Smack, I can't speak for the SDR, but they way these things (promotional events) usually work is that a sponsor picks up the costs of components of event. For instance; Bluewater Sailing Magazine sponsors ( pays for) Chris Parker's weather forecasts/routing.
Sponsors can purchase and provide a complete component like above, or contribute a portion of the cost of an event and become a co-sponsor. Obviously they are willing to do that in order to have their brand in front of a targeted market and perhaps personal access to the participants, via seminars, displays, or social events.
All the sponsors on their list are marketing products or services to this unique population, from rental cars, hotel rooms to marine products.
It sounds like the Rally organizers simply pull the whole thing together, which is a ton of work. That is probably why they are asking for sponsorship to hire someone part-time to help....it's grown beyond what most people would be willing to donate their time to.
Yeah, I understand that. One of my businesses is in the marketing realm. So I don't disagree with any of the above. My point is that revenue, on the part of the organizers and the sponsors, is absolutely involved in this equation - and the amount of money is likely dependent on the number of boats involved, creating an incentive to get that number as high as possible (that's marketing).
Whether the resultant cash from these sponsors is to hire a part-timer or buy an island is immaterial in the context of this debate. I'm simply talking about the motivations here - and the responsibilities in light of those motivations.
And, again, to be clear, that's the primary reason I think the rally is a completely different animal than some "stupid skipper" choosing to set out completely on his own. The outside influences and resulting responsibilities are very different.