With just one week to go until the inaugural ARC January sets off, almost all of the boats have arrived here in Las Palmas and preparations continue in the final days before the start on Sunday 9 January.
The Sunday before the yachts set off on their Atlantic voyage is traditionally the official Opening Ceremony and whilst the fanfare of a parade around the marina is not possible this year, the final countdown to the start here in Las Palmas was celebrated nonetheless.
Just before midday, crews were encouraged to listen out on the VHF Radio, as Event Director Andrew Pickersgill took to the airwaves and gave them a warm welcome to the rally. Among the 49 yachts set to start with the rally, there are over 30 nations represented by the crews sailing on board. At midday, the flags of the rally host nations of Spain and Saint Lucia were raised over the ARC January office and yachts dressed overall on cue to create a colourful spectacle in the marina. On the docks, crews got into the spirit of the celebration, sounding their boat horns, cheering and playing music from their boats.
The boats sailing with the inaugural edition of ARC January are a diverse mix of traditional cruisers, new build multihulls and even round-the-world racers. Freeway of Penpol is the smallest yacht taking part in ARC January 2022, a Freedom 35, measuring 10.67m length overall and the boat took part in the ARC in 1992. Skipper Phil Saltonstall is excited to be following the same route with her from Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia exactly 30 years later. The largest is Oyster 745 Kalia, one of the newest boats in the fleet, and amongst eight boats launched in 2021 getting the first Atlantic miles under her keel. At the other end of the scale, the oldest boat is the Swan 65 Peak, and as hull number 001 she was the first built of the famous Sparkman and Stephens-designed Swan 65 ketch line. Her skipper Pieter Houting from the Netherlands is looking forward to a great ocean adventure on board her following years of Mediterranean cruising and regattas.
Looking into next week, preparations will step up in earnest as final crew members arrive and boat preparations step up a gear. Roger Seymour of the ARC Safety Team will continue his checks of equipment and guiding skippers through their safety preparations, and the local marine business will be making sure the boats are all ship shape for departure. Taking place online this year is the ARC January Seminar programme, with a host of experienced ocean sailors and marine professionals sharing the advice on topics from rigging to provisioning, communications to Astro-navigation. Younger ARC January participants will be joining the Kids Club programme from Monday, with fun activities arranged by the Federacion de Vela.
As the glorious weather in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria continues, things are definitely hotting up ahead of the start and an exciting week is in store for the crews of ARC January 2022.