Marking the final countdown to the start of ARC 2021, a special Flag Raising Ceremony was held last Sunday in Las Palmas Marina celebrating the nations taking part in the 36th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. At 12:00 noon, the flags of 29 nations were raised on poles overlooking the docks which are now filled with a wide range of boats, as eclectic as the crews on board. Around the marina are examples of almost every kind of ocean cruising boat available, with the ARC bringing together one of the most diverse fleets of any sailing event.
Meeting in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria ahead of the 2,700nm transatlantic voyage to Saint Lucia are 147 different yachts and over 900 crew sailing on board. There are those who have crossed the Atlantic Ocean many times as an annual pilgrimage to the Caribbean at the end of the European sailing season, and those for whom this is a first time adventure fulfilling a long-held dream.
Throughout the first week of the pre-departure programme, the docks have been steadily filling up as the ARC community grows daily. Preparing to spend three weeks at sea requires diligent planning from the skippers and crews, ensuring that the boats are well set up for the downwind passage and suitably provisioned with food, water and a few luxuries on board. Las Palmas Marina, in the heart of the city, is an ideal place to stock up and a host of marine companies are on hand to deal with the technical requirements for equipping the yachts for the voyage.
“You are doing 3,000 miles in three weeks and a boat sailing offshore wears in different ways than you’d think and very differently from coastal sailing. All the prepping of the safety equipment and the advice from World Cruising Club and rally requirements is invaluable, even if like us, you have sailed several rallies before and done thousands of miles,” said John Simpson, on Discovery 55 Casamara (GBR), “The social aspects of the rally are really great and being able to talk to other sailors, learn about what that they are doing, where they are going and where they have come from. I’ve really enjoyed that, and meeting lots of different people.”
This year the ARC welcomes back several yachts who have previously claimed Line Honours as the first to arrive in Saint Lucia. These include Banzaï (FRA), Minimole (ITA), GuyaderMext (FRA), and The Kid Ville de Nice (FRA), who will all be vying to beat their previous crossing times and reach the rum punch first. In the competitive Racing Division, yachts cannot use their engines for propulsion, unlike those in the Cruising Division who will look forward to a more comfortable crossing to Rodney Bay.
Thirty-six children under the age of 16 are also sailing on the ARC this year, the youngest being Hadrien Meister on yacht Olimir (CHE) who is 19-months old. A special Kids Club programme takes place this week, allowing the parents to focus on their pre-departure preparations.
ARC 2021 also features two sailors from the host ports of Gran Canaria and Saint Lucia taking part. Brad Gangardine, a Moorings Skipper from Soufriere is assisting the owners of Discovery 50 Into the Mystic (USA) to bring the boat to Saint Lucia after meeting them on a charter holiday several years ago, and local Las Palmas sailor Antonio Pablo Armas Mead will be sailing his Jeanneau 54 Bluemoona (ESP) in the ARC for the first time. Both were delighted to attend today’s Flag Raising Ceremony, proudly raising the flags of their respective nations.
At the ceremony, ARC Event Director Andrew Pickersgill said a few words to the congregated sailors, and those on board their boats around the marina. He acknowledged the support of the Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as well as the Port Authority and local chandlery Rolnautic who have supported participants as they prepare for departure.
“I’m sure you will agree that Las Palmas Marina have been wonderful hosts for the start of your adventure, working hard to accommodate the myriad of yachts in the marina behind me. Whether this will be your first ocean crossing or you have sailed many before, we hope being a part of the 36th ARC is a great adventure for you. We hope the crossing will be a safe and enjoyable experience for you all and can guarantee that on the other side of the Atlantic, on the island of Saint Lucia, a warm Caribbean welcome awaits you.”
And with that promise, the 36th edition of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers was officially declared ‘open’ and the flags were raised.