Offshore racing

ARC 2019: 40 multihulls on the startline at Las Palmas for the transat!

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The ARC is the world's greatest transatlantic rally: the start line, off the port of Las Palmas is immense, and the spectacle of a fleet of nearly 200 sailboats under spinnaker really is impressive... This event, in which you participate in racing mode or non-racing, is celebrating its 34th edition. The ARC is the undisputed leader of the genre: there are others, though, with organizers such as the Rallye des Iles du Soleil, and the Atlantic/Caribbean Odyssey, setting up (or setting up again, for Jimmy Cornell) similar projects but which aren’t bringing together more than 30 yachts. The ARC, on the other hand, is the victim of its own success. And the ever-increasing presence of multihulls further complicates the welcome that the ports can provide: a catamaran almost takes the place of two monohulls... Not to mention trimarans!

Andrew Bishop, the big boss of the ARC, has had to resolve the lack of space at Las Palmas marina, and so has organized three separate events... The first, the ARC+, had 90 participants – as opposed to 72 last year, who left Las Palmas on November 11th, heading for Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands, who then departed again for St Lucia on November 20th. The brand-new ARC+ St Vincent is four days behind the first and ends up in St Vincent. Finally, the third departure is the one we went to see: the classic ARC...

This 2019 edition has brought together 192 yachts with 35 different nationalities, divided into several categories. The 26 racing entrants are not allowed to use their engines. The others are allowed - some 125 monohulls and 40 catamarans. A clever formula nevertheless makes it possible to rank the cruising class, who are required to communicate - without cheating please! - their daily engine hours. A fourth class is open to those who consider themselves above competition. Most of the participants are British sailboats (almost a third of the fleet), then Americans and then Germans. The French are less in evidence than last year - 7 boats against 10 last year and 16 in the 2017 edition.

The stopover in Las Palmas also allows you to revictual and repair - or buy additional equipment. Every year, more than 1,000 sailboats make a stopover in Gran Canaria. This island, like its sister Tenerife, is ideally located on the trade winds route before the big start for the Transat. After a week ashore - or even more for those who’ve been on board since sailing down form the Mediterranean or Atlantic coasts in the summer - to prepare the sailboats, it is time for the big jump, heading west-southwest to reach the island of St Lucia, some 2,700 miles ahead. Many crews, before leaving, paint a drawing, a logo or a few words on the lower dock and the marina jetty, in honor of their passage.

The main objective for 2019 ARC participants? A trouble-free crossing of the Atlantic. Most of the skippers and crew members are almost unanimous: sailing as part of a fleet, compared to free-sailing, is a guarantee of safety. The organizers, in daily contact with all the skippers, are able to bring in a nearby yacht to assist in the event of being wrecked, a dismasting or rudder failure.

The ARC requires very complete equipment. Each boat must be able to give their position every day. EPIRBs, auto-inflating lifejackets, lifelines: safety equipment is all checked by the organizers.

How much does it cost? On average, registering for the ARC costs 1,500 euros. These high costs are partly offset by the more advantageous port tariffs. The impressive fleet, reduced by only a few sailboats that delayed their transatlantic passage, started in excellent conditions – a slight northerly swell and bright sunshine as expected. With the trade wind established at 12 knots, the catamarans under spinnaker or gennaker quickly spread out beyond the horizon. The others, under genoa, were understandably slower. We’ll find them very soon on the other side of the Atlantic!

The ARC 2019 in figures

16 to 20 days: this is the average time it will take for a multihull to cover the 2,700 miles of the course.

192 sailboats are registered. 4 started late.

40 multihulls have been registered, compared to 35 last year and 15, back in 2008. The most-represented brand is Lagoon, with 17 boats.

The multihull fleet in detail:

5 Lagoon 450s

5 Lagoon 52s

4 Saona 47s

3 Lagoon 42s

2 TS5s

1 Bali 4.1

1 Bali 5.4

1 Catana 42

1 Catana 50

1 Granger 60

1 Lagoon 380 S2

1 Lagoon 400 S2

1 Lagoon 440

1 Lagoon 560

1 Leopard 46

1 Leopard 48

1 Nautitech Open 46

1 Nautitech 47

1 Nautitech 541

1 One-off Nigel Irens

1 Outremer 51

1 Outremer 5 X

1 Salina 48

1 Sunreef 60

1 Swiss Cat 55

1 TS 42

The average length of boats is 15.48 m (50’9”), compared to 15.36 m (50’5”) in 2018 and 14.30 m (46’11”) in 2008.

11 years: this is the average age of the fleet - 12 years old in the previous edition. But that of the multihulls is only 3 years!


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