Twenty of the World ARC fleet are now in Papeete, with five yachts well on their way from Nuka Hiva to join them there. Four yachts remain at anchor in Nuka Hiva awaiting delivery of various spare parts to undertake repairs, which will be carried out once social distancing rules are relaxed. In the meantime, crews remain confined to their yachts under strict stay at home guidelines with a curfew from 2000-0500 nightly. The rally spirit is reported to be good amongst the World ARC crews, who are keeping in touch at a distance over the VHF radio.
At the weekend the French Polynesia Government announced that following negotiations with several airlines Air Tahiti Nui had been chosen as the operator to provide an occasional direct flight to and from Paris during the crisis. Running approximately once every ten days the direct 16 hour flights from Papeete to Paris and return will have a reduced payload of 150 passengers, and only carry those to and from Tahiti as there are no plans to repatriate to the islands, where health resources are limited. Cargo will be carried in both directions, and medical supplies on the return trip. The loss made by the operator of the flights will be met as a cost to the French Government.
This was excellent news for the European crews of World ARC yachts who have been patiently waiting for a flight home since arriving in Papeete, where due to the lock-down they are confined to their yachts.
Late Monday night the first flight was confirmed as being the next day on Tuesday (7th April) and the job of contacting all those crews wishing to fly was started. On this first flight there will be World ARC crews from the UK, Germany and Finland, all of whom will require onward connections from Paris. For those who had not arrived in Papeete from their anchorage in Nuka Hiva in time, the next flight is understood to be operating on Friday 17 April, subject to confirmation.
Solutions are still being explored for our Australian, Canadian, Mexican and American participants also seeking to repatriate.
World Cruising Club wishes to acknowledge the help of the British Embassy (Paris), Finnish Consul (Tahiti), Consular Agency of the USA (French Polynesia), Tahiti Tourism, French Polynesian High Commission, and all other agencies involved in helping with the successful initial repatriation of World ARC crews.