This November, more than 260 boats and 1,250 people including 40 children aged under 16 will take part in the 30th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which sets sail from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, heading 2700NM across the Atlantic to Saint Lucia.

ARC sailors have a choice of routes with the introduction of ARC+ Cape Verde, and two starts are planned: 64 boats sailing ARC+ will depart Las Palmas marina (Muelle Deportivo) on Sunday 8 November, followed by the larger ARC fleet (204 boats) on Sunday 22 November.

This year boats are registered in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, UK, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, USA and 12 other nations, making 30 in total. Crews have also come from far and wide to take part, with 41 different nationalities represented.

Continuing the tradition bringing together adventure-seeking families, 22 boats are sailing with children aged 16 and under this year, the youngest of which will celebrate his third birthday just before setting sail with the ARC. Crews also include a mix of life-long friends on a bucket-list adventure, couples beginning their retirement dreams, individuals raising money for charity and Corinthian racers chasing an offshore challenge.

ARC Opening Ceremony Flags. Credit: World Cruising Club

The 30th edition of the ARC will see a special programme of activities taking place in Las Palmas and Saint Lucia to celebrate the milestone. World Cruising Club is also looking forward to welcoming veterans – both sailors and yachts – of the first ARC.

To date, three ARC’86 skippers are confirmed as participants in ARC 2015 including Pekka Karlsson and his wife Barbro sailing on Corona Aq, the very same boat that he left Las Palmas on with the first edition of the ARC thirty years ago.

Their Laurin 32 is the smallest and oldest boat sailing the ARC+ route. Manfred Kerstan, hailed as ‘Mr ARC’ in his native Germany, will sail for the 20th time with the transocean rally, but this time on a brand new boat ‐ an Oyster 82 – also named Albatros.

Ocean weather router Chris Tibbs, who has been a regular on the ARC organisation team for many years, was also on the start line back in 1986 as the skipper of a Moody 38. This year he is sailing his new boat Taistealai, together with his wife Helen. She is another ARC veteran having sailed in the 3rd ARC in 1988.

Start from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Las Palmas has been the start port for the ARC since the very first edition of the rally in 1986. Around one third of the boats are already in the marina, with the remainder arriving over the next two weeks.  Official activities begin this Friday, 6 November, when the ARC Information Centre opens for registration.  The first social event is the Welcome Fiesta on Friday 6th November (participants only) and from then until the start there are parties, seminars and all kinds of activities for ARC sailors young and old.

Start day is Sunday 22 November, and thousands of spectators will line the city shore to watch the boats start. The first start gun will sound at 12:30 for the Multihulls, followed by the Racing Division at 12:45 and the Cruising Division at 13:00.

ARC - Rikaros (NOR) and Bogenvila (NOR) at the start of ARC 2010. Credit: World Cruising Club/Nick Farrell

Landfall in Saint Lucia

ARC boats will make landfall in IGY Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia after 2700NM of sailing.   This distance will take the fastest boats around 12 days, and the family cruisers 18 to 21 days.

Every boat will be welcomed on arrival (day or night!) with a basket of local fruit, chilled beers and rum punches. This warm Saint Lucian welcome is just the start of the festivities ashore, with the whole community of Gros Islet getting involved with the visiting sailors.

The ARC brings significant economic and tourism dollars to Saint Lucia every December, and in return provides the perfect Caribbean destination.

The fun starts in Saint Lucia on the day the boats set-off from Gran Canaria with the annual ARC Flotilla.  Fifty boats from the local community and visiting cruisers will sail from the capital Castries to Rodney Bay.  The final festivity of ARC 2015 is the awards ceremony on 19 December, which rewards the fastest boats and special categories like ‘Spirit of the ARC’.

ARC+ Cape Verdes

Departing Las Palmas on Sunday 8 November, ARC+ Cape Verde includes a three to five day stop‐ over in Mindelo, Sao Vicente, which lies 850nm south west of Gran Canaria. The Cape Verde Islands are ideally placed for the fleet to sail ‘south until the butter melts’, and will also provide crews with an opportunity to discover the enchanting local culture, lively nightlife and bustling food markets that make this group of islands a fascinating destination in their own right.

Whilst below the rhumb line, the island’s latitude at 16º50’N is right in the path of the trade wind belt, promising a great sail for the 2,150nm passage on to Saint Lucia, setting off from Mindelo 18 November.

ARC+ will have a week long programme of activities in Las Palmas begining on 30 October, and includes parties and preparation lectures, as well as an exciting social events programme in Cape Verdes and Saint Lucia. A separate prize‐giving party will wrap‐up the fun on 9 December, just as the earliest arrivals from the second start make landfall, giving ARC+ yachts more time to head south and enjoy some Caribbean cruising before Christmas.

Economic impact

The ARC has a positive impact not only for boatbuilders and marine equipment suppliers, but also for the economies of Gran Canaria and Saint Lucia.  In 2014, ARC crews and families spent over €1million ($2m) in Las Palmas, on berthing, marine services and supplies, provisioning, restaurants and hotels. More than 690 hotel nights were booked in Las Palmas and more than 1,400 flights booked to and from Gran Canaria.

After the ARC

Fourteen ARC boats will be continuing their sailing adventure with World Cruising Club by joining the World ARC 2016‐17 circumnavigation rally in Saint Lucia in January. A total of 36 boats will take part in the round-the-world rally via the Panama Canal, Pacific Islands, Australia, Mauritius, South Africa and Brazil.

Key Dates

08 November: ARC+ Start: Leg 1 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – Sao Vincente, Cape Verde

13-15 November: ARC+ Arrive – Mindelo, Sao Vincente

15 November: 12:00 ARC Opening Ceremony in Muelle Deportivo, Las Palmas

18 November: ARC+ Re-Start: Sao Vincent – Saint Lucia

22 November: Start of ARC 2015 from Las Palmas:
12:30 ARC 2015 start 1: Multihull and Open Divisions
12:45 ARC 2015 start 2: Racing Division
13:00 ARC 2015 start 3: All other Divisions

29 November-03 December: ARC+ boats finish (approx) – Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia

09 December: ARC+ Prize Giving in Saint Lucia

09-15 December: ARC boats finish (approx) – Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia

19 December: ARC prize giving ceremony in Saint Lucia