Every year for over 20 years, enthusiastic sailors have ventured from all parts of the globe to join the ARC, or Atlantic Rally for cruisers. Some of these come back year after year, but many others are starting on one of the greatest sailing adventures of their lives so far, crossing the Atlantic Ocean. This is the case for five hardy Welshmen, who are determined to cross this year in the great rally.
Arabella and her crew - skipper Ian Williams in foreground - headed for the ARC
Their adventure which will take them from South West Wales to Portugal and then on to Gran Canaria for the start of the rally on 20th November, heading for the Caribbean.
The intrepid sailors, skippered by Ian Williams, left Swansea Marina yesterday aboard the Arabella, a 39ft Bavaria yacht.
Some 240 boats from around the world will be taking part in the event — but the Arabella is though to be the only Welsh craft involved.
The fearless five have spent the past 15 months preparing for the rally and getting their floating home in ship-shape condition.
The first stage is to get the Arabella to Lagos near Faro in Portugal, then later in the summer it will be sailed down to Gran Canaria ready for the starting flag.
Crew member Deiniol Williams, 51, from Llandeilo, told Jason Evans: 'There has been a lot of planning and preparing to get to this stage — now I think we are all glad to be getting under way.
'I have done a fair bit of sailing before on my boat and on chartered boats, but it has all been small-fry compared to this.'
Deiniol's shipmates for the rally are skipper and brother- in-law Ian Williams, 55, from Cimla in Neath, Peter Davies, 64, from Sketty in Swansea, Graham Diment, 53, who lives in Swansea Marina, and 61-year-old John Mills from Llannon in the Gwendraeth Valley.
The quintet — all experienced sailors — became friends through Swansea Yacht Club.
They knew people who had competed in the ARC, and so a plan was hatched in the clubhouse to pit themselves against the seas.
The five will be using holidays and taking time off work to complete the trip, which starts with a trip across the Bay of Biscay and down the coast of Portugal to Lagos.
Deiniol said: 'This is the best time of year to cross Biscay because of the weather. The trip should take between seven and ten days depending on the winds.'
Route of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
The group will then fly home prior to the next stage in September — the five-day journey down to the Canaries.
Then the rally proper starts on 20th November, with the flotilla heading from Gran Canaria to St Lucia in the Caribbean.
Deiniol, who is a sales manager for a construction company, said: 'The crossing of the Atlantic will take at least three weeks.
'Gran Canaria is considered the best place to start because you can take advantage of the Trade Winds.
'We are all really looking forward to taking part.'
About the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC):
This annual transatlantic rally starting each November in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, has now become a very popular way to cross the Atlantic, particularly for first-timers. The largest transocean sailing event in the world, every year the ARC brings together over 200 yachts from all over the world.
The Caribbean destination is Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia, one of the most beautiful islands in the Lesser Antilles. The 2700 nautical mile passage on the NE tradewind route takes on average between 14 and 21 days.
Conceived as a friendly race for cruising yachts to make the Atlantic crossing both safer and more enjoyable, participating yachts must carry a range of safety equipment including a liferaft, EPIRB and VHF radio.
Daily radio nets contribute further to the safety of participants. The presence of experienced sailors is another incentive for those with little offshore experience.
The ARC has a special flavour, which successfully combines racers with cruisers, old with young, and provides entertainment for all. A wide ranging programme of entertainment takes place both before the start and after the finish. The ARC enjoys the support of the Tourist Authority of Gran Canaria, the Port Authority of Las Palmas, Rol Nautic and the Saint Lucia Board of Tourism.
For more information about the ARC and World Cruising Club's other rallies, go to their http://www.worldcruising.com!website