Once again, ARC entries have eclipsed the previous year with the ARC2003 entry list closing after the 225th yacht - the maximum number - was accepted Friday, 9 May, two weeks earlier than last year's record breaker.
It is encouraging to see continued interest in this annual migration across the Atlantic for hundreds of sailors keen to explore oceans new. Hopeful entries are now being placed onto a waiting list, and will only be accepted as yachts already entered withdraw during the build up to the start of the eighteenth Atlantic Rally for Cruisers from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on 23 November.
Commenting on the continuing success of the ARC, director of World Cruising Club, Andrew Bishop, said: "Last year was incredible, with a full list much earlier than expected, however entries for this year have been steadily flooding in since the end of ARC2002 and we are delighted at how quickly the event has filled up, especially considering the current world situation."
Asked about improvements for this year Andrew said: "A tremendous additional benefit for ARC participants this year is the new forum pages on the World Cruising Club website (www.worldcruising.com). The forum is open to all ARC skippers and crews enabling owners to easily share information with their crew and to have immediate access to recently published information.
The Port Authority of Las Palmas continue to improve facilities for yachts with ambitious plans to double the marina capacity over the next three years. We are also expanding the programme of social activities in St. Lucia this year, with the help of a new local committee that has been established with representatives from key organisations on the island. In addition, the Las Palmas programme has been further refined following feedback from previous years' participants to include a double-handed workshop, a Children's Optimist Regatta and a number of other social events."
Oyster is back up to top spot as predominant maker in the fleet with a total of 19 Oysters entered. Hallberg Rassy come a close second with 17 yachts, but Nautor Swan has dropped from their spot as most popular make last year with 13 yachts, topped by Beneteau with a very healthy turn out of 15 entries.
Richard Matthews, chairman of Oyster, said: "We're delighted that 19 Oysters have entered ARC2003 making Oyster the most predominant constructor in this year's event. In fact, cumulatively, Oyster yachts have been the most prolific participants in the event since it began in 1985.
"Oyster Marine congratulates World Cruising Club for their ongoing success in running the world's most popular blue-water event and will once again be sending a service team to Las Palmas to provide a complimentary pre-start service to the Oyster fleet. It's expected that many ARC Oysters will also be taking part in the UBS Oyster Regatta in Palma, Mallorca, which will take place from 3 to 7 September in the build-up to the ARC."
With two Volvo 60's, a Sydney 60 and four Farr 65's entered, the racing division looks to be the one to watch this year. Several key players in the world of yacht racing have also entered their own boats, including Peter Harrison with his brand new 115ft cruising ketch and Vincenzo Onorato, part of the Americas Cup Prada Syndicate, with his Swan 65, Mascalzone Latino XIV.
This is the fifth consecutive year that the ARC has attracted well in excess of 200 yachts, and more than 20 different nations. The largest nation, making up just over half the fleet is Great Britain, followed by Germany and the USA. Once again the ARC has attracted entries from Russia and Japan and are delighted to welcome 2 boats from Israel.
Andrew concludes: "We are delighted with the international enthusiasm for this event, with 24 nationalities represented which significantly enhances the global flavour of the event for all those taking part."