The 214-strong ARC fleet has set off across the Atlantic with a great forecast of early tradewinds

Light downwind conditions gave the ARC fleet a gentle start today. The 214 strong fleet crossed the line off the port of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands on the start of their 2,700-mile voyage to St Lucia in north-easterly winds of around 8-10 knots and the ideal prospect of early tradewinds.

The fleet this year is as eclectic as ever and even more international than usual. Some 32 nationalities are represented as the event has steadily reflected a worldwide spread of affluence and interest (see my blog here).

Although the yachts entered continue to increase in average size, the ARC fleet comprises a large diversity of yachts and people. At one end is a three-week old, jet-black Wally 80, which was bought as present by a Turkish businessman for his 24-year-old son. The boat is crewed by professionals.

At the other is a Contessa 32 owned by 28-year-old Briton John Mclean, whose father recently died and left his boat, Pentanemos. Mclean sold his car and his flat and going off cruising with friends.

The forecast for the fleet this year is good. Weather expert Chris Tibbs predicts early tradewinds in the first few days of 20-25 knots from the ENE or NE.

A trough is forming in mid-Atlantic that may give unsettled weather and lighter winds and Tibbs’s recommendation to the fleet for a safe and comfortable crossing is to head south to the traditional ‘butter melting’ zone of 20°N, 30-35°W before turning west.

He does not, however, foresee this ARC being a record one for crossing speeds.