Las Palmas Marina continues to buzz with activity as the ARC start on Sunday nears, with the jobs list steadily getting smaller for crews ahead of the arrival of provisions in the final days before departure. The docks are looking colourful with a myriad of code flags flying, and the diversity of the ARC fleet is on full show with over 140 yachts, large and small, monohulls and multihulls, old and new, now assembled.
There’s lots to do before crews set off but many continued with the seminar programme on Wednesday. Skippers wondering what to do after they have completed their ARC crossing were then able to find out the various options on how to return to Europe either with ARC Europe, using professional delivery crew from PYD, or by shipping the boat back home with Peters and May. They were then given a Guide to Atlantic Night Sky by celestial navigation legend Stokey Woodall, taking them through the constellations and wonders they can expect to see on the dark nights of an ocean crossing.
Following a break for lunch, ARC Weatherman Chris Tibbs, a meteorologist and a sailor with over 250,000 nautical miles experience, delivered a detailed seminar to the crews on routing options and weather to be anticipated during the crossing.
Attention then turned to the magnificent Caribbean island of Saint Lucia where ARC participants will make landfall. The Saint Lucia Tourism Authority shared tips and information with crews and let them know about the stunning areas to explore. IGY Rodney Bay Marina Manager Sean Deveaux ran through the practicalities of arriving in the full-service marina with over 250 berths, who always roll out the red carpet for the annual arrival of the ARC. Sean and his team will be giving crews a warm welcome with 2 nights complimentary dockage on arrival and discounts for those staying longer, and on summer storage packages. The Events Company Saint Lucia then gave an overview of the extensive programme that will be organised, featuring social functions, a sunset cruise to Anse La Raye, lectures on cruising the Caribbean and an opportunity to sample local produce from the special ARC Market, set up within the marina. Certainly worth crossing the Atlantic for!
After a long day of learning, it was time to unwind and have some fun at the annual ARC Costume Party. ARC crews sailed back in time to the 1970's - the disco decade – with the ARC Yellowshirt team turning pink for the night to welcome crews in their colourful outfits. Sounds of the 70’s got the party started and before floor-fillers and classic tracks were played to get the crews dancing late into the night! Prizes were awarded for the beat costumes in theme, and this year the category winners were Best Crew (Solis); Best Woman (Anni -Second Wave); Best Man (Bones - Emily Morgan); Best Couple (Vitamin Sea - Blanca & Ramiro); Best Girl (Oyai - Mika) and Best Boy: (Lohan - Jayana).
The Thursday before the start is traditionally ‘Safety Demonstration Day’ and whilst operational restrictions meant the air-sea helicopter transfer couldn’t be staged, it was still a chance to focus on dealing with emergencies that are thankfully a very rare occurrence on the ARC. Hamble School of Yachting actively encourage all members of the family to undertake training courses so that they can enjoy longer passages with confidence and this morning at the Club Varadero Maritimo swimming pool and under the guidance of chief instructor, Roger Seymour and the ARC safety inspectors, crews of all ages had the chance to experience just what it’s like to deploy and enter a liferaft. Roger said ‘Today is a recap for many but also a fun experience for all ages.’ The demo too crews through deploying a liferaft, manoevering in an inflated lifejacket and boarding the raft, a challenge even in the calm waters of the Varadero swimming pool.
“It was really interesting,” said 14-year-old Oskari Vesalainen, who is sailing with his family on the Swan 56 Toucan. “At this point it was kind of fun trying to get into the liferaft in the pool, but if you had to do it in a real situation at sea, it’s going to be scary. I think it’s really important to know how it works and what to do, and this has been very good to experience.”