On Monday, 26 October, ARC+ 2020 officially began as the the World Cruising Club team hit the docks of Las Palms Marina to welcome this year's participants. Over the past few weeks, 'S Pontoon' has become home to yachts arriving to join ARC+ and is now a colourful sight with rally flags flying.
As part of the many adaptations to this years rally, participants were initially welcomed by the World Cruising Club team via a Virtual Check In call last week, providing information about the programme, online seminars, live Q&As with experienced cruisers via Zoom and the logistics for PCR testing prior to departure.
Onsite in Las Palmas, Safety Checks are now underway with Roger Seymour from Hamble School of Yachting casting his eye over the required equipment that each yacht must carry. Visiting each Skipper, Roger checks the man-overboard equipment and liferaft are compliant, and runs through key items such as the EPIRB, lifejackets, emergency steering, flares and that life-lines and jackstays are in good condition. These checks are an important part of the ARC, providing reassurance and offering the opportunity to ask questions to make sure the boat and crew are ocean ready.
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 via the Members Area of the World Cruising Club website. 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.
Out of the twenty-six boats due to set off from Las Palmas on Sunday 8 November for the first leg of ARC+, one third of these have children on board, giving a real family feel to the rally. Working with the local Federacion de Vela, children aged 6-16 can join the ARC+ Kids Club, 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.
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