Following two extra nights in Las Palmas, Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) 2012 cruising boats finally set sail to join the racing division boats already at sea en route to Saint Lucia. A total of 226 boats and 1269 people are now participating in the 27th edition.
For the first time since the ARC began in 1986, the boats started within the port of Las Palmas, manoeuvring in an area just outside the marina before crossing a line formed by the harbour breakwaters.
Las Palmas Port is one of the busiest in Europe, and the Port Authority worked hard to ensure that the ARC boats could start safely without disrupting the commercial operation.
The port start was a great success, with boats in close proximity before the start guns sounded. The commercial traffic added to the sense of occasion, with several sounding their horns.
A brisk 15-20 knot north easterly wind sped the fleet clear of the city and they were soon heading south away from Gran Canaria. Most boats will continue to sail south until they are within the established trade winds, when they will turn west towards Saint Lucia.
First of the 17 multihulls to depart at 1045 was the Simpson family's Catana 431 Intrepid Bear (GBR) with Harry (5), Milly (7) and Thea (9) onboard. The larger cruising boats started with the multihulls, and in this division Oyster 655 Sotto Vento (GBR) lead Oyster 82 Raven (GBR).
The largest ARC division, the cruising boats, started at 1100. There are 155 boats in this division, including family boats sailing with children. First boat to depart was Italian XP-44 Ariennta 4.2 (ITA), with Hanse 531 Savarna (NZL) and the Karlsson-Smythe family's Jeanneau Just Nuts! (IRL) following close behind.
Even though there is no racing competition outside of the few boats who race, the ARC nevertheless adds to the drama and fun of the occasion by using a starting gun. Cruising boats Vendetta (SUI) and Amoress 2 (SWE) were a bit too keen to get underway and crossed the line before the start sounded, but with 2700 NM to go, most boats were more relaxed.
ARC organisers, World Cruising Club, took the decision to delay the cruising boat start from Sunday to Tuesday to allow a frontal system to pass through. News of the postponement was met by spontaneous applause from participants, and there have been highly favourable comments about the handling of what has been only the second delayed start in ARC history.
Managing Director Andrew Bishop said: 'As a cruising sailor myself, I would not have enjoyed the predicted conditions for my first night at sea, so we made the sensible decision to delay the start for the cruising boats until the low passed through.'
Crews used their extra hours in Las Palmas to relax and enjoy the city, do last minute laundry and re-check their preparations.
The fastest raceboats are expected to make landfall after 12 days, but with favourable winds, Capricorno's (ITA) ARC crossing record of 11 days, five hours and 32 minutes set in 2006 may yet be beaten.
The majority of boats will take 18-21 days to make the 2700 nautical mile Atlantic crossing, arriving in Rodney Bay Marina in time for the prize giving on 21 December.
A full list of ARC 2012 boats is available online at www.worldcruising.com/arc.
by Rachel Hibberd
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4:48 PM Tue 27 Nov 2012GMT
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