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24 November 2003, 09:46 am
Perfect Conditions for ARC Start
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© Patrick Roach

ARC 2003
Las Palmas - St Lucia

The atmosphere in the marina was one of excitement and anticipation, with plenty of crew hurrying around finishing off last minute jobs, saying temporary goodbyes to new friends and buying up one more ARC T-shirt!
By 1030 the last boat had checked out and at the final count, 212 boats were scheduled to cross the start line. The weather forecast for the day was NW force 4-5 decreasing during the morning to NW force 3-4 by start time.

At 1200 the Committee Boat, the Spanish Navy vessel "Medas" was in position on the start line.

First start 1240 - Racing Division

Yachts favoured the committee boat end with many hooking behind the Committee Boat to come close to that end of the line. One yacht indeed came a little too close in its pre-start manoeuvres when 15 minutes before the start yacht Mazianna became entangled with the Medas'anchor trip line. Divers cut the line and Mazianna was free, but not without some slight sweating from the committee, anxious not to have to postpone the start.

As the seconds counted down to the start, the British J-42 "Sky Hunter" worked hard to be on the line and were first over, closely followed by the two VOR60's "Spirit" and "Venom". "Jagga" a Sigma 400 and "Elandra of Hamble" a Beneteau First 47.7 fought closely to be next. Many broke open their spinnakers as soon as they were clear of the line, others chose to stick with white sails only and some probably wished they had not bothered as "Freedom of Hamble" and "Perenquen" both suffered nasty spinnaker wraps. However, it was a fast start and very exciting to watch for all the spectators that lined the Paseo Maritimo and Marina breakwaters and those that were on the water in small boats.

Ten minutes after the start nearly all the racing boats appeared to be bunched together heading for the south of the island, with only a few tacking away to port from the land. There were some wonderful sights as the Cruising Division warmed up around the Committee Boat including "Kings Legend", the Swan 65 that took part in the first Whitbread Round the World Race of 1973/4 and the much smaller "Serefe", a Beneteau First 32S5 which has been followed by Channel 4 television since her departure from the UK and was pressing hard for a good start.

The Cruising Division start followed on 20 minutes later at 1300 and having watched the previous start the majority of boats chose to favour the committee boat end of the line. "X-To-Sea", the Austrian X-562 were grinding hard, pushed from behind by the Beneteau 50 from Germany "Meltemi", however it was the Swedish yacht "Vaghals", a Nouanni 47, that was first across the line having set their spinnaker only seconds before the gun. "X-To-Sea" and family boat "Bridget" from Australia pressed close behind, however it was a very close start with a great number of boats crossing at the same time. The cruising boats in the main had chosen to take a more cautious approach than those racing and only five spinnakers crossed the line at the start.

With almost 200 boats starting together, several yachts crossed in packs and just after the start 5 boats were vying for space with limited sea room due to their close proximity to the committee vessel. Inevitably two 'touched' with yacht "Endurance" from Germany and "Gulliver II" of England coming a little closer than they would have liked!

Once clearer air was found, a number of yachts chose to fly their spinnakers and "Lilla", a CNB 76 from the UK was a splendid slight as she glided by resplendent in her claret hull.

"Helice", one of the smallest boats in the event at 33 feet, sailed by the MacDonald family, crossed the line behind the main pack, but by no means at the back! The cuddly camel won by daughters Lizzie and Emily at the ARC Fancy Dress Party enjoyed a frontside seat on the coach roof!

Two boats hard to miss at the back of the fleet were the beautiful gaff rigged ketch "Berenice" with all four sails set and the stately barque of the Jubilee Sailing Trust "Tenacious", fully rigged and a magnificent sight at the rear of the fleet.

"Girls for Sail" aboard their Catamaran Ostara were one of the boats delayed in crossing the start line due to rudder problems. However, these were swiftly dealt with and twenty minutes later they crossed the line with a big cheer. "Tosca III" due to her size, at 37 metres the second largest entry next to "Tenacious", was unable to clear the port and departed two hours later.

Finally the last boat across was the French catamaran "Tambay", not in any rush and enjoying the clear air and water at the back of the fleet; why rush with over 2000 miles ahead of you?

By 1800, the majority of the fleet had reached the south of the island, enjoying some lovely night time sailing in around 10 knots of breeze. We wish them all a wonderful first night at sea and a safe crossing ahead.

Further details and position reports are available on the event website at the address below.
Sue Richards
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