Okay - I think I've figured out the fundamental problem here (I'm slow) via this statement by George Day of Blue Water Sailing (a sponsor of the SDR):
In Norfolk, Va., the Caribbean 1500 is also getting ready for their November start. A fee based event, the 1500 appeals to new cruisers who want the supervision of rally organizers who mandate gear and equipment for each boat and then provide in depth boat inspections.
This is in-line with Jon's and Ausp's - and others' - complaints about adding unneeded regulations and costs in sailing. If you are an experienced, capable skipper - why in the hell would you want the above? I think this is likely the primary reason these people split from the 1500 - and it makes perfect sense.
These people who have already done the trip are obviously not new cruisers, they don't need or want the supervision of rally organizers, and they don't need or want a gear/equipment mandate or inspection. And they certainly don't want to pay
for this stuff they don't need. They are confident in their experience, boat, knowledge, and capabilities. And this is all well-and-good...for the experienced cruisers
BUT, according to George's statement above, the SDR is in a very precarious position. Does it want to be what is was apparently founded to be: An alternative to rallies like the 1500 which are geared to "new cruisers" - i.e. - only for experienced cruisers
? Or does it want to be what it is envisioning for the future in its sponsorship pitch - to "demonstrate its roll [sic] as an educational organization by fostering and teaching seamanship, safe boat handling, navigation and other skills needed by blue water sailors" - i.e. - much more for new cruisers
The bottom line is that it can't be both under its current set-up. In fact, it's currently the worst of both worlds in my opinion.
If they recognize the 1500 as the kind of rally that provides the structure and education needed by new cruisers
(see the above quote), but then solicit these new cruisers
with a low bar to entry (in terms of both experience and cost) - without providing a similar structure...there's a serious problem.
Yes, it ALWAYS comes down to the skipper...solely and completely...period. That's unequivocal. But there are many, many different levels of skippers...the lesser experienced of which look to the more experienced for advice. So what advice do you give them?
Jon asked me this:
What, so now it's the responsibility of the SDR to issue public pronouncements of disapproval upon every hypothetical passage potentially being undertaken by some newbie out there?
Until the SDR has a safety and preparedness educational structure in place (like they say they are committed to doing) similar to the 1500's my answer to this question is: Absolutely
They should be willing to say exactly what Jon said (with a slight addition):
"A newbie without much offshore experience has no business sailing his own boat from Newport direct to the Caribbean in November.
If you insist on doing it, we'd recommend a rally like the C1500."
It is absolutely that simple.