90 boats, 400 crew members and a cat crossed the Atlantic

Light winds and calm seas meant perfect conditions for the yachts (and a motorboat) taking part in this year’s ARC+ rally

PBO was at the start of the transatlantic rally to greet the boats in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, as they set sail for Mindelo, Cape Verde.

Fanfare on the breakwater as the ARC+ yachts get a flying start. COE/ James Mitchell

“It’s the perfect start and it will be a great sail,” said Jeremy Wyatt of the World Cruising Club. “These are ideal conditions to prepare the crews before the wind picks up to around 18-20 knots around the acceleration zone, which they will reach as soon as night falls.

First multihulls

First to cross the starting line in the multihull division, Balance3 from Finland, a Lagoon 42-2 skippered by Pasi Heiskanen. Next in line was Indrek Prants’ Lagoon 50 Sirocco – the only boat in Estonia – followed by Hanuman from the United States, a Catana 53 skippered by Steve May.

First monohulls

Of the remaining 70 boats making up the monohulls, the first on the line was the all-Italian crew of Azuree 46 Enaliaskippered by Alberto Rizzotti, followed by Richard Hill’s Mazi 1300 Kirima (GBR) and Italian cruiser Fra Diavoloa Mylius 60 skippered by Vincenzo Addessi.

The ARC+ 22 fleet leaves Las Palmas. WCC Photo/ James Mitchell

Already a household name on the global racing scene, Vincenzo placed 3rd in the 2019 ARC Racing division. Vincenzo wanted the biggest boat to sail around the Mediterranean with his wife and grandchildren while being small enough to allow him to participate in the IMA world championship in the Mini Maxi category.

Average boat size

There are over 40 different boat brands represented in the ARC+, the largest being Alikaan Oyster 675, and the average size being 47 feet.

An unusual sight – Earendel, a Nordhavn 60 is the only motorboat in the ARC+ fleet. Photo: COE/James Mitchell

There is also a motorboat entry this year. Eendel is a Nordhavn 60 owned by Dawn and John Heffernan with a fuel capacity of 8,517 litres.

Of the 22 nations represented in ARC+, the highest number of registrations comes from the United Kingdom (30%), followed by Sweden (13%) and Germany (10%). 18 boats embark children from 3 to 15 years old.

fast cats

Red Pepper, or Piment Rouge, an Outremer 51. Photo WCC/ James Mitchell

Light and fast, multihulls are well suited to a leeward Atlantic crossing, and their shallow draft and spacious interiors make them a popular choice for anchorages in the Caribbean.

There are 20 multihulls in the ARC+ this year, including the Lagoons (52S, 50, 46, 450S & 42-2), the Fountaine Pajots (Samana 59, Helia 44), a Nautitech Open 40 and the Outremers (51, 45).

A return entry, Pierre De Saint-Vincent Red pepper was fourth on the start line, having won line honors in last year’s ARC+ on the Cape Verde-Granada leg.

Camaraderie on the pontoons

Festive atmosphere on the pontoons where the sailboats have gotten to know each other in recent weeks while preparing for their Atlantic crossing.

Crews have taken part in a full program of events since Oct. 26, with seminars on everything from weather routing and refueling to safety gear and life raft drills in the pool.

Life raft exercises departing from ARC+ 22 in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Photo COE

“We are filled with excitement and apprehension and said goodbye to the good friends we made on Pontoon K,” said South Africans Darrol and Kathy Martin aboard their 1988 Amel Mango. We can’t wait to get the wind in our sails and head to Cape Verde in our beautiful old boat, Of his.”

bittersweet moment

Also on pontoon K was Sweet dreams, a stunning wooden yacht, which Roz Preston and her late husband John built together for 7 years with the help of students from the Lyme Regis Boatbuilding Academy. It was a bittersweet moment for Roz as she left without her husband, who died suddenly in 2017.

Roz with the Angus crew aboard Sweet Dreams. Photo: Ali Wood

“John has always said that building Sweet dreams was her greatest achievement, so when I feel old and tired, I remember what it’s about,” she told the PBO.

Cruising cat (of the furry kind)

Cesar, the only cat in the rally, settled down on Marco Polo. A seasoned sailor, the Norwegian Forest Cat (from Sweden) has been sailing for many years with Marie Broman and Tomas Sweiger aboard their Beneteau Oceanis 473.

cat on boat

Cesar the Norwegian Forest Cat relaxes aboard his yacht. Photo: Ali Wood

“He’s very relaxed and much easier to care for than a dog,” says Tomas. “He comes to the deck for a few hours each day, but if the seas are rough he will go lower and find a comfortable place to snuggle up.”

Next stop Mindelo

The ARC+ fleet is now en route to Mindelo, 865 NM southwest of Gran Canaria. The weather forecast announces the formation of northeast trade winds in the passage allowing the boats to cover a good mileage and the arrival of the majority of the fleet in Mindelo Marina, Cape Verde, is scheduled for Friday 11 and Saturday November 12.

Monitor the fleet

The latest YB Tracking Satellite trackers have been fitted to each boat, allowing family and friends to follow the fleet from the comfort of their own home via the online Fleet Viewer. Boats can also send blogs and photos, posted on the rally site to share life on board.

ARC teams prepare

While the ARC+ fleet departed today, the pre-departure program is just beginning for the crews of the ARC fleet who will embark directly for Saint Lucia on November 20.

Before their own departure two weeks from today, ARC crews can expect a full program of activities to give them the best possible start to their own ocean crossing.