For the first time since 1989 the Cruising Division start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) has been delayed. A low pressure weather system is predicted to bring strong winds south of Gran Canaria on Sunday night. The organisers, World Cruising Club, made the decision to offer two starts; one on Sunday 25 November as planned, and a second start on Tuesday 27 once winds have moderated.
34 boats elected to start today - 27 Racing Division boats - there are only 27 in the division - and seven of the larger Cruising Division boats. The remaining 193 boats will start on Tuesday morning.
For those braving the acceleration zone south of the Canaries, which can turn a 25kt wind into 50, it could be a fast trip across the Atlantic. You can follow the ARC fleet online here.
First of the larger cruising boats seen heading into the blue on Sunday were a German boat, a British and a Finnish, itself demonstrating the international flavour of the Rally. They were Spock (GER), Guardian Angel (GBR) and Marisol (Finland).
ARC meteorologist Chris Tibbs predicts that the deepening low pressure system to the north of the Canary Islands will bring force four to five south to south westerly winds with a big swell today (Sunday), and a cold front will pass to the south of the island tonight.
The front will bring squalls and heavy rain at a time when the boats will be in the wind acceleration zone to the south of the islands, increasing the likelihood of winds exceeding 25 knots through the night.
As the weather system drifts south, winds will moderate with calms predicted for Monday night. By Tuesday a moderate to strong north easterly wind will bring a downwind start for the Cruising Division boats.
Safety is a central tenet of the ARC, and all boats are inspected in Las Palmas to ensure that they have a suitable level of safety equipment onboard and ready to be used. The list of equipment is based upon the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) standards used for offshore races.
The first boats are expected to arrive in Saint Lucia around 7 December, but the majority of the fleet will take around 18 days to make the 2700 nautical mile voyage.
Whatever time they make landfall, every boat will be met at the dock by Saint Lucia Tourism and World Cruising Club staff bearing a welcome rum punch and cold drinks. There is a full schedule of events in Rodney Bay for all ARC crews and their friends and families, culminating in the ARC prize giving on 21 December.