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Canary Islands, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: ARC 2012 - Race boats start, cruisers remain in port

By World Cruising Club. — last modified Nov 27, 2012 12:16 PM

Published: 2012-11-27 12:16:57
Topics: Rallies
Countries: Canary Islands , St Lucia

The RORC Racing Division of the 27th ARC departed Las Palmas today in a fresh south westerly wind.  The low pressure system that has kept the cruising boats in port until Tuesday provided an interesting start with big localised wind shifts.

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 and seven of the larger Cruising Division boats.  The remaining 193 boats will start on Tuesday morning.

RORC Racing Divisions

27 of the RORC Racing Division started at 1230 UTC today.   Localised light southerly winds shifted to northerly after the start, enabling boats to hoist spinnakers.  First across the line was Lupi (NOR), followed by Persephone (GBR) then Berenice (ITA).  Winds have now settled to 10-15 knots south westerly.

The race fleet contains some potentially fast boats andcrews, including Pogo 50 Surfing Petrel (FRA), JP52 The Kid (FRA), Akilaraia 40 Vaquita (AUT), JV 52 Haspa Hamburg (GER) and Swan 80 Berenice (ITA).

The race boat navigators will have some tactical decisions to make to guide the yachts through the rough seas and the wind acceleration zone south of the Canary Islands before deciding whether to head south to the tradewinds, or stay north in stronger winds.

With the right weather, one of the race boats could break the ARC crossing record of 11 days and 5 hours, set in 2006 by maxi Capricorno (ITA).

Follow the ARC fleet online at

Cruising Division

Seven cruising boats have started with the race fleet, and the remaining 193 boats are waiting for the second start on Tuesday.

First cruising boat across the line was Spock (GER), thenGuardian Angel (GBR) followed by Marisol (Finland).

Weather Outlook

ARC meteorologist Chris Tibbs predicts that the deepening low pressure system to the north of the Canary Islands will bring force 4 to 5 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 at Sea

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.

In addition, all RORC Racing Division boats must meet the stringent stability and construction standards for a Category 1 ocean race.

Arrival in Saint Lucia

The first race 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 to Saint Lucia.

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.

Platinum Sponsors

Over 200 boats and 1200 people take part in the ARC every year
2700 NM across the Atlantic from Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia
A rally for everyone; families, racers, couples, big boats and modest boats
Two weeks of pre-departure activities in Las Palmas
Welcomed in Saint Lucia with a rum punch and a chilled beer
Fantastic achievement - crossing an ocean on a small sailboat