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The Caribbean 1500 rally from Norfolk to the BVI got underway from Norfolk last Friday. You can follow the tracks of the boats and daily updates at the website Cruising Rally Association | Offshore sailing - Adventure, Camaraderie, Competition . I check in every day because we have friends who are making the trip this year.

I posted about it here because SailNetters interested in what's involved in an offshore passage planning and execution might be interested in following along with this year's rally.

For example: the start of the rally was delayed 5 days this year due to the low pressure system that came roaring up from the south early last week. By Thursday last week, the night before the scheduled departure, there was a hurricane (Paloma) forming in the western Caribbean with a five day track that looked like it might intersect the 1500 fleet sometime this week. This is the type of problem that can confront a skipper contemplating an offshore passage.

Let's recap the Skipper's Dilemma: You'd planned to leave 2 November. You delayed your planned departure five days to avoid what is obviously a bad weather system that would put your boat in danger if it hit you in the Gulf Stream. As the first storm passes with you tied to the dock, you're desire to get underway has been increasing every day because you know that the longer you postpone the departure into November the worse the weather will get. (Cold fronts, the source of gale force winds and high seas, come off the east coast every week or so in early November. By late in the month the frequence increases to every few days.)

So now, on Friday, you're ready to leave and the Nat'l Hurricane Center offers up Paloma for your consideration. Five day track shows it coming across the Bahamas and approaching you're estimated position five to six days hence. But... the forecasters say it will stall over the Bahamas and shouldn't pose too many problems by the time you get there.

Do you go to sea, trusting the forecasters that the storm will stall before it can do you any harm, or wait another week? Wait a week?? -- now you're two weeks into the month and the fronts get stronger and come more frequently.

So what are you going to do, skipper?

Go have a look at the 1500 website to see what they decided to do.

(Hint: it all worked out OK -- thus far).
 

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The Vendee Globe started two days ago and about a quarter of their fleet has already retired or returned to port with damage. They left right into the teeth of a Bay of Biscay 50 knot gale...
 

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For what it's worth a Gemini 105Mc - Footprint, set out with much the same schedule in mind from Morehead City NC on 10/25 with a destination of Antigua. They sailed through what the CRA stayed in for.

They arrived yesterday, 16 days at sea, 15 hours of engine run time.
SV Footprint

Gemini's my friends are blue water boats in the only definition that matters: doing it.

edit: added -
Keep in mind that at 33.5 feet, the Gemini is too small to participate as CRA requires 34 feet LOA (but may modify that etc..).
 

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For what it's worth a Gemini 105Mc - Footprint, set out with much the same schedule in mind from Morehead City NC on 10/25 with a destination of Antigua. They sailed through what the CRA stayed in for.
Chuckles,

If your friends left 10/25 they must have jumped across the Stream before the low came north, which let them ride the strong northerlies / westerlies on the trailing side of the low. Not a bad call -- but no doubt they had a few stressful days watching and waiting for Paloma to dissipate.

The strategy of the 1500 fleet was to shape a course for Bermuda, which most could have made by Monday or Tuesday when Paloma crossed over Cuba bound for the Bahamas. If the storm kept coming, they were going to hide out in Bermuda, if it didn't they'd shape a course for the BVI. It turned out well for the fleet. The lead boats are due in Totola this weekend.

I think the reason the 1500 does not allow smaller boats to join is primarily because it takes them much longer to make the passage. Big boats (50'+)will do it in 7-8 days, while boats in the mid 30' range often take 12 and often more days to complete the course. Late arrivals miss the partying at the other end.
 
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