The 30th ARC fleet leaves on Sunday, and here in Las Palmas the atmosphere is keen with anticipation writes Irish Transatlantic debutante Frank Quinn.
Crossing for the first time, I'm on a fine UK-registered Nordship 43 DS called Nina, owned by one-time Dublin resident Stephen Cooke. We're six in all: judging by the provisions we've just stowed, it will be a busy schedule of eating and snacking, occasionally interspersed with sailing.
There are more than 200 boats here counting down to the start. It's a well-run event, with daily seminars and a social programme. The chat in the bars is around prep, prep and more prep. T-shirted Raymarine techies are kept well-busy, and the chandler down the road has started a number system for serving.
Just three Irish boats are registered: Alpaire, a Hallberg-Rassy 48 skippered by Des Cummins; Crackerjack, Colum O'Sullivan's Oyster 53; and BAM, Conor Fogerty's HYC-based Sun Fast 3600. Among the smallest boats in the racing fleet, His target is 14-16 days to St Lucia.
A section of the ARC fleet in Las Palmas
Contrary to the popular plan of 'heading south until the butter melts', he intends to head west early. "We plan to ride as far as possible until it gets light," he says, "then head down to pick up the trades." Downwind rig is an A2 (tricolour!), A5 and a Code Zero. Crewing are Louis Bell, Robert Cooper, and Daragh Heagney.
It's Conor's 29th transatlantic. Once in St Lucia the plan is to compete in the Caribbean 600, then return to prep for the solo Fastnet and the Round Ireland two–hander. He points out One and Only, a Polish-registered sistership. "It will be a good race," he says.
Back to Nina, where the creature comforts include water maker, generator and a fine bank of electronics. As I type, vegetables and fruit are arriving so it's time to get busy.
Signing off... you can track Nina and all the Irish boats on the ARC site here
Irish sailor and artist Pete Hogan spent a few days in Las Palmas as the fleet was assembling before departure to Saint Lucia and you can see his watercolours here