224 yachts leave Las Palmas in almost perfect conditions

The largest ARC fleet in the transatlantic event’s 28 year history
got underway yesterday from Las Palmas to Saint Lucia. By virtue of allowing a
choice of two routes, one via the Cape Verde islands starting two weeks ahead
of the traditional route, the combined fleet was boosted to 268 boats. This
sets a new record for the biggest ever transocean sailing event.

 The main ARC fleet of 224 yachts and 1,204 crew got away from Las
Palmas on 24 November in almost perfect conditions – though a brief rain squall
overtook them minutes after the start and observers were treated to a
synchronised display of reefing and spinnaker dousing.

 The largest boat this year is the 114ft classic schooner Texel, and
the smallest is the 28ft Pogo 8.50 Pollux being sailed across two-handed by
28-year-old French dentist Antoine Gloanec and his girlfriend. The average yacht size keeps creeping up and
this year is 48ft 6in. Another telling statistic is the average age of ARC
skipper, which I doubt has not changed very much over the years and stands at

There are, as usual, some fascinating boats in the fleet, and some
real beauties (see Elaine Bunting’s blog).

Although it’s purely coincidental, it’s interesting that on the year
that the RORC announced a new transatlantic rally for 2014, running from
Lanzarote to Antigua, the ARC has seen its largest racing division in recent
years. There are 35 yachts in the division. Most of these are shaping a very different
route to the cruising yachts which are likely to be split from them by an area
of weak low pressure and light winds.

Among a handful of crews with an eye on the course record of 11 days
5 hours were those on Zenyatta, a Gunboat 62, and VO70 Monster Project.