Na­tional Flags Pa­rade opens ARC 2018

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

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.

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