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Safety first – equipment checks and hi-line helicopter demo

Roger Seymour is senior instructor at Hamble School of Yachting and also in charge of the ARC Safety team. With his wealth of knowledge, he explained the procedures to participants as they attentively watched the Air-Sea Rescue helicopter demonstration provided by SAR Las Palmas as it took place in the sheltered port waters.

The excellent demonstration saw an enactment of a hi-line transfer where a diver was dropped down from a rescue helicopter on a wire directly into the sea (sometimes they may be onto the vessel instead). “As the helicopter arrives they often fly over to have a look at the general conditions. They prefer to go into the wind so if you are given a course to steer, it’s normally 30 degrees off the wind with the wind on the port bow,” explained Roger in his informative commentary.

“The helicopter prefers it if the boat is moving forward fast, if possible. Instructions are given on the radio before arriving and the briefing is internationally very similar. A course and speed on which to steer is then given and must be followed without deviation before being instructed on how they will lower a line to the boat. The hi-line is a long line with a weighted sack on the end. Normally this will be dipped into the water before it can be taken on board and grabbed; preferably with a pair of gloves on. It’s a good idea to have a bucket nearby so that as you pull the line you can coil the rope into the bucket so it doesn’t get tangled on anything. Never tie it onto your boat!

“As the diver came down on the wire, Roger explained that the person on the boat would pull the line, which can be quite hard, particularly if there’s a swell. As the diver on the wire gets closer to the boat he will give instructions visually on how and when he wants to pull you in. When he lands on the boat it’s normally on the port quarter and they drop him on the deck. As soon as he’s on the deck he will unclip himself from the wire and then the boat’s crew would feed the hi-line out again and the helicopter will back off. The diver will give instructions of whatever is necessary on the boat and if they are evacuating a person, the crew will then pull the hi-line back in.

“The diver or stretcher will attach itself and then you slowly ease out the hi-line to go up the helicopter and everything is good. Sounds easy, it’s not. When the heli is overhead it is incredibly noisy so you can’t communicate in a normal way. Also the downdraft on the heli causes spray so you need to prepare your boat before it arrives by removing any loose objects and anything that’s sticking up on the port quarter of your boat. The divers are very physically fit but think about what is the best access on your boat in the ocean in a swell. The diver will then take control.”


Crews watched closely as the demonstration unfolded and it provided a very valuable insight into how such a rescue would work at sea.

Giving an update on how the ARC safety inspections are progressing so far, with 10 days until the start, the ARC safety officer said: “Boats are arriving a little later this year, probably due to the various Covid restrictions, but as is normal, some boats are very well prepared. There are always a few that need some guidance from our highly experienced safety team and this is done to remind skippers that they are sailing across an ocean as opposed to sailing in coastal waters or in the Mediterranean. They need ocean going safety equipment, not those suitable for inland waters.”

“The purpose of the safety checks is a brief overlook to give advice. We want to make certain that skippers and crews are sure they have the bare minimum of equipment. We are also on board to answer any questions, especially if they haven’t done an ocean voyage or an extended voyage before. It is very much a two way inspection though and when people sign up to the ARC they receive the ARC rally handbook which includes extensive information on the safety requirements for the ARC.”

Today is also the final day of the ARC Kids Club and the children have enjoyed three days of planned activities, including sailing and other watersports, as well as games on shore with the Federación Insular de Vela de Gran Canaria.

Tomorrow’s programme will see participants joining the ARC Forest Tree planting excursion. Since 2010, almost 3,000 native trees have now been planted by ARC and ARC+ volunteers on deforested sites in the Arucas mountains above Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and ARC organiser World Cruising Club has teamed up with local non-profit forestry organisations in Gran Canaria to develop and sponsor a carbon offset project, planting trees where they are most needed, to help offset the carbon emissions created during the Atlantic crossing.

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