The 30th anniversary edition of the ARC sets out on Sunday, 22nd November. Irish sailor and artist Pete Hogan spent a few days in Las Palmas as the fleet was assembling before departure to Saint Lucia in the East Caribbean. Here he describes the fleet in words and watercolours.
The ARC, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is probably the oldest and best known rally of this type. Started in 1985 by Jimmy Cornell, that dynamo of offshore cruising promotion, it was an event which was forming naturally anyway. Many cruising boats were sailing across the Atlantic at that time of year and so an organisation of them was a natural progression.
Cornell sold the ARC concept a few years back, apparently, (and started a rival rally called Odyssey). The Arc is now run by an operation called World Cruising Club which runs cruising rallies all over the world.
Las Palmas is very welcoming to the ARC fleet and the event has spawned a vibrant marine and social industry servicing the yachts. The town has a tourist office adjoining the ARC office. The boatyard was full, the marina was full, extensive chandlery operations plied their trade. The Sailors Bar and harbour side restaurants were buzzing. Agents, sailmakers, fix it men, delivery people, courtesy cars rushed purposefully here and there. Flags declaring participation in the ARC and nationality of crew were proudly flown. Impromptu parties and problem solving sessions, seminars and safety inspections, tee shirt sales and car hire were all doing a great trade. And there were still a few weeks to go before blast off.
from the bow
Looking at the participants there is a fine mix of nations with three Irish boats listed this year. In addition I met Liam Kavanagh from Tipperary with his girlfriend on their Welsh 40 footer living the dream and there were several other Irish crew in evidence. There is a huge contingent from Scandinavia with the Swedish flag all over the place. Notable by their absence are the French with only 10 entries, a low number for this fanatical sailing nation.
There is a minimum size indicator from the organisers of 27 ft. but in reality the average size of entry is much longer, perhaps 45 ft. The smallest entry I could find this year was a redoubtable Contessa 32.
The size, quality and style of the typical ARC participant is indicative of the nature of the ARC nowadays. A typical entry is big, has a centre cockpit, full furling sails (usually electric), water maker and extensive battery of electronics, refrigeration and safety equipment. Electric auto pilots seem to have superseded the magic self-steering vanes, I was sad to note.
Schooner and cat
There is a huge multihull division with in excess of 35 boats. And all of these would be 50 foot type cats, mainly Lagoon brand. I’m not a fan of these big boxy boats.
Of course you do not have to be in the ARC to sail across the Atlantic on the milk run. The anchorage at Las Palmas was full of the more normal mix of world cruising fleet. As the ARC website says; ‘Most people join a World Cruising Club rally for the security and peace of mind of an organised event; for the camaraderie and friendship of a large group of like-minded people; and for the fun of sailing in a fleet of boats. It’s as much fun for experienced sailors as for those new to ocean sailing.’
Bon Voyage to the participants in the ARC 2015.