Two hundred and twenty-three sailboats, flying the flags of 23 countries, with 1,204 people aboard, set sail from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands for St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean on November 24 to start the 28th Annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. The ARC, started by the irrepressible Jimmy Cornell, is the granddaddy of all cruising rallies and remains the most popular of all. The first boat across the line was the Gunboat 62 Zenyatta, the largest of 24 multihulls in this year’s fleet.
The fleet was blessed with light-to-moderate northeasterly trades, which are expected to hold for the next several days. Not all ARC starts have had such nice weather, although once the boats move down toward the Cape Verdes, the weather tends to improve. We did the ARC many years ago with our Ocean 71 Big O, and had one of finest and most pleasant sails of our life: warm weather and following breezes the entire 2,700 miles across the Atlantic.
Although the ARC is almost strictly a rally, the crossing record is 11d, 5h, 32m, 30s, which was set by Rinaldo Del Bono’s Italian maxi yacht Capricorno 2006. Several race boats are hoping to beat this — including Volvo 70 Monster Project, Nautor 78 Idea of London, TP52 Balearia and two Pogo 40s — given the right conditions. The average cruising boat takes 18 to 21 days, arriving in St. Lucia a couple of days before Christmas.
All ARC boats are fitted with Yellowbrick satellite trackers, allowing family and friends to follow the fleet from the comfort of home. As well as position, the online Fleet Viewer displays heading, speed and boat information. Wind direction and speed is also shown.