Sailing allows us to travel long distances with relatively low carbon emissions, but the reality is that all yachts burn diesel for motive power and to generate electricity. Conscious of this impact, ARC organiser World Cruising Club has teamed up with local non-profit forestry organisations in both Gran Canaria and Saint Lucia to develop and sponsor a carbon offset project, planting trees where they are most needed, to help offset the carbon emissions created during the ARC crossing.
Andrew Bishop with Sergio Armas Robaina beside the first tree planted in the ARC forest in Gran Canaria
Andrew Bishop, who has run the ARC for World Cruising Club since 1998, explains the reason behind the offset project. 'There is a growing awareness amongst cruisers that yachting is perhaps not as 'green' as we like to think and more people are keen to help in small ways to change things. We are proud that the ARC Forests offer a direct way for cruisers to contribute with hands-on activities. This is not a vague promise by a third-party to do something in far-away place; our sailors actually see and touch the trees we sponsor!'
Since 2010, over 700 native trees have been planted by ARC volunteers on a deforested site in the mountains above Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; not only helping to offset carbon emissions, but also helping to recreate one of the most threatened eco-systems on Gran Canaria. As part of a five year commitment, paid for by World Cruising Club, the ARC Forest will eventually cover a hectare of land (10,000 m²), improving bio-diversity, reducing soil erosion and mitigating flooding. Managing the project is the Canaries based environmental charity Foresta, ensuring that the small trees planted by ARC crews will grow to become a true sustainable forest, linking areas of historic indigenous woodland to make a 'green cordon' around the mountain tops and restoring the native cloud forest eco-system.
Each year, the tree-planting day is popular excursion with around 100 ARC sailors taking time out from their Atlantic crossing preparations to learn about the reforestation project, plant more trees, and enjoy a picnic on the mountain side.
In 2012, World Cruising Club expanded their environmental commitment by creating the ARC Forest project in Saint Lucia. Working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Saint Lucia Rotary Club, the initiative aims to help preserve the river bank in Dennery, which was badly affected by hurricane flooding two years ago. All the trees planted at the site are mix of species native to Saint Lucia and crop trees producing spices, limes and walnuts that will benefit the local community. The trees are sponsored by World Cruising Club and ARC sailors have the chance to see a different side of the island, away from the tourist resorts of the North. In an area prone to seasonal hurricanes, reforestation can have a significant impact on the economy and livelihoods of local communities, reducing the risk of devastating floods and landslips.
ARC participants can donate to the reforesting projects with a suggested value per litre of diesel fuel carried aboard. Advice is given to each crew for the best way to calculate their carbon emissions generated by a tank of diesel and offset this against the number of trees planted. The funds raised go exclusively towards future sponsored days to help plant more trees in the ARC Forest. So far the scheme has raised over US$2,000 for the on-going development of the ARC Forest projects, as well as increased awareness amongst thousands of sailors for the need to preserve our shared environment.