tibbs was very clear on the fact that if he were sailing this year, he’d go south, so that’s where we’ll go! We are now just looking forward to finishing with all the preparations, to getting out on the water and to start enjoying all that food we’ve bought – and of course to start sailing!”
Simon and Amandine Pollard, owners of family boat Dragonfly were very happy to be setting off with the rest of the fleet tomorrow, after missing the ARC+ start following the discovery of a mast problem on their Oyster 56. After managing to get the repairs made, the mast was put back just in time. “I thought I’d be nervous about tomorrow’s start but we are just excited. Our children, Tama, Luca, Naomi and Lee are too. They’ve had such a good time with all the other ARC kids so will miss them on the crossing, but will be looking forward to seeing them at the other end in Saint Lucia.”
As skippers did the last of the paperwork and check-out, the feeling was unanimous - It’s time to head out to sea again, “It’s been a brilliant experience. There’s been a lot of preparation but we are ready to go,” said one of the crew on Antonio Pablo Armas Mead’s Spanish Jeanneau Yacht 54 Bluemoona, and Claire Padilla on the Chilean flagged Amanaki summed up their ARC experience whilst in Las Palmas in three words: “Amazing, fun and awesome!”
Later this evening there will be a fireworks display laid on by World Cruising Club, giving the 900+ sailors in the 36th edition of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers a suitable Bon Voyage before the start of their 2,700 nm crossing tomorrow - 12:30 ARC 2021 Start 1: Multihull & Open Divisions, 12:45 ARC 2021 Start 2: Racing Division & 13:00 ARC 2021 Start 3: All other Divisions.