Over 1,000 sailors from 53 nations have set sail for the Caribbean

PBO waved off the ARC fleet yesterday as they set sail on the 2,700-mile voyage from Gran Canaria to St Lucia. Over a thousand sailors from 53 nations are taking part in the event, which is the world’s largest transocean sailing rally.

A pleasant NE breeze of around 10-12 knots meant a classic ARC start, allowing many of the 185 yachts to sail asymmetric spinnakers. Back in the marina, meanwhile, were 5 ARC boats still awaiting crew, sails and engine repairs.

It was an impressive start for the smallest boats in the fleet – 34-footers, Duffy (Div II racing) and Little Island (Div I cruising) – who we spotted amongst the leaders in their divisions. Equally impressive was the size of the largest yacht in the fleet, 105ft Ulisse, owned by Prada CEO, Patrizio Bertelli. Take a look at PBO’s Facebook page to watch her leave, and see a video of the yacht crews as they prepare for the adventure of their lives!

Every year in the run-up to the start, yachts lose crew and gain crew, but never before have we come across a boat that found her crew on the day of departure!

After putting a shout out on Facebook, PBO were thrilled to find out that Norwegian yacht Simane found two crew at 3am – just nine hours before the start! As we wandered around the pontoons yesterday to bid the yachts farewell, we found 81-year-old skipper Trond busy provisioning for the two German vegans, whilst World Cruising Club officer, Vicky was onboard doing their paperwork and checkout.

Yacht Simane skipper (left) finds crew last minute

Tensions were high in the days running up to the ARC. We saw rigging being removed and replaced, watermakers fixed and sails repaired. Emotions ranged from excitement to exhaustion, enhanced by the partying that took place each night, and the seminars run daily by World Cruising Club.

‘I’ll be relieved when this bit’s over,’ said Sam Warner, whilst fixing her homemade bimini. ‘I just need to sleep!’

Meanwhile Catherine Platt on Little Island admitted feeling nervous now that her mum has had to fly home unexpectedly, leaving her double-handed with husband Martin. ‘It’s going to be a massive challenge but we’re very excited to do it together,’ she said.

Friends and families of the sailors as well as local well-wishers gathered to give the yachts a big send-off. Bands played on the dockside, whilst yachts sounded their horns and the crews, some in fancy dress, danced on the foredeck.

At 1200 UTC the sound-signal for the first start was given by Sir Chay Blyth, from the Spanish Navy boat Meteor. Sir Chay had been in Las Palmas to meet crews and show support for friends sailing on Nizuc raising money for Parkinsons Research.

First over the line mile-long line, leading the group of 40 catamarans, was Pierre Caouette’s Outremer 5X Bio Trek.

Duffy – joint smallest yacht in the ARC 2019 fleet. Photo WCC/James Mitchell

Regular ARC charter vessel Rocket Dog. Photo (above and below) WCC/ James Mitchell

The 26 boats in this year’s Racing Division were led by Oyster Lightwave 48 Scarlet Oyster followed by fellow British flagged charter boat Rocket Dog. Both are regular ocean crossers with the ARC, sailing with crews of mixed abilities led by a professional skipper. Third across the line was Volvo 65 Austrian Ocean Racing Project, crewed by a group of young sailors hoping to take on Ocean Race 2021/22 as the first Austrian team in history.

The majority of boats will take 18-21 days to make the 2,700-nautical mile Atlantic crossing, arriving in Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia.

All ARC boats are fitted with YB Tracking satellite trackers. Click here for the online Fleet Viewer