If a newb came on SN saying "I don't have much off-shore experience, but I'm planning to leave from Newport and head down to the BVIs in November, what should I think about here?"
Would you really say...
Well, here's what I would say:
Don't do it... A newbie without much offshore experience has no business sailing his own boat from Newport direct to the Caribbean in November...
I think a major issue here might be the sharply contrasting view of less experienced sailors to that of more experienced sailors. Us less experienced sailors that want to do offshore runs have no idea what "get[ting] yourself to a place where you are comfortable with your level of prep and readiness" actually means. Yet we understand that we "are going to go" and we will "take it seriously". But really, those are just platitudes. What do we actually need to do?
Well, to use your own words, you need to "get an idea what "get[ting] yourself to a place where you are comfortable with your level of prep and readiness" actually means." In this regard, rallies actually can serve some purpose - by affording the opportunity to gain offshore experience, by sailing as crew, on someone else's boat...
The other alternative for the less experienced sailor, apart from going out and guessing, is directly learning from those more experienced - like in a rally setting. As you say, "I think rallies potentially offer some real benefits to people with less experience."
You're right... By sailing with someone more experienced, aboard their boat
... It's a delusion to think someone is gonna learn anything from other more experienced sailors in the fleet, once boats have left the dock...
But why then are the most experienced sailors around here (and elsewhere) so set against being in these rallies themselves? Does this mean that maybe these rallies aren't the best place to learn those lessons required for being a self-sufficient skipper? And if this is true, AND if the experience bar for entry is low, is this a recipe for problems?
If a rally is supposed to be for the benefit of those with less experience, then make it so with good, clear guidelines and assistance. What a great learning experience!
However, if a rally is supposed to be for "seasoned sailors", then stick to that with a higher bar for entry.
It's the mixing of these two things, expectations of the experienced with allowance/encouragement of the inexperienced, that causes the problems.
Well, that's the rub, of course... I have a real problem with the notion that these rallies can realistically be run "for the benefit of those with less experience". It's an absurd notion, that the sea might make 'concessions' for newbies. It's been stated earlier, and I believe you voiced agreement, that unless one has the confidence, skills, boat, and crew to undertake such a passage entirely on their own
, they have no business making the trip, period...
Of course, many newbs don't want to hear this, of course... "I just bought a brand new Bluewater Beemer with a Joystick Docking option, why can't I sail straight to Paradise NOW?"
This takes us to another elephant in the room, something I alluded to earlier, the rush to accelerate the learning curve today, and the dismissal of the notion of any sort of Offshore Sailing Apprenticeship
John Harries writes elsewhere about this issue, how he sailed tens of thousands of miles, numerous passages to and from Bermuda, on OPBs before ever undertaking such a passage as skipper... Of course, the opportunity I've had to run OPB's boats is pretty unique, but I crewed on races to Mackinac, Mazatlan, Halifax, Jamaica, Bermuda, and probably racked up 100K miles delivering other people's boats, before I ever owned a boat capable of being sailed offshore, of my own... However, such a notion of apprenticeship, learning by taking comparative 'baby steps' offshore, is hopelessly old-fashioned these days, and only serves to have us 'old-timers' who continue to promote its value, branded as a dreaded "Elitist"...:-) How dare we suggest the need for such a protracted learning process, and that experience today cannot be gained instantaneously, without all that introductory stuff? We've already eliminated the need to learn the most difficult chore, and the element that heretofore has prevented newbs from venturing offshore - namely, how to navigate - after all...
Surely, in today's world, there must be an app for this, no? :-)