It's a windy start for the yachts taking part in the ARC+ 2021, and not everyone made it to the startline

Seventy yachts left Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, this afternoon in gusty 15-20 knot north-easterlies, headed for Cape Verde. The boats are part of the ARC+ – the sister event to the popular ARC – which finishes in Grenada after a 4-6 day stopover.

Rob Roy III crosses the start-line of the ARC+. Photo James Mitchell/WCC

The multihulls were led by French-crewed Outremer 51, Piment Rouge (Red Pepper), and US Neel 47, Bigbird.

First over the line in the monohull division was Beneteau Oceanis 40, Sala from Norway, followed by Irish Moody 54DS, Hibernian and Norwegian Najad 490, Albicila.

Red Pepper led the start of the multihull class. Photo Jésus de Leon/ WCC

Launched in response to the popularity of the ARC, which takes sailors directly to St Lucia, the ARC+ attracts lots of families, with 40 children taking part this year, from 22-month-old Caruso Coxhead on Big Bubble to 16-year-old Kim Rouge on Brainwave.

Biggest boat, smallest boat

Eight Oyster yachts are taking part in the ARC+ this year, including the rally’s largest boat, Latobe, an Oyster 72. The smallest entrant is British yacht, Night and Day, a 31ft Malo 40H owned by friends Nicholas Adams and Alex Smith, who’ve taken a year’s sabbatical to go sailing.

Sailing the world

Some crews – such as the Styles family from Bristol – have left their lives behind to sail around the world. The family used to live onboard their Vagabond 47, Chula, in Cardiff, but after moving to a small village, starting their own business and taking on a lectureship, life got too busy.

Jo and Joe Styles with the Vagabond 47 they restored by hand

We missed the simplicity of living on a boat; having nature right outside and hearing the rain bounce off the decks,” said Jo.

During lockdown Jo and Joe replaced Chula’s badly leaking teak deck by hand, and made the big decision to sell-up and leave the UK. 

I’ve taken a year’s sabbatical so I can’t go back,” said Jo. “We can’t afford our own home. It’s a giant experiment right now. We still feel we’ve made this humongous jump, and we don’t know if we’re going to land successfully or if we’re going to flop!”


Big Bubble, a Skimmer 39

Moored alongside Chula in Las Palmas marina, was German boat, Big Bubble. Verena Coxhead, a book publisher, had always intended to go back to work when her son Caruso turned two, but instead the family of four will be spending his birthday in the middle of the Atlantic.

Cruising delayed because of Covid

The Coxheads had planned to do the ARC+ last year but were delayed because of Covid. Making the decision to leave behind family and friends, when life was just returning to normal, was difficult, says Verena, but since the voyage through France, northern Spain and Madeira, she’s adapted to life onboard.


Verena Coxhead and 2-year-old son Caruso

“The family pontoon in Las Palmas is fantastic,” she said. “We put our ARC flags up as soon as we entered Spain and met some of the boats already. It’s nice that the children will be able to play with each other in the Caribbean too.”

Mast failure in Gibraltar

Sadly, one boat that didn’t make the start of the ARC+ was Dragonfly, owned by the Pollock family from New Zealand. An accidental gybe in Gibraltar caused the mast to crack, and it now has to be replaced. They’re hoping the new mast will arrive in time for the start of the main ARC on 21 November. 

The family of six sold their home and possessions last December to buy the Oyster 56 and sail around the world. After six months refitting her in Spain, they’re desperate to get sailing again. The ARC activities for children – which have included dinghy sailing, Halloween face-painting and games on the beach – have provided a temporary respite from living in such close quarters. 

“We don’t see the kids at all – they’re so happy playing with all their new friends,” says mum Amandine. “There’s an incredible sense of community here”.

ARC+ start

PBO was at the start of the ARC+ to wave off the boats, and will be there in Grenada to find out how it all went. The yachts will be finishing at Camper & Nicholson’s Port Louis Marina. The recently refurbished 227 berth marina is in St George’s Harbour, and is well placed for making landfall after an Atlantic crossing.

The ARC+ yachts met strong winds and lumpy seas at the startline in Las Palmas. Photo James Mitchell/ WCC

Grenada is situated at the southern end of the Windward Island chain, with many beaches, coves and islands – an ideal location for sailing north  through some of best cruising areas in the Caribbean.

You can find out more about the Atlantic Rally for Cruising (ARC) on the World Cruising Club site, and more about the island where the ARC participants are gathering, at

Read the full stories of the ARC+ participants in the February 2022 edition of Practical Boat Owner.