Join Date: Sep 2004
Thanked 25 Times in 17 Posts
Rep Power: 10
I've done the Carib1500 twice. First time we found good value in our participation: it was my first long offshore passage as skipper and having expertise available beforehand and company while in transit provided some comfort for a new skipper. Additional value came in the "community" we became a part of during the run-up to departure and at the events at the end of the rally. We met lots of great people, many of whom we are still in touch with both ashore and afloat.
The second trip didn't generate as much value and, if I go south again in November, I think I can put the money involved (north of $1500 when it's all tallied up) to better use.
Let me take a crack at an analysis of the rally's "value added" for the skipper and crew of boat the size of yours. The rally's value is experienced in each of the three phases of the experience that I'll call "Before", "During" and "After".
"Before" there's real value in the safety checks, seminars, and general 'elbow rubbing' with other skippers and crews. If Steve pushes you out the door a day or so early you're going to miss some of this. (One of the posts above mentioned that he had accepted 33' boat but would have them leave early). Given the size of your boat I'd say you'd be lucky to average much over 5 knots. For you to arrive within even four or five days of the leaders, Steve would have to start you two or more days ahead of the fleet. If he does you miss much of the value of the run-up to the start. If he doesn't have you leave really early, it will impact the value in the next two phases.
"During" the rally the value provided by Steve Black and his crew centers on weather reports (one or two times a day from a professional forecasting service) which comes to you by radio nets conducted in the morning and evening. I've heard that Steve may be sending email wx info to all boats, but you'd have to have email access offshore to get them (Ham/SSB radio or sat. phone access are the cheaper ways to accomplish this). There is also real value in the company and support provided by having others within a hundred miles or so of your position throughout the trip. Steve's crew includes very experienced mariners who can help with most problems you might encounter from boat mechanics and electrical issues, rig, medical issues, communications, etc. They're available to you as needed on the SSB radio.
Given the speed of your boat relative to the "fleet", a 24 hour head start isn't going make much difference. Leave a day early and you'll very quickly be overtaken and left in the dust. If I recall correctly, the wx reports we recieved last year were based on two speed scenarios with boats doing 180 miles and 220 miles per day down the rhumb line. In your boat you'll be doing well at 120 miles / day. That means that within two or three days the forecasts received by the rally will be for patches of ocean a long way down the rhumb line from your position. As time goes on the value to you of these weather reports declines. Keep in mind that the weather reports are likely to be most valuable in the higher latitudes of the trip. Within a few days of the start the weather guessers Steve hires are going to be focusing their forecasts on the southern half of the route.
As the fleet runs by you the value of the "company of others" also declines. If you have problems help will be available on the radio, but if most of the boats are hundreds of miles ahead of you.....well, you get the picture.
In my view, Steve and many of his expert staff have a bad habit of riding in the big, fast, and most comfortable boats in the fleet. (Ask yourself, "Would I rather be going south in a 60 footer with catered meals and all the comforts a custom yacht can provide, or spend two weeks bouncing around in the V-berth of a 38 foot, light displacement, production boat?) Steve will be in Tortola on the lead boat (or no more than a few hours behind it) probably no more than six days after the start. Six days after the start you're going to be a few hundred miles south of Bermuda with a week or more yet to go before your arrival in Tortola.
For a few days after the lead boats arrive in the BVI the weather net and daily checkins will be handled by one of Steve's staff who is still at sea, but once the last of the staff arrive in Tortola the part of fleet that remains at sea is more or less on their own. (The rally ends at Nanny Cay on the south side of Tortola. The island blocks radio communication with the boats at sea to the north, so once the rally staff is tied to the dock their ability to help/communicate with boats at sea is severely restricted).
Bottom line is that in your situation, the value added "during" the passage is good for the first few days, but diminishes steadily after that.
Regarding value added in the last phase, "After" the rally ends.... this mostly involves comraderie around the bar and BBQ. The closing dinner will probably be no more than four days after the first boats arrive. If you're at sea, you may hear later about the great time had by all at pig roast and Mount Gay drinking contest, but....well, lets just say that rally organizers don't provide vouchers for dinner and drinks for late arrivals.
I think you can see why Steve's limiting participation by smaller boats -- laws of physics limit speed of displacement hulls. Having a fleet spread out over the ocean with some arriving in 6 days and others taking 16 doesn't lead to total satisfaction of all rally participants.
My guess is that Steve's willingness to let well-found smaller vessels into the rally is probably a realtively straightforward business decision. From the perspective of the owner of the smaller vessel you'll pay the same as the big boats and may recieve much less of the rally's value added in return. Whether is fair value for the price paid is hard to determine in advance.
Hope that helps in your decision-making.