The World Cruising Club’s 17 strong ARC Portugal fleet departed Mayflower Marina heading south for their first leg amid bright sunshine. It was smiles all round as the yachts set off on Sunday at 0900 in 8-12kt north-easterly breeze, with the anticipation of good winds ahead for the next five days; ideal conditions for the 550 nautical mile crossing of the Bay of Biscay to the first stopover in Bayona.
17 yachts take to the start in the Plymouth Sound - 2013 ARC Portugal
Before departure, all yachts joining the rally were given a safety inspection by the experienced World Cruising Club team, and fitted with Yellowbrick trackers so friends and family can follow their progress at home. A Rally Briefing was held at the Plymouth Albion Rugby Club, followed by welcome drinks and curry supper, crews already beginning to enjoy the fantastic social atmosphere that will no doubt grow throughout the cruise.
Now in its 19th year, ARC Portugal (formerly Rally Portugal) combines a cruise in company with a sightseeing holiday, visiting some of the best historic locations on the Iberian Peninsula. While the itinerary has changed slightly over the years as new marinas have developed, the ethos of a social cruise with exploring ashore and afloat has remained strong. The 2013 route features stopovers in Bayona, Povoa de Varzim, Gaia (for Porto), Figueira da Foz, Peniche, Oeiras and Sines, before reaching Marina de Lagos at the gateway of the Mediterranean - an ideal finishing point for a summer of cruising.
In total, 19 boats are joining this year's event. Unleashed is expected to leave Plymouth today (Monday) after some last minute repairs kept them from yesterday's start, whilst Casamara will join the rally in Bayona. There are two catamarans in the fleet this year, the identical Broadblue 385s Imagine and Infinite Dream. Amongst the monohulls, the largest is Farr 56 PH Farfelu, and the smallest, Yacht Idefix, an X-34 owned by Eric Goethals, one of two Belgian flagged yachts participating in the rally.
Seven ARC Portugal boats are going on to take part in ARC 2013 - Abraxas, Arcarius of Plymouth, Charlotta1, Freebooter, Leviathan II, Starblazer, and Webster; whilst others have more relaxed cruising plans to explore the Mediterranean after arriving in Lagos.
John and Joyce Easteal are taking part in ARC Portugal for a third time with their new boat, Starblazer, a 1992 Hallberg Rassey 42F. After discovering a love of cruising rallies whilst completing an Atlantic Circuit two years ago, John and Joyce are set for the adventure of a life time and will join World ARC in 2014. ARC Portugal will be the first step of their journey cruising the world as Joyce explained, 'We moved onto the boat permanently in May to make our way to Plymouth for the start of ARC Portugal. We have done it twice before and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Having a start date gives us a deadline otherwise we would probably still be 'getting ready to go' in August!'
With fair winds forecast, the fleet are expected to have arrived by Thursday for a welcome sangria at the Monte Real Club de Yates in Bayona. Over the weekend, there are organised tours and free time to explore before the prize-giving ceremony for Leg 1 held on Sunday evening. Leg 2, to the Portuguese town of Povoa de Varzim, will set sail on Tuesday 11 June.
ARC Portugal website