The first arrivals of boats set for a transatlantic adventure this November have begun in Las Palmas Marina ahead of what it set to be a very different ARC rally in 2020. Following COVID secure protocols, with the health and wellbeing of staff, participants and stakeholders at the forefront of the organisation, World Cruising Club are adapting the rally format to ensure those wishing to reach Saint Lucia this year can do so safely.
In Gran Canaria, a rise in COVID-19 cases has seen swift action being taken locally with the mandatory use of face coverings and limits on gatherings implemented at the end of August. In line with these restrictions, the traditional ARC pre-start programme will take a different format with the rally hallmarks of support and social cruising maintained virtually. Expert advice from the team of ARC lecturers will provide guidance through online seminars and interactive Q&A sessions, and ARC crews have already been growing the community via VHF and SSB chats ahead of reaching Las Palmas.
Unchanged in 2020 is the eclectic range of yachts set to sail with the ARC with the boats lining up for the start on 22 November ranging from 30ft (9.1m) to over 100ft (30m). At the elite end of the field, previous course record holder Farr 100 Kistos Leopard returns for the first time since 2014, and there will be hot competition in the multihull fleet with three Marsaudon TS5s Addictive Sailing, Guyader / Mext and Hallucine set to sprint to Saint Lucia’s shores.
Family cruisers and double-handers are also set to join the fray together with multi award-winning disabled sailor and adventurer Natasha Lambert. Born with quadriplegic athetoid cerebral palsy, which affects her limbs and speech, Natasha will be sailing on board the specially adapted Bavaria Nautitech Open 46 catamaran Blown Away for her first Atlantic crossing, controlling the yacht using her breath and tongue.
The ARC+ fleet, set to depart Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on 8 November, will sail via Cape Verde for a pitstop before heading to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia. The smaller fleet has a particularly international flare this year, and has once again proved popular with families undertaking an Atlantic circuit.
Many sailors on their way to Las Palmas now have become used to the new normal of cruising during the pandemic. Safety at sea and managing risks are of paramount importance to any skipper and following hygiene practices, health monitoring and testing and adhering to social distancing all feature as part of the crew routine. Mitigating the risk of going to sea with an infection, there will be mandatory PCR test in Las Palmas, and Mindelo for ARC+, plus a 7 day isolation period before start day.
It has been agreed with the Saint Lucia Chief Medical Officer that time at sea will count towards the 14 day quarantine requirement currently required by Saint Lucia, meaning that only yachts with crossing times of less than 14 days will have to spend any time in quarantine on arrival.
World Cruising Club continue to monitor the situations, protocols and regulations in our start and finish ports for ARC+ and the ARC, as well as following guidance issued by World Sailing and the WHO.