Smack stop writing and tell us which rally you are going to join...
After all you are 4 times as experienced as Jon...well you have written 4 times as much...Is that the same thing?
I have right at 1500 off-shore miles. All of those have been on distance races and/or return deliveries crewing/driving other people's boats. Therefore, I consider myself on the "newb"-end of the experience scale.
In other words, I'm the perfect candidate for the SDR. I qualify.
Now, I personally can't stand the idea of a rally. BUT, if I were to do one at this point in my experience, I would - without hesitation - do the C1500 (even with the steep price tag). No freakin' way would I do the SDR (even though it's free).
I race off-shore, so I'm used to equipping and sailing to ISAF OSR (usually Cat 2) standards. My opinion is that if you're not willing to learn those standards (or equivalent) and bring yourself, your crew, and your boat up to them (or at least very close) - you shouldn't be out there. Period. The C1500 would "help" me get there (just like any racing Organizing Authority - OA - would), with "adult supervision" I'd happily accept - because it makes sense. The SDR wouldn't.
You have to pay to play. But most people are very, very tempted by a free lunch. And the SDR is essentially offering that via its "this is cruising not racing" mentality...even though you're in exactly the same stretch of water and same potential conditions as an off-shore race would be.
Do ISAF regs "guarantee nothing will go wrong"? Of course not. Only a complete moron would draw that conclusion - or need proof that lack of experience increases risk and causes big problems. But I could very, very easily join the SDR with a dangerously ill-equipped boat and crew and give it a whirl (e.g. - they don't know if I really have a life raft or not). Sure, in the end, it legally would be on me if we all ended up in the water - not them. But they are absolutely fostering
this possibility and risk by the way they have things set up as the "Organizing Authority". That's fundamentally what Harries decries I think. And any racing OA that tried that would be shut down in a heartbeat (that's what I personally think the USCG's MSA was about - a shot across the bow).
Would I do the trip myself apart from a rally at my current level of experience? Well, I almost have our boat up to Cat 1 standards (maybe Cat 2+). So I'm getting there. But there is no way I'd attempt that run in Oct/Nov...rally or not. I completely believe and agree with Jon's and Harries' advice on this. I would want to try it first in a much mellower time of year - just to get the boat completely shaken down, learn the routes, etc. (Maybe a couple of times before trying it in the fall.) For me to try to jump into that trip with such small and volatile weather windows - rally or not - would be stupid. I know that.
Yet, again, I qualify.
So, in the end, I'm all about working my way up slowly, learning everything I can from those who know - especially racers who understand the benefits of standards. I'm in no hurry to jump in over my head - even if a particular rally tells me I can and offers me lots of freebies to do so and grow their numbers. I'm the skipper. I'll make my own decision.