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An Ocean Sailing Masterclass

Day One of the ARC seminar programme kicked off today with a packed room of enthusiastic ARC sailors keen to listen to the experts in ocean sailing, here to help them sail safely to Saint Lucia. First off was Vicky Ellis, the newest member of the ARC yellowshirt squad, an RYA YachtMaster Instructor with over 100,000nm offshore experience, both as an ARC and a Clipper RTW skipper. Her focus was on managing emergencies at sea, and how to prevent an emergency from becoming a disaster.

“Sailors often worry about the wrong things,” explained Vicky, before describing how the most serious risks can be offset by appropriate crew training and planning, and of course having suitable equipment on board. Whilst here in Las Palmas, Vicky is also one of the team of ARC Safety Equipment Inspectors whose role is to ensure that boats and crew are fully prepared for the crossing. As well as covering the risk of fire, water-ingress and steering failures, the presentation gave lots of useful advice on how to make best use of common items on board a boat, and how the skills and equipment within the wider ARC fleet can be used to help those in difficulties.

“I’ve been so inspired by her presentation,” said Debra Anne Turner from Australia. She will be sailing her partner Stephen on Bijoux, their Fountaine-Pajot Salina 48. “We’ve been cruising in the Med for 7 years, so we know the boat very well, but this will be our first ocean crossing,” explained Debra Anne,

Keeping with the theme of “prevention is better than cure”, Will Spencer described in detail how to do a rig-check and, using an impressive selection of photos of broken items of rigging, showed ARC sailors where some of the common failure points are. When not wearing his ARC yellowshirt in Las Palmas, Will runs a yacht management and own-boat tuition company, where he supports new entrant boat owners and was able to bring his extensive knowledge to the seminars today.

All the presenters focus on sharing their knowledge and experience in a way that will help ARC sailors for the passage ahead. Moving on from rig checks was a special forum for double-handers, those sailing with just two people aboard, or couples cruising with children. ARC weatherman and expert ocean-racer Chris Tibbs shared his experiences, gained from many thousands of ocean miles, to give crews some pointers on managing watches, sailing safely and coping with the challenges of ocean sailing two-up. As an interactive session, crews were able to discuss tactics and share their own experiences for mutual learning throughout.

Weather and routing are always popular topics and it was a full-house for Chris Tibbs’ second presentation of the day when he took cruisers across the Atlantic and to the Caribbean on a meteorological magic carpet ride. Likely weather conditions, coping with squalls and how the tradewinds can give champagne sailing were all discussed, along with sources of weather at sea.

The afternoon continued with a well-focused presentation on how to plan and execute your provisioning for the Atlantic from long-term yellowshirt Clare Pengelly. A collection of tips on how to store fresh food at sea; planning for “the biscuit monster” and how to turn meal-plans into a shopping list were all covered in great detail for an appreciative audience. After all, food and eating well are key factors to the success of an Atlantic passage! And finally, having already discussed tradewinds, Chris Tibbs finished the seminar day with tips and tricks for downwind sailing. Chafe, and chafe prevention, tips for not wrapping a spinnaker; why white sails may be better, and so much more. Today was a master-class in preparing for ocean sailing, presented by the “A-team” of ocean sailors to an audience keen to listen and learn. Now comes the best part, since “knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” – Anton Chekov.

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