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Oceans of Experience

The breadth of experience in the international the ARC Yellowshirt team provides support for crews to welcome them to Las Palmas, share preparations advice, offer guidance on safety equipment and ensure they’ll be setting sail happy and well prepared for the adventure.

The team of 23 in 2017 is made up of core World Cruising Club employees and experienced ocean sailors who join for the Las Palmas preparation programme. All have an enthusiastic interest in providing a safe and social rally to the Caribbean and the vast majority have sailed with a WCC rally in the past, so know how it feels to be preparing for the adventure.

Chris Tibbs’ ARC history dates back to the very first edition in 1986 sailing as skipper on Moody 38, Me and My, owned by Geoff Pitcher. Since then, having had an successful career as an ocean racer in events such as the Whitbread Round the World Race and the BT Global Challenge, he as retrained as a meteorologist and is one of the world’s leading sailing metmen, routing famous boats in record attempts as well as regular ocean sailors. Together with his wife Helen, a fellow ARC Yellow Shirt, they sailed with the 30th edition of the ARC in 2015 on board their own boat, Wauquiez 40 Taistealai, and continued on to Australia with World ARC 2017.

On the ARC team he leads a number of the specialist seminars, and admits it’s sharing his knowledge that keeps him coming back year after year. “I had one skipper contact me after they had lost their rudder mid-Atlantic sailing from the Caribbean to Europe. They had read an article I had written about steering a boat without a rudder using a drogue, and they managed to set one up and used it to get the boat to Europe. If my contribution can help a crew like that who may otherwise have needed to abandon the boat or have outside assistance then that article, or at a seminar where I talk about such scenarios is well worth-while.

Chris’ Route & Weather Seminar is one of the most popular on the speaking programme, which is included in the ARC crew fee. “When I first started transatlantics, you’d get a bit of a weather forecast in Las Palmas before departure, and you would then not receive weather information until you got to the other side. Now, there is just so much information that can be communicated to the boats at sea. This not only makes you faster, but it more importantly makes it safer. We have the means if anything nasty was brewing to communicate with the fleet, but also by doing the seminars here, we can share the knowledge with skippers to look at the weather forecasts available and get more information out of them to make a better, more informed decision that will be safer.

Equally passionate about sharing their experience with participants, Astrid and Wilhelm Greiff from Germany have become familiar faces on the ARC team and at boat shows representing World Cruising Club. They participated in the first Europa 92, the forerunner rally to World ARC, and sailed around the world double-handed on their boat Octopus that they had fitted out themselves. As they wanted to sail more competitively after their return, they sold their boat and joined a Swiss syndicate being made up by friends from the rally. A new boat was bought and sailed around the world twice, winning Line Honours in the second Europa Rally. Astrid and Wilhelm just chose the best places they wanted to go to again and supported the team where they could.

After the circumnavigation their life changed completely. Astrid, who had worked as translator and interpreter specialised in legal translations, became an editor of sailing books and dedicated teacher, Wilhelm as electrical engineer and former sales manager wrote several books about electricity on board and started inventing parts that optimize the charging and supervising of board batteries. Since 1995 they have been part of the World Cruising Club team, doing translations and press work, organising bluewater seminars in Germany, representing WCC at boat shows and other events.

In Las Palmas during the build-up to the ARC they are the ‘go-to team’ for German speaking participants, which makes up about 15-20% of the crews. On the Safety Team, Wilhelm will visit the boats for their inspections, and Astrid welcomes the crews as the come to check in on the rally.

Asked what advice or top tip they want to give to the future Atlantic sailors Astrid says, of course: “Learn English or brush up your language skills” whereas Wilhelm, whose passions besides sailing are hunting and cooking, recommends to every boat to have a meat mincer on board to produce its own sausages. Many participants have already followed that advice over the years.

The hope is the golden nuggets of information gleaned from the ARC Yellowshirt team in Las Palmas will be useful as participants head off on their Atlantic crossing, whether it be a top tip for making life more comfortable on board, or a vital piece of knowledge for an emergency situation. From checking in with each crew to provide local information, individual safety checks on board the boat, chats at the numerous social functions, and the topic-specific seminars, the ARC team are sharing their knowledge to improve each participant’s experience of sailing across an ocean and ensure a happy arrival in Saint Lucia.