My point is that if someone is going to put on an organized, sponsored sailing event (be it rally or race) that is this big of an off-shore passage - there should be a high standard of safety that participants should adhere to.
A high standard of safety yes. That is a given, but who sets this standard? Who is responsible for ensuring any given boat is 'safe'? What you say sounds good on the surface, but the issue is that what you are fundamentally talking about is taking responsibility for safety away from the skipper and handing it to someone else. This creates a false sense of security, you get a CAT 1 bumper sticker and a piece of paper saying you have sat in a liferaft in a pool with your mates so therefore you are offshore safe.
This is especially important in the case of a rally, where the notion of "cruising in a group" creates a false sense of security...which, in turn, creates undue risk for less prepared participants. This risk, therefore, is created by the organizers of the event - and can only be balanced by them requiring a higher standard of safety and preparedness (e.g. - ISAF regs).
I disagree that a rally 'creates a false sense of security'. I think anyone who is in a rallly to feel 'safe' when they otherwise wouldn't is an idiot. CAT 1 regs won't stop you being an idiot.
(PS - As "Mr. BFS", I have always advocated sailing big...pushing your envelope. Absolutely. But I've always advocated doing it safely. The bigger the sail, the higher your standards of safety and preparedness need to be. There's absolutely no conflict here. It's really just common sense...unless you want be believe an unprepared skipper should forever sail into serious trouble simply because he has the right to.)
The bigger the sail the higher my standards of safety are. I don't need ISAF, YA, RYA, Rally organisers to set them for me. These guys mean well but by their nature can only be a blunt instrument. I know the regs backwards, I have researched every aspect of them, and applied them as I believe appropriate to my boat, knowing it is my ass on the line.
Dress it up how you want, we differ on this Smack because you believes regulation equals safety. I don't necessarily.