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26 November 2001, 11:47 am
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The Start , photo: Gilles Martin-Raget

Atlantic Rally For Cruisers
Las Palmas, Canaries

For its 16th edition, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is setting off again from Las Palmas (Canaries) heading for Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia (Caribbean).
On the program, 2700 nautical miles (5000 km) along the trade wind route for a festive and safe transat and some 12 to 24 days at sea.

There are no less than 237 entries for this 2001 edition, making the ARC one of the most popular transats for cruisers. This impressive number of boats can be explained by the choice of a very attractive course and by the simplicity of the conditions of participation. Indeed, the ARC is open to all types of boat, both mono and multihulls, sail and power, with all the same a few "safety" restrictions. For sailboats, monohulls must measure between 8.23 m and 26.30 m and multihulls between 7.62 m and 18.28 m. Other boats of greater size are included in the open class. And powerboats have their own category. Crews should include a minimum of 2 people.

Each One His Class

While the ARC is defined as a rally, it's all the same a race, with a start and a finish. Of course, it's not the Route du Rhum, but it is organized with the same concern for safety and organized to respond to the greatest numbers. So, one can choose to take part in the ARC in the cruising division or the racing division. Not surprisingly, the cruising division attracts the greatest number of participants. Rankings are calculated on corrected time using a handicap system that is unique to the organization of the event, the World Cruising Handicap, which builds in use of the engine. For the racing division in which sponsoring is permitted, the ARC applies the IRC (Rorc and Uncl) handicap system for establishing a ranking on corrected time. For the less informed, the handicap systems for sailboats are comparable to those used in horse racing or golf. With the help of mathematical formulae, a coefficient is calculated that takes in for each boat the length, beam, sail area, weight, stability, etc. At the finish of the transat, the real time that a boat has taken to cover the course is multiplied by its IRC coefficient, which gives the corrected time. The boat with the lowest corrected time is declared winner of its class. And if all the results are mixed together, it could also win overall. This is what Catanas achieved in the last two editions of the ARC. "Maya", a Catana 39 won in 1999 and Corazon, a Catana 431 won in the year 2000. So suffice to say, the Catana Trophy will be hotly contested this year.

A Supervised Transat

Remember that above all, the ARC is a recreational event for cruising boats. And while its format resembles a race - there's got to be a challenge - everything has been organized so that the crossing can unfold in the safest conditions possible. So, before the start, the ARC organizes training sessions, publishes a bulletin filled with navigational and safety advice, organizes a radio network and a positioning system in order to know the daily positions of each boat in the race. And of course a daily weather forecast is broadcast. Important means indeed, but they make this event very accessible, in a spirit of conviviality and exchange!

The Start

In a cacophony of foghorns and local music, the some 1300 crewmembers sailing the 225 boats of the ARC left Las Palmas in a unique atmosphere. In an interminable multicolored procession, they cast off one by one, heading for adventure. At 1300 GMT, the start was signaled in sunshine. Half an hour into the race, the Catana Double Trouble was leading the fleet.

First of all, for reasons of safety, they had to pass through a gateway between the harbor jetties and make themselves known a final time to the organization. Open at 1130 GMT (and local time), this enabled the starters to be identified once and for all. A nautical ballet that lasted for 2 ½ hours during which we noted The saint (Catana 582) whose entire crew was dressed as pirates.

The first to start were the racing set. 28 of them, all respectably sized monohulls, they were quickly away, leaving room for the pack of cruisers. Here, even if some of them have hundreds of miles racing in their docksides, the atmosphere was more one of avoiding collisions. In fact the ARC strongly advises all competitors to remove anchors from stemheads and to stow them in a safe place in order to minimize any inevitable clashes.

2700 miles ahead of their bows

At 1300 precisely, the starting gun liberated the fleet of cruisers in a 20 knot wind with a huge 2 meter swell. The Catana 431 Today! Was the first catamaran to set off heading for Saint Lucia. Very quickly all the catamarans were stealing the scene. After just half an hour into the race, 6 catamarans, including 5 Catanas had opened the route to the Caribbean. Double Trouble (Catana 582), in the lead, was first to hoist her asymmetric spinnaker in the colors of the State of Texas (USA) streaking off at 15 knots heading south. Nahema (Catana 472) skippered by French woman Annick Cousin was the only boat to start to windward to skirt the island of Gran canaria to the north to avoid, it would seem, falling into a wind shadow.

Points South

With the wind steady from the north-east since the beginning of the week and the 5 day forecast confirming a slight rotation to the east-north-east, the competitors started this 16th edition of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers all smiles. It was going to be downwind sailing, with the certitude of good average speeds right from the outset whisking them quickly to the trade winds. But for everybody, the most difficult will be knowing when to blink right and head for the Caribbean, on pain of getting 'parked' in the Azores high

ARC Press/News Editor
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