The growing popularity of sailing rallies around the world was never more underlined by the spectacular - and still growing - popularity of World Cruising Club's ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). A full eight months before the departure of the ARC from the Canary Islands on 25th November, the ARC is full, with 260 yachts registered and a waitlist started.
ARC banners in the marina - 33 different nationalities this year
260 yachts is more than they have ever accepted before, probably reflecting the growing ability of the marinas at each end to accommodate the yachts. Always helping the popularity of the ARC, the rally departs at the perfect time - just after the end of the hurricane season - both for European boats wanting to spend a cruising season in the Caribbean and for circumnavigating boats who will pass through the Panama Canal the following April (or the next one)
The break-up of the yachts is interesting too. Of 260 yachts entered, only 42 have indicated that they would like to race, which also reflects the growing popularity of cruising as opposed to racing.
The smallest boat (to date) is Wolfgang Vandrey's Contest 28 Quetzal (GER) and the largest is Swan 80 Berenice (ITA). Organisers do expect some movement in the entry list, with around 230 boats on the start line.
There is always an award for the oldest boat sailing in the ARC, and it looks like a tie-breaker for 2012. Both Peter von Seestermuhe (GER), owned by long-term ARC-supporter Christoph von Reibnitz and Peter Brownsell's Peregrin (GBR) were built in 1936.
ARC - farewelling family. friends and curious visitors line the dock on the day of departure
One of the inspiring things about the ARC is always the number of different flags that are represented - This year the boats will sail under 33 different national flags - a real united nations of sail!
The participation is not level though, with 30% of the fleet flying the British ensign and 12% German. It's great to see big fleets from Norway, Italy, USA, Australia, Netherlands, Sweden and France.
The ARC makes special mention of their 'single' entries: Champagne from Croatia, Stella Maris from Estonia, Summer Star from Greece, Baringo from Hong Kong, Indulgence from Ireland, Antidote from Latvia, Belazur from Luxembourg and Ada from Turkey!
Yachts wanting to join the wait list will need to pay the boat entry fee in full. The ARC can't guarantee you a place, but will give a full refund if they can't get you into ARC2012.
For all information about the ARC this year, go to World Cruising Club's http://www.worldcruising.com/arc!website.