Rally-O-RamaA rally can provide education, hard information, and resources that would otherwise take weeks to assemble on one's own; and traveling with a knowledgeable group can be an on-the water safety net for assistance with mechanical or medical problems.
Understand, however, that when you are out there, you are on your own. In the larger, more expansive rallies one can travel for days without seeing a sail on the horizon. The ultimate responsibility for the boat and crew lies with the skipper, not the rally organizers.
All rallies aren't created equal. Choose one that will be well tolerated by your boat, your crew, your boss, and your bank account. Talk to former rally participants and follow chats on rally web pages, and you will quickly realize that some rallies are geared to coastal cruisers who want to try offshore sailing, and others are intended to satisfy the thirst for challenge common to intermediate and veteran sailors. While we'd all like to think of ourselves as up to the challenge of any cruising task, that's not the reality. Have you embarked on an overnight sail? Ever been out of sight of land without freaking? We suggest you learn to "walk" by doing short offshore passages that won't take you into known turbulent waters or hundreds of miles offshore, before "running" on longer, more involved passages. And keep the following items in mind:
- Who are your crew? Experienced sailors looking for adventure? Your spouse? Children?
- Will they be able to tolerate the rigors of an offshore adventure?
- What are your goals? Do you want a challenge, a learning experience, or a fun family vacation?
- How much time can you spend away? One week? Two Years?
- Where do you want to go? Can you travel part way with a rally?
- Will transportation to and from the rally start and finish locations presents a problem for you or potential crewmembers?
After you've resolved all of that, here's a list of prospective rallies to get you started:
Blue Water Rallies Limited
This company, an offshoot of the Trade Winds Round the World Cruising Rally 1995 –97, was formed by its directors and participants. Contact Peter Seymour at www.yachtrallies.co.uk.
Blue Water Round the World Cruising Rally—leaves every two years from Gibraltar to cruise along the trade wind's equatorial route.
Rally Antigua—leaves Gibraltar annually, sails via Tenerife en route to Antigua and the Caribbean for Christmas.
Oz Med Rally—departs from Darwin in Australia each October and travels from the pacific and down under to the Mediterranean.
Biscay Triangle—annual cruising rally in the Bay of Biscay.
Blue Water Sailing School
This Ft. Lauderdale, FL-based organization offers ASA (American Sailing Association) offshore passage-making classes and opportunities for on-the water experience. Contact Ted Wheeler at 954-763-8464.
Ft. Lauderdale to Bermuda—10 days, May 4 -13, 2002.
Bermuda to Ft. Lauderdale—(Return trip) May 17 -26, 2002.
Small, but growing in popularity, this organization stresses a good weather window and participant involvement and uses seminars, workshops, and cruising videos. Contact Jim and Marjie Favors at www.nautechenterprises.com.
The Round Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) 400 Cruising Rally—governed by the ORC (Ocean Racing Council). Takes place each spring between end of May and beginning of June.
The New England 600 Rally—From Annapolis, MD to Camden, ME with an intermediate stop in Newport, RI. Takes place from mid-June to early July each year.
Snowbird Rally—from Block Island, RI to the Chesapeake Bay, this event is run annually in late September. (Can connect from this to Caribbean 1500).
Nova Scotia Adventure Cruising Rally—A new event from Camden, ME to Nova Scotia, it departs July 8, 2002.
Bahamas 500—Another new event that heads out from Beaufort, NC to the Abacos; departs Nov 10, 2002.
Offshore Passage Opportunities
Hank Schmidt coordinates rallies and crews. Contact him at www.sailopo.com.
North American Rally to the Caribbean—Newport, RI to St. Martin; departed Oct. 28, 2001. Stopover in Bermuda.
St. Martin to Newport, RI—with two fleets (May 12-24, 2002 and May 26-June 8, 2002). Transatlantic passages twice a year to southern France.
Mother Duck Cruise—Long Island, NY to Cape Cod, MA and back; usually in August.
West Marine Rallies
Two popular rallies organized by Steve Black and Hal Sufphen, which include passage maker seminars and a large volunteer crew list and many amenities. Contact www.carib1500.com.
Caribbean 1500—From Hampton, VA to Virgin Gorda, BVI; about 50 boats. Uses a gun start and cruisers have option to race.
Bermuda Cruising Rally—From Hampton, VA to St. George's, Bermuda and return. Combines ocean passage making with a week's relaxed cruising. June 16-July 1.
World Cruising Club
From the originators of the rally concept, these events are for yachts on a worldwide basis. Contact www.worldcruising.com.
Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC)—follows trade wind route from Canary Islands to St Lucia every year. 150-plus boats is the usual turnout.
ARC Europe—starts in St. Augustine, FL; also, from Antigua in the West Indies.
BT Challenge—a 10-month race around the world. US West Coast departure scheduled for late 2002.
Trade Winds Rallies
Royal Air Force Yacht Club holds rallies for cruising yachts. Amateur, non-commercial event sailed on a club-to-club basis. No racing. Takes one to two years; seminars and rendezvous included. Contact www.users.globenet.co.uk/~twind/.
USA 2001—Open to RAFYC members or members of clubs supporting the event. Departed from Europe fall 2001 to spend the winter in the Caribbean and visit Cuba, cruise eastern US seaboard, and return to UK via Bermuda and the Azores.