Now that the ARC+ fleet are safely on their way, the countdown to the ARC has begun with the opening of the ARC office. Over half the fleet have arrived in Las Palmas and ARC yellowshirts visited some of the yachts today to welcome crews and hand out ARC skippers packs, Rally numbers and give important information. As part of the many adaptations to this year’s rally, participants were initially welcomed by the World Cruising Club team via a Virtual Check In call over the past few weeks but a friendly dockside hello from the team has been well received and the rally atmosphere is certainly starting to get going.
There’s plenty of activity around the docks with several of the boats having been here for a while and crews making the most of getting their boats ready for the crossing. Blue Magic is a beautifully maintained classic Swan 65 owned by two Swedish friends and their wives: Mats, Sophia, Maria and Nicholas, who enthusiastically share their sailing adventures. Although the boat will be used for private sailing as well as chartering, their ultimate aim is to compete in the 2023 Ocean Global Race, which in the spirit of the original 1973 Whitbread Race, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. For now though, they are more than happy to be crossing the Atlantic with the ARC as a form of exposure for their future ambitions, and co-owner Mats Eriksson will be sailing her across to Saint Lucia with a full boat of charter guests.
Collecting his skippers pack and coming to the ARC office for an arrival check-in, Jean-Jacques Mérer will be sailing two handed with friend Alain L'helgoualch in his Beneteau Oceanis 54 Gaivota from Brittany, France. This will be their first time in the ARC, having been recommended by friends who sailed with World ARC. They were keen to join the rally this year due to the support and camaraderie that it offers, particularly in the current year.
Gary French from Los Angeles, USA picked up his brand new Amel 50, Galatea in La Rochelle, France earlier this summer. Happy to be preparing for his first long ocean passage having sailed mainly on local coastal waters and on overnight passages, he described a close encounter with orca whales whilst in Spanish waters, en route to Las Palmas. Luckily for them, after three orca calves decided to ‘play’ with and break one of their rudders (with their 8-metre long parents accompanying either side of the boat), they were still able to sail to Gibraltar and then on to southern France where Amel replaced both rudders. A frightening experience for all!
“I thought the safety aspect of a lot of boats crossing the Atlantic all together was appealing, as well as the camaraderie of the ARC,” explained Gary on the dock. “Getting out of America and to France to pick up the boat was a bit of a challenge earlier this year and I was wondering whether this rally was actually going to happen. When it was confirmed, we were really happy and are very excited and looking forward to it,” says Gary who will sail across with four friends on their biggest sailing adventure so far, before eventually making their way back to California following time in the Caribbean, going through the Panama Canal, and then taking a slow sail up to home.
This will be the second ARC for Marten Cassiopeia 68, which is one of six boats competing in the Racing Division in the ARC starting on 22nd November. The boat’s owner and a semi-professional crew of ten include boat captain Peter Perenyi from Hungary. Peter is an experienced IMOCA sailor who also participated in the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2015: “We’ve competed in the ARC before and are looking forward to bettering our previous crossing time (2015 – 12 days). We shall have to see.” The boat has taken part in several races such as Rolex Giraglia and Rolex Middle Sea Race, to name a few. “The owner’s ambition is to compete in the Rolex Sydney Hobart once in his life and we are going on from Saint Lucia, through Panama after staying in the Caribbean until March/April. The boat is fast and great to sail, but it is a lot of work as it is a sensitive boat, full carbon - inside and out.”
Las Palmas Marina will certainly start to feel busier, but there are plenty of measures in place to keep all the sailors, local residents and staff safe during the current pandemic. All shore facilities are being cleaned regularly and there is an abundance of sanitation stations around the ARC Offices, Shop and Platform. The restaurants and shops around the marina are also doing an excellent job to welcome participants safely, observing the guidelines and mask mandates for the sake of everyone. From next week, crews will significantly limit contact with anyone outside their immediate boat crew, and everyone sailing on the ARC will undertake a PCR test at the nearby Vithas Clinic.
Coming up on the programme this week will be the SAR Helicopter Demonstration (subject to call-outs) giving participants the chance to watch a simulated evacuation of a casualty from a yacht by the rescue services. The popular Seminar Programme has moved online for 2020 and ARC participants are able to watch multiple presentations covering cruising topics from Communications to Downwind Sailing. Supplementing the presentations, live Question and Answer sessions with the lecture team are taking place using Zoom, with the first sessions covering World ARC and Provisioning taking place on Thursday.
Working with the local Federacion de Vela, children aged 6-16 can join the ARC Kids Club starting tomorrow, with fun activities (and of course some sailing) to help them to get to know one another. It's also a break for the parent to focus on the jobs list on board a quiet boat for a few hours!
Following COVID guidelines, participants of any age will also have the chance to visit and add to the ARC Forest, which is always a highlight of the programme. Since the project began, ARC sailors have planted more than 2,000 trees in the hills of Gran Canaria, contributing to the environment and supporting the ecosystem on the island. Described by one of last years' volunteer planters as "hard work and great fun with spectacular views", it's an idea way for crews to explore beyond the marina and see some of stunning Gran Canaria before departure.