Nearly all the yachts have arrived in Las Palmas as the pace of preparation picks up

The official opening ceremony for the 23rd annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) 2008 took place over the weekend in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, featuring a samba band and entertainment provided by a group of carnival dancers in the evening, followed the next day by a marching band and a fancy dress dinghy race.

The 220 yachts are due to depart on Sunday 23 November.

See video of the ARC 2008 opening ceremony 

Andrew Bishop, Managing Director of World Cruising Club declared ARC 2008 officially “Open” before thanking Sr Adai Ruiz from the Concejal del Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas (City of Las Palmas), Sr Javier Sanchez’Simon, President of the Port of Las Palmas and Sr Roberto Moreno, President of the Patronato de Turismo de Gran Canaria for their 23 years of support and help.

Following the parade, ARC participants and local people took part in Don Pedro’s famous International Dinghy Race. The race from one end of the marina to the finish near the Texaco Dock encourages crews dressed in a variety of fancy dress costumes to use any tactics they like to outwit their opponents. Water bombs and flour missiles were common place! A prizegiving for the dinghy race and Don Pedro’s dockside BBQ went on late into the evening.

More than 1,000 crew members from 25 different nations are assembled aboard the fleet of more than 220 yachts ranging in size from a 31ft Norwegian registered Beneteau First to the US-registered 82ft Oyster, Sundowner, which also boasts the oldest skipper, 77-year-old Lurelle Verplank.

The event, which many see as a ‘friendly race’ 2,700NM to the island of St Lucia in the Caribbean is almost 50% 12m-15m offshore cruising yachts with Beneteau boats dominating the fleet and over 100 British registered yachts. There are ten or more from USA, Norway, Netherlands, Italy and Germany as well.

The journey will take most yachts between 18 and 21 days.