The 235 yacht ARC fleet made an exhilarating downwind start to their transatlantic crossing from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria this afternoon.
Helped by a 20 knot north-westerly breeze, the 235 yacht ARC fleet made an exhilarating downwind start to their transatlantic crossing from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria this afternoon. The 25-strong racing division was led across the line by a Bénéteau First 40.7 derby, with Georgina Eggleton and Jake Jeffries’ Combat narrowly preceding Ken Acott’s Coyote. Russian Swan 45 Murka 2 came next, sneaking around the inner distance mark with an impressively slick spinnaker hoist, making her one of the few yachts brave enough to fly a kite today.
In the cruising division it looked like a battle of two Oyster 72s, with David Holliday’s Kealoha 8 of Southampton shaking off competition from Chase Leavitt’s Holo Kai to be first across the half-mile start line, drawn between a buoy placed near the shore and the Spanish naval vessel which acted as the committee boat. Next followed Marco Rodolfi’s Swan 62 Berenice, with Estonian Valdeko Loopere’s Bénéteau First 36.7 Bossa Nova crossing third.
The entire fleet took about 20 minutes to cross the line, with one of the last yachts to start being Henry Adams’ 7.6m Folkboat Ariel, this year’s smallest entry and the subject of lively conversation at the bars this week. Swaying gently downwind over the 2.5m swell with a reefed main she looked more comfortable than many of the larger yachts and was clearly having just as much fun.
ARC weather expert Chris Tibbs has strongly recommended that the fleet should head offshore to avoid 30-knot winds in the acceleration zone off Las Palmas airport, and as the committee boat weighed anchor to return to port most yachts could be seen to be following his advice. One notable exception was Murka 2, barrelling straight downwind under spinnaker, followed by a few others from the racing fleet. The fleet is a record-breaking size, and with good breeze predicted for the next several days they should make good progress south into the north-easterly tradewinds – perhaps the finish at St. Lucia will see some more records fall.