It's all downwind from here as more than 200 yachts set sail across the pond together

More than 200 yachts and 1,100 crew are heading south from the island of Gran Canaria as part of the 23rd Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). Steady north-easterlies will propel the fleet almost as far south as the Cape Verde islands before they head west for the Caribbean Island of St Lucia.

And as it was a downwind start line for both fleets – the serious racers first followed by the rally racers – the head sails were out in force, including parasails, spinnakers and of course, the mighty Twizzle Rig.

Caption: Take one 29-year-old yacht, add a twizzle-rigged pair of stripey head sails and 12-15 knot NE trade winds… What do you get? The double-handed crew aboard Blue Tarn, a Nicholson 35 enjoying the ideal start to the 23rd Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which set off today (Sunday) from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Much has been written about this rig – both for and against – but the aim of the set up is to reduce rolling of the hull while keeping two jibs flying. The two poles are not attached to the mast but connect together with a hinge or universal joint. An uphaul and a downhaul keep the poles under control, while allowing the headsails to spill wind after a cross wave thereby steadying the motion.

It is a solution that was adopted by a grand total of 1% of the fleet at the start of the ARC, so it would still appear to be a minority pursuit. However, only time will tell and come St Lucia in three or four weeks’ time it will become clear whether the twizzle is – or is not – the bizzle.

To keep up with each and every yacht’s position and daily log/blog see the ARC website