Launch of a new ARC+ rally takes the total transatlantic events this year to 5

A parallel route to the annual ARC transatlantic rally is being created in November to cope with unprecedented demand for places. Called the ARC+ the event will leave Las Palmas on 10 November, two weeks’ earlier than the ARC start, and visit the Cape Verde Islands before heading for Saint Lucia to arrive just ahead of the main fleet.

The ARC+ has been created as a way of coping with the popularity of the ARC rally, which fills to capacity earlier and earlier each year. This year’s ARC opened to entries in September and was already full with 245 yachts by January.

As the marine industry continues to slow down and contract globally, participation events such as the ARC are notably bucking the trend. Call it the ‘Fastnet Race factor’: these famous events have become part of sailing’s historic tapestry and are on many sailor’s bucket lists.

The success and growth of the ARC hasn’t gone unnoticed by rival organisers and other ports that would dearly like to host a major event. Suddenly, competition has sprung up and this year there may be no less than 5 different transatlantic cruising rallies from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean.

The ARC+ was created when waiting list of 40 ARC hopefuls was also closed and still more enquiries were coming in. A consideration must have been to prevent those interested falling into the arms of one of the new crop of competitors. “It’s been pretty crazy,” admits Andrew Bishop, managing director of World Cruising Club. “We continue to get enquiries and we’re keen to offer people a place.”

The fleet will be very much smaller than the ARC with an entry limit set at 50 yachts. “I don’t believe we will reach that, but we could have 30 boats,” Bishop says.

Besides the two ARC rallies, there will be three other cruising rallies this November and December: the new Christmas Caribbean Rally from Lanzarote to Antigua; plus two others created by ARC founder Jimmy Cornell: the Atlantic Odyssey from Lanzarote to Martinique; and Atlantic Odyssey II from the Canarian island of La Palma to Grenada.

The ARC’s growth runs contrary to trends in the marine industry, where new and secondhand boat sales are badly down. It begs the question of how strong is the demand for more events, and if new competitors can break the pre-eminence of the ARC, which has been running since 1986.

Organisers of another established transatlantic rally, Iles du Soleil, recently postponed their event from France to Brazil via the Atlantic islands after mustering only six entries.

Andrew Bishop believes one of the drivers of growth comes from previous ARC sailors returning for more, an ambition that is often a very long-term plan.

“There have been a rush of new events and we’re keeping a close eye on their development,” admits Andrew Bishop. “We are fortunate that the ARC has a tremendous and loyal customer base with an international reputation, and what we find is that people who’ve done it want to share it with others, people who sailed as crew or did the rally as children come back in the future in their own boats and the growth is in that.”

For more details on the ARC+ or ARC rallies, see