Hundreds of rally participants gathered together in Muelle Deportivo, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria last weekend to join in the official ARC opening ceremony

At midday on Sunday, one week before the start of the 20th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, hundreds of rally participants gathered together in Muelle Deportivo, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to join in the official opening ceremony which kicks off the final week of a busy pre-start social programme.

With flag bearers chosen to represent each nation taking part in this international event, crews gathered together excitedly and joined the long procession as they proudly marched around the marina to their final position on the sea wall, led by a lively Canarian marching band. After a welcome speech given by the Commercial Director of the Port of Las Palmas Sr Juan Francisco Martin, Donia Maria Isabelle Garcia Bolta, Head of Culture & Tourism at the City of Las Palmas and Andrew Bishop, Director of World Cruising Club, the flags raising ceremony begun as a signal was given to hoist the flags – ARC 2005 was officially underway.

Following the opening ceremony, teams prepared themselves for the infamous annual Dinghy Race and an afternoon of fun activities that included volleyball and sack racing, all organised by Don Pedro, the ‘Mr Fix-It’ of Las Palmas Marina.

Teams of four crews had previously signed up for the dinghy race with the owner of the Texaco fuel dock in the marina, who has been organising the event for many years. Don Pedro’s event also attracted a large number of spectators and several local teams to take part, such as the Red Cross. This caused fierce competition on the water as race tactics were discussed on shore before the start. Competitors wore a variety of fancy dress costumes and water bombs were the order of the day as crews attempted to race their inflatable rubber dinghies from one end of the marina to the finish at the Texaco Dock.

Fellow participants and innocent spectators alike were legitimate targets for splashes, capsizing, water balloons or flour bombs as the race made its way through the marina. The fun continued into the evening with a lively dockside fiesta and barbeque hosted by Don Pedro.

With just five days to go, the port is now extremely lively and bustling with activity as crews busy themselves with preparations for the start of their Atlantic adventure. Over 175 yachts have now arrived in Las Palmas and many more are due over the next few days. Week two of the pre-start programme will see more lectures and seminars to help crews prepare for their trip. Subjects include first-aid, routing and weather, rigging maintenance, and setting up a sextant.