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ARC Fleet 2021 Ready to Set Sail from the Canary Islands

Cruisers in Las Palmas make last minute preparations for this year’s ARC Plus sail to Grenada.

November 3, 2021
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ARC rally flags
ARC rally flags are flying as participants get set to depart the Canary Islands this weekend. WCC / Jésus de Leon

Seventy-five sailboats in the Canary Islands are ready for this Sunday’s November 7 start of the 2021 World Cruising Club ARC Plus, the offshoot of the bigger, well-known ARC classic. The fleet has their waypoints set for the island of São Vicente, Cape Verde, 850 miles southwest. The Canary Islands to Cape Verde leg is expected to take five to seven days. Sailors will have a few days to explore, restock and refuel in Las Palmas before setting off again November 19 for the Caribbean. With the northeasterly tradewinds off the stern, the 2,150-mile, open ocean crossing to St George’s, Grenada, should take 12 to 16 days. The fleet is expected in Grenada around the first of December.

The World Cruising Club Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is an annual November rally from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. The first race, originally the Atlantic Race for Cruisers, was organized in 1986. Founder Jimmy Cornell imagined an amateur event for boats headed west and believed a rally would add some zest to the long crossing across the Atlantic while strengthening bonds between cruising sailors. With a large number of yachts sailing together as a fleet, the World Cruising Club ARC also hopes to increase the safety and confidence of the participants.

ARC Plus and ARC Routes
The ARC Plus and ARC Routes take two different fleets on separate routes across the Atlantic. The two-leg route and landfall in Grenada allows the ARC Plus fleet to split the long sails and take their time in the Caribbean once they arrive. WCC / Jésus de Leon

ARC participants sailing the direct route from the Canaries to St. Lucia are scheduled to depart November 21, two weeks after the ARC Plus fleet. Close to 150 yachts are signed up for the 3000-mile direct route. The ARC Plus route was added in 2013, due to the event’s growing popularity. The ARC Plus is broken into two legs—Canary Islands to Cape Verde, and Cape Verde to Grenada— for those cruisers looking for a more relaxed pace and the route has become popular with young families. This year there are 44 children among participants from 22 nations, with the youngest sailor checking in at only 19 months old. The ARC Plus course from Cape Verde heads to the Camper & Nicholsons Port Louis Marina in St. George’s, Grenada, a new destination for the ARC Plus. In previous years, the ARC Plus fleet arrived in St. Lucia a month ahead of the direct route ARC rally. Moving the ARC Plus fleet to Grenada eliminates the pressure on the ARC Plus participants to move on and make space for the direct ARC arrivals in January.

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“After the difficulties of last year, we are delighted to have 75 yachts for the ARC Plus 2021,” said Andrew Bishop, the managing director of the World Cruising Club. “While (there are) fewer boats than previous years, it is a good (fleet) for this inaugural rally to make landfall in Grenada.”

Grenada offers great facilities for cruising yachts, Bishop said, and a warm welcome awaits the participants on the island and at the Port Louis Marina. The diverse fleet has a high proportion of multihulls, and more family entries than usual.

ARC Plus participants
The ARC Plus fleet is popular for cruisers looking for a more relaxed pace and the route has become popular with young families. This year there are 44 children among the ARC Plus participants. WCC / Jésus de Leon

“ARC Plus is now a well-established event, and the new landfall in Grenada gives the event its own identity,” Bishop said.

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Safety is taken seriously, and this year the added option of virtual safety inspections done in advance has taken some pressure off the safety team. The team also does in-person inspections on the dock. The position of individual boats are tracked via a satellite. Rally officials, friends and family can track the fleet at www.worldcruising.com/arc/eventfleetviewer.aspx.

Departure dates are planned in the hopes that boats can catch the steady northeasterly tradewinds blowing west across the Atlantic, and arrive in the Caribbean at the end of hurricane season. While this summer has seen above average hurricane activity in the tropical North Atlantic, this activity is now dropping off, said ARC meteorologist Chris Tibbs.

“The outlook for the ARC Plus sail to Cape Verde is looking good, with moderate trade winds expected all the way as the Azores High settles back into its usual position,” Tibbs said.

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If you’re interested in riding the tradewinds with the fleet next year, the 2022 ARC and ARC Plus registrations are now open. For information, visit www.worldcruising.com/index.aspx.

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