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Skippers focus on start day

ARC Weatherman Chris Tibbs has forecast a classic trade wind passage for ARC 2022, but with a lively start, as a lingering cold front ‘heats-up’ the wind accelerations zones off Gran Canaria. His advice to cruisers setting off tomorrow, Sunday 20 November, was to sail conservatively on the first night and head south of the rhumb line course, following the classic ‘south until the butter melts’ trade wind route.

On the dockside in Las Palmas, yesterday’s passing cold front gave ARC crews a showery and cooler day than they have experienced recently. Its arrival has marked the start of the traditional north-easterly trade winds now set to blow over the Canary Islands for at least the next week. Twenty-knot trade winds whistling through boat rigging has really focused crews on what to expect in the weeks ahead. The mood is now more serious with minds set on the journey ahead as final preparations take place; the last of the boat’s stores of food, water and fuel; the final crew kit-bags to stow -leaving perhaps a little more space for another box of stores tucked in beside. The jobs list almost complete.


Today, after a busy morning of check-out with ARC Rally Control, at which passports and final crew lists were confirmed, skippers and navigators headed up to the ARC Skipper’s Briefing at the nearby Metropole Club. Close to 300 crews filed in to listen to ARC Event Manager Andrew Pickersgill as he explained procedures for departing Las Palmas and arrival into Saint Lucia; how the ARC weather forecast and fleet positions will be distributed, and how the fleet communications will operate. Then it was the turn of Chris Tibbs, who has frequently sailed the Atlantic route, to bring his skills as a respected maritime meteorologist, to share with the skippers.

In summary, Chris’ advice was to be very cautious during the first 24 hours, as the forecast NE winds of between 20 and 25 knots will strengthen as boats head south and encounter the wind acceleration zones caused by the 2km high mountains of Gran Canaria, and its larger neighbour Tenerife. As night falls tomorrow the fleet is likely to be in the area of strongest winds, with accelerated gusts around 28-33 knots, which combined with the 2m swells will make the first night hard going. Routing advice was to sail more to the south and east of the rhumb line, which not only places boats in a favourable position for later, but should avoid the areas of strongest gusts. Beyond Monday and Tuesday, winds are likely to veer to E or ENE and settle in around 20 knots, but with more confused winds north of the rhumb line. The routing models all predict a fast passage, and suggest a classic southerly route, with skippers advised to get to 20N/30W before turning towards Saint Lucia….. just about where the butter will be melting!

Following the briefing, some of the skippers conveyed their thoughts after listening to the predicted weather forecast and ahead of the start of their transatlantic adventure:

We will do a lot of reefing and will make sure we are going to be comfortable on the first night. We have got a long way to go and we just want everyone to be happy,” says Howard Linton on the Oyster 56 Lilli Mae.

Christoph Von Reibnitz, owner of the beautiful classic yacht Peter von Seestermühe: “There’s going to be a lot of wind for the start, so as Chris Tibbs the ARC weatherman says, we will make sure we don’t overstretch the crew on the first night and will make it as comfortable as possible by reducing our sail area.

We are aiming to be 5 seconds late at the start, but are aiming for a good position,” smiles boat captain Robin Toozs-Hobson on Ulrik Nielsen’s fast ITA Catamaran Nanamole, sailing in the Multihull Division starting at 1230 local time.

Emily Morgan’s owners, Bones and Anna Black on their Bowman 57 said of their 7th ARC start: “We will go south like we normally do, and will not put up too much sail. Chris (Tibbs) is very wise and gave a very good description of what the weather is going to be, so you’ve got to listen. It’s a rally not a race.”

The weather forecast is not as dramatic as was a couple of days ago but it’s just unfortunate that the first 24 hours are going to be a bit difficult and everyone is going to be tired. It’s not the best way to start. But it is what it is,” says Ben Levy, of the Amel Maramu Kujira from New Zealand.

Andrey Fedorov, owner of Oberoi, the Vancouver 28 and smallest boat in the fleet: “It will be a bit difficult for the start and first night at sea due to the predicted sea conditions and swell, so seasickness is very likely. Looking at the forecast and listen at the Skipper’s Briefing, we will pass as far away from the airport area as possible to avoid the acceleration zone.

I don’t really want to be close to the airport with the acceleration zones predicted. I’ll try to stay a couple of miles off,” says Gary O’Grady, owner of Westerly Konsort Katy: “I’m going to see what it’s like out there before the start, but I’m not too worried about it because I’ll be reefed quite heavily and will see what the wind is like. Larry and I won’t push the boat too much, but it would be nice to cross the line first! I can’t wait to get off the dock now. I’m ready to go!”

The start times for the 37th edition of ARC 2022 are: 1230 for Multihulls & Open division; 1245 for those in the Racing division, and all other divisions start together at 1300 (local time). It is sure to be a spectacular sight as the 142 boats carrying crew from 35 nations make their way across the start line and into their first night at sea.

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