Following years and months of planning, two weeks of preparations and provisioning and final hours of farewells, the cruising yachts taking part in ARC 2016 made their way out of Muelle Deportivo in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria yesterday morning including Newry's Claire McCluskey & Nick Russell. There was an air of excitement throughout the marina as the ocean adventure truly begins for 1,307 sailors setting off to the Caribbean shores of Saint Lucia.
The County Down entry is Rogue Trader, a homebuilt, wooden‐hulled ketch. It took twenty years and three different owners to complete the build, until she was finally launched in Newry, Northern Ireland in 2008.
While the ARC is a cruising rally, there is a start and finish line, and the boats are split into divisions according to size, type and competition. A total of 212 yachts sailing under the flags of 31 nations crossed today's start lines.
It was a particularly competitive start for the 34 boats in this year's Racing Division, providing an exciting spectacle for all watching. VOR70 Trifork and Swan 46 Aphrodite were over the line early and receive a 3 hour time penalty. In the beam reach provided by the NE breeze, asymmetric gennekers were quickly hoisted on many boats, keeping the crews busy soon after the start.
The 152 cruising monohulls, which make up 70% of the ARC fleet, enjoyed classic conditions for their start, with a variety of coloured sails hoisted soon after the 13:00 sound signal.
Conditions look set to give the fleet a gentle first night at sea, with winds staying around 10-12 knots from the East-Northeast. A small area of low pressure mid-Atlantic will be causing the navigators a dilemma, as the easy gains of a northern route may then bring the boats into light winds later on the course. Playing safe by going south may well be the best option for constant, if light, winds this year.
Of the 216 boats in the ARC, 4 are still in Las Palmas; 3 with technical problems delaying their departure, and one boat, Hot Stuff, which has had to return to port following a collision in the pre-start sequence of the Racing Division.