It seems not a year goes by without a new transatlantic rally is announced. This is hardly surprising when you look at the success of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC).
To set up and run a major rally is no easy task. To attract sailors to your new event, you must offer something different. The Christmas Caribbean Rally (CCR), from Lanzarote to Antigua, does just that.
Mikaela Meik, events manager for Sailing Rallies, the company behind the CCR, told All At Sea why they created the new event.
“When we launched, the ARC was the only other transatlantic rally. We completed it ourselves (and also the ARC Europe) – and had a fantastic time! What became clear through was that it was oversubscribed and it is limited to people who can afford to take a large chunk of time off to take part in November and early December. Therefore, people who are working or have children in school or university will find it easier to take the time off over Christmas and do the transat.
“Going over the Christmas holiday period enables a wider selection of people to be involved and crucially means the trade winds are more likely to be fully established making for a better passage.
“There will be lots more music” adds Mikaela who, like her Sailing Rallies business partner, John Simpson, is an accomplished musician.
One difference between the Christmas Caribbean Rally and the ARC is the lower, 21.5ft (6.5m) LOA size limit. This is the same length of boat as those that take part in the Mini Transat, which this year had 85 yachts racing across the Atlantic.
“It is perfectly acceptable for smaller boats to cross oceans. Sometimes it’s the smaller boats that are more likely to need the support that comes with sailing in a rally. Whether you’d want to cross an ocean in a 21ft boat is another question!” says Mikaela.
The decision to allow smaller, well-found boats to sail under the umbrella of a well-organized rally and not be excluded because the owner’s budget doesn’t run to a bigger vessel is welcome.
“You don’t need to be a millionaire and own an expensive boat to take part in one of our rallies,” Mikaela adds.
The rally say they chose Jolly Harbour, Antigua, as their finishing point because facilities there are perfect for boats finishing an ocean passage. “ Flights are convenient for crew changes and the yachting infrastructure is all ready to cope with demand.”
Safety is on the minds of every would-be offshore sailor and the CCR are strict on this point.
“We take safety very seriously and our requirements are based on the ISAF special regulations.”
Boats will be subject to a safety inspection by the organizers before the start of the event and if an individual yacht fails to meet the basic safety level requirements, their place in the CCR is liable to be withdrawn without a refund.
Alan Ryall and his wife Terry – owners of the Island Packet 465, Seminole Wind – are taking part in the rally.
Posting on the Sailing Rallies’ website, Mr Ryall said: “We have been splitting our leisure time between the UK and USA for a while now and the Christmas Caribbean Rally seems a great opportunity to achieve an ambition of sailing across the Atlantic. We have chartered pretty much across the world, Caribbean, USA, Indian Ocean and Asia but we have never crossed an ocean on our own keel, so it is a really exciting adventure.”
No rally is complete without a list of social events.
“We think social events really compliment the sailing,” says Mikaela, “so a full social schedule takes place in the Canaries and the Caribbean. This is not just a load of beer and parties – we are musicians ourselves so a great emphasis will be placed on live music (anyone is welcome to bring an instrument), and also the different cultures on each island will be fully incorporated.”
In keeping with the ARC, the new rally has a racing division. Boats entered include the Volvo Ocean 60 Cuba Libre.
Sailing Rallies also run a rally around the southern Baltic – The Baltic 4 Nations Rally visits Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Poland. “It won’t be as warm as the Caribbean,” says Mikaela, “but it will be just as much fun and also have a great selection of music!
For more information, visit: www.sailingrallies.com