National Flags Parade opens ARC 2018
The boats and crews taking part in the 33rd edition of the ARC—the world's largest trans-ocean rally for cruisers—are in their temporary 'home' of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Last Sunday, it was time to mark the official opening ceremony of ARC 2018. With a spectacular, noisy and colourful carnival procession around the Las Palmas marina, crews from 30 different nations waved their national flags patriotically and got into the spirit of the event.
Following the principal flags of Spain, Gran Canaria and Saint Lucia, the international conga line was led by La Charanga de la Aldea, with the Batucada Timbalao beating a salsa rhythm at the back of the line. Once the procession had completed its parade around the marina, sailors were welcomed to the ARC by World Cruising Club's Managing Director Andrew Bishop.
Tomorrow, Sunday 25 November, the fleet will begin its ocean adventure and say farewell to Gran Canaria. Andrew Bishop thanked the Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for their support, and praised the Port Authority that manages the marina for accommodating the vast number of ARC boats year on year.
Presidente del Autoridad Portuaria de Las Palmas (President of the Port Authority), Señor Juan Jose Cardona welcomed crews on behalf of the Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Port Authority and wished them 'bon voyage' for a good crossing to the Caribbean.
Coming to see the crews' preparations and personally wish them well on the voyage, Guy Mayers High Commissioner for Saint Lucia in London promised the sailors warm weather and a warm welcome when they arrive in Rodney Bay. "The festive atmosphere and marching alongside the participants has been very exciting, and I am very glad to have been part of this morning's Opening Ceremony," he said.
The ARC fleet will set off this year with 178 entries from 30 different countries and is truly a multinational celebration which showcases the international flavour of the rally. The attraction to sail in company as one fleet has continued to have undaunted appeal. Some will be on their first crossing whilst others are making their umpteenth voyage. Fifteen boats will be sailing across with children and 32 will be part of a family adventure this year, with the youngest crew member being 18 months old on the Dutch yacht Chubby Bunny.
The ARC is very diverse and attracts boats of all sizes and design. This year is no exception, the smallest being the British Halmatic 30, Excalibur at 8.99m, and then there's the mighty Malteseflagged 39m Vitters one-off, G2 at the larger end of the size range—and everything in between! There has been a significant swing towards multihulls this year and 36 catamarans will be on the start line. The average cruising boat can expect to arrive at Rodney Bay in 18 to 21 days, but the competitive Racing Division, which will see 21 boats vying for position, will hope to reach the rum punch much sooner.
World Cruising Club, together with local supporters including the Tourist Board of Gran Canaria and the Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Port Authority and local chandlery Rolnautic, organised an extensive programme for the participants including free seminars led by some of the most respected cruising sailors and marine specialists in the industry. The famous ARC social programme is a fun way for participants to get to know one another, and form an Atlantic crossing community before they head out to sea.
A smiling Saint Lucian delegation was at the helm of the ARC opening celebrations.