Finally, it's the day we start the ARC from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The level of activity around the marina has raised significantly as crews complete their final preparations for the start. Due to the size of the fleet (240 yachts) the start has been broken down into four division of which the cruising division (that's the one we're in) starts last at 13:00.
For the past few weeks, Feelin' Good looked like a Las Palmas 'party girl'. All decked out in flags, ropes nicely tied up and looking pretty, her stainless glittering in the sunlight. Things are different today. all her ropes are in position for work, her sheets ready to deploy our 'secret' butterfly headsail, snatch blocks attached to the right places, safety lines in place and all the festive flags down. Our 'party girl' has taken off the gloves and revealed herself to be the real Swiss Heidi, a tough battle-ready hunter ready to take on the ARC fleet (Heidi is falsely portrayed around the world as some little, blond girl with pigtails dancing through the flowers, not so in Switzerland where she is a tough woman).
We were out of the marina by 11:30 surrounded by horns and hundreds of people standing on the shoreline cheering the yachts on. It was fantastic to be part of this group and see the local support from the town. While waiting for the start, we cruised back and forth in back of the main crowd who were jostling for position. We hung outside a bit then got our sails up, motor off and headed for the far corner of the starting line (and orange buoy). Within 10 seconds of the gun going off we were slipping past the buoy with a number of other yachts in hot pursuit. It was a great way to start the ARC!
We had our butterfly sail configured to be used as a genoa (i.e. both sails on one side rather than each on their own sides) and it worked remarkably well! Heading down the east side of the island we were doing in excess of 8 kts and sometimes 10 kts. A large number of yachts put up their Gennaker or Spinnaker sails and went close to the coastline. We decided to gybe out a ways until we cleared the south end of the island then gybe in the general direction of the Caribbean, 2700nm away. With a 2000m meter mountain in the middle of the island, we wanted to stay well offshore to avoid being caught in it's 'wind shadow' from the mountain. It's a good thing we did as the yachts closer to shore lost 3-4 kts of wind and we kept sailing smartly by.
As the day winded down, we found ourselves apart from the main fleet which had chosen to go further south toward the Cape-Verdes Islands. We looked at the winds forecast closely and decided to go more westerly as the winds were taking us along really nicely at times over 12.3 kts! We kept up like this until it was close to dark and then we put out our reacher poles to support the twin headsail configuration. Now we turned the yacht so the wind was directly in back of us and filled out the butterfly. We were still cruising along at 8 kts as the sun went down (with a spectacular 'green flash').
Overnight we had to start the motor (as did other yachts around us) to maintain some forward motion as the winds dropped off too much and we couldn't power the sails.
It was an amazing way to start our passage across the Atlantic and our team has performed fantastically!
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