Safety demos and welcome to new arrivals

11 November 2021

It’s getting busy around the docks here in Las Palmas and several more boats have arrived today, including Simon Morecroft’s Into the Mystic. They will sail across with five crew, including Brad Gangardine who is helping skipper their Discovery 50 catamaran back to Saint Lucia - his home and the finish for the ARC. The Soufriere-based Moorings skipper got to know the owners when they were on a charter holiday a few years ago and Brad is about to fulfill a lifelong dream of sailing across the Atlantic with them.

The ARC pre-departure programme continued today with an Air-Sea Rescue demonstration - one of the practical highlights of the two weeks leading up to departure. Safety is at the heart of the rally and being knowledgeable and having the right equipment available for an ‘if the worst should happen’ scenario is an essential part of preparing for an extended ocean passage. 

Roger Seymour, a member of the ARC Safety Team and Senior Instructor at Hamble School of Yachting took to the microphone on the Eastern Wall as participants watched the demonstration. Using his wealth of knowledge, he explained the procedures to participants as they looked on to see the Air-Sea Rescue helicopter demonstration provided by SAR Las Palmas in the sheltered port waters.

Global Yacht Racing’s British charter boat EH01 volunteered for a starring role in the demonstration and got into position. Under cloudy skies and a light steady breeze, they held off a little way from the entrance of the marina in ideal view of the watching participants.

“As the helicopter arrives they often fly over to have a look at the general conditions. They prefer to go into the wind so if you are given a course to steer, it’s normally 30 degrees off the wind with the wind on the port bow,” explained Roger in his informative commentary over the buzz of the helicopter.

“The helicopter prefers it if the boat is moving forward fast, if possible. Instructions are given on the radio before arriving and the briefing is very similar internationally. A course and speed on which to steer is then given and must be followed without deviation before being instructed on how they will lower a line to the boat. The hi-line is a long line with a weighted sack on the end. Normally this will be dipped into the water before it can be taken on board and grabbed; preferably with a pair of gloves on. It’s a good idea to have a bucket nearby so that as you pull the line you can coil the rope into the bucket so it doesn’t get tangled on anything. Never tie it onto your boat!”

Participants could witness the significant water disturbance caused by the downdraft of the helicopter as the line was lowered to the awaiting crew of EH01. The diver then emerged from the helicopter and made his way down the wire, reaching the water a few meters away from the boat to then swim on board. The helicopter then retreated to calm the conditions in the area as the diver climbed up the transfer. 

“When the heli is overhead it is incredibly noisy so you can’t communicate in a normal way,” Roger explained. “Also, the downdraft on the heli causes spray so you need to prepare your boat before it arrives by removing any loose objects and anything that’s sticking up on the port quarter of your boat. The divers are very physically fit but think about what is the best access on your boat in the ocean in a swell. The diver will then take control.”

“Once the rescue diver is on board, they will give instructions of whatever is necessary on the boat and if they are evacuating a person, the crew will then pull the hi-line back in and attach the casualty or stretcher. In this morning’s demonstration, a dummy was clipped on and secured ready for the evacuation. It was a smooth departure as the helicopter hovered steadily, but it was easy to imagine how challenging the manoeuvre may be in stormy conditions. Crews watched closely as the demonstration unfolded and it provided a very valuable insight into how such a rescue would work at sea.

The learning continues today with the start of the online Q&A sessions for participants, where they can join live Zoom calls with the experienced ARC Lecture Team. A series of online seminars are available in advance, and these live sessions are an excellent opportunity to have questions answered. This evening, Ed Wildgoose from MailaSail will be talking all things satellite communications, followed by Clare Pengelly discussing the best tips for provisioning in Las Palmas.

Tomorrow’s programme will see participants joining the ARC Forest Tree planting excursion. Since 2010, almost 3,000 native trees have now been planted by ARC and ARC+ volunteers on deforested sites in the Arucas mountains above Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. ARC organiser World Cruising Club has teamed up with local non-profit forestry organisations in Gran Canaria to develop and sponsor a carbon offset project, planting trees where they are most needed to help offset the carbon emissions created during the Atlantic crossing.