Light winds and sunshine marked the start for the 190 yachts taking part in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 21 Nov 2004 13:30 GMT Bright sunshine greeted the start of the 19th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria today, with a light south-easterly breeze giving the fleet a slower then expected send off. One hundred and ninety yachts from 23 nations were in the start of this annual transatlantic voyage; ahead of them lies the 2,700 nautical miles passage to Rodney Bay, St.Lucia.

With the starting area now further to the south of Las Palmas harbour following the recent extension to the outer seawall, yachts began leaving the marina early. By 12:00 there was a great flow of yachts departing dockside, with waves and cheers from well-wishers and spectators to send them on their way. Don Pedro’s Texaco dock was crowded with onlookers, partying to the loud salsa music blaring out in celebration of the start.

Starting 20 minutes ahead of the main cruising fleet was the RORC IRC Racing Division. The last yacht to join ARC 2004, Amer Sports One (VOR 60), who arrived late last night, was third across the line; last yacht in, almost first yacht out. With their safety check first thing this morning the crew had worked hard all night to be ready for the start. Code 0 hoisted meant she gained quickly on the first two yachts across the line – the Comet 45 S Momora (ITA) and Beneteau 40.7 Tarka (GBR). Haspa Hamburg, an X-482 from Germany also had an excellent start in the light winds, closely followed by Tallulah of Falmouth. Challenge 32, a veteran of two Global Challenge races managed to start ahead of one of the VOR60s, no mean feet for a 40 ton yacht in the light conditions! Many yachts at the back of the back tacked offshore to find more breeze. Innovation K2 who tried this approach still had not crossed the line 10 minutes after the start!

The big boats in the ARC placed in the Open Division had a separate start at 12:50, first across the line was the mammoth Sojana, followed two minutes later by Leopard of London. Sojana tacked out of the start area in front of the committee boat, picking her way through the throng of spectator boats with a crew member perched on the bow.

However, it is the mass of cruising yachts which creates the spectacle, and with two minutes to the start of the Cruising Divisions, there was a forest of masts and sails surrounding the committee vessel, the Spanish warship Tagomago. Five yachts were over the line at the start, although subsequently the ARC Committee has considered it a fair start due to the light airs, with no yachts to be penalised; several chose to motor across the line in the light winds. Kivu, a Castro one-off from the UK was one of the first boats over the line, as was Satika, a Beneteau 57 from Switzerland and Alchemy, a Moody 43 from the UK. Asolare, an Amel Super Maramu from the UK with father and daughter team Peter and Sallyanne Turner on board, also had an excellent start.

At 13:25 the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s barque Tenacious crossed the line, bringing up the rear in true ‘mother hen’ style. Surrounded by press and spectator boats, her crew had a bit of fun spraying water over anyone who got too close – a refreshing shower in today’s hot and windless conditions. Many of the smaller boats chose to wait until after the start to get underway, preferring to keep out of the melee. Glad, the smallest yacht in the ARC with Norwegian double-handers Karl and Maria Mauland, were enjoying a lovely sail close to the shore as the rest of the fleet sailed away south.

With winds likely to remain light and south-easterly for the first few days, it looks like a slow crossing ahead. Clear skies and calms seas will at least provide a relaxed start to the transatlantic voyage of this year’s ARC crews.