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2016 Fall Rally Round-Up

North Atlantic Rally for Cruisers 2015. Photo: David H. Lyman

Cruising rallies are one of the most popular ways for sailors to transit from northern climes to the Caribbean in the fall. Today, there are several rallies to choose from, each with its own personality.

Capacity Entries for 31st Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, ARC & Caribbean 1500 Ralliers Get Set for World Circumnavigation
It’s a full house for this year’s Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, with waiting lists in place by September. This means a total of 300 boats, the largest ever for this transatlantic maritime meet-up, will sail under the ARC banner this fall.

“ARC sailors have a choice of routes with the introduction of ARC+ Cape Verde in 2013, and two starts are planned for 2016,” explains Sarah Collins, communications executive for rally organizer, the World Cruising Club, in Cowes, UK. ARC+ will depart Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Sunday 6 November, sailing to Mindelo, Sao Vincente, Cape Verde for a 3- to 5-day stopover before the restart to Saint Lucia on 16 November. Seventy-five boats from 21 different countries make up the ARC+ fleet this year. The ARC fleet of 225 boats will start their own Atlantic adventure on November 20 sailing directly to Saint Lucia.

Entries in the bumper armada include two Comfortina 32s at the smallest end of the fleet, Anakin from Belgium sailing with ARC+ and Mosaikk hailing from Norway sailing the direct route. At the other end of the spectrum is the Ron Holland-designed luxury aluminium superyacht Lemanja, from Mexico. Alongside production boats, among which are twenty newly built Beneteaus, Lagoons, Oysters and Catanas, are wooden schooners, carbon fiber racers and multihulls. The latter have proved extremely popular with an impressive total of forty catamarans sailing this year. The ‘grand old lady’ of the ARC fleet is Christophe von Reibnitz’s 1936 Henry Gruber-designed yawl, Peter von Seestermühe, which has been sailing with the ARC regularly since 1990.

Up the mast on Toujours Belle ARC 2015. Photo: Clare Pengelle
Up the mast on Toujours Belle ARC 2015. Photo: Clare Pengelle

“After the ARC Course Record has fallen for the past three years, it will be interesting to see if any of the 35 boats in the Racing Division, particularly super maxi Rambler 88 from the USA and two duelling Volvo 70s, the Maldives’ Trifork and Myanmar’s Sanya, can mount a challenge on Team Brunel’s record of 8d 7h 39m 30s set in 2015,” says Collins.

Chris Tibbs delivers weather and route information at the skippers’ briefing ARC 2015. Photo James Mitchell
Chris Tibbs delivers weather and route information at the skippers’ briefing ARC 2015. Photo James Mitchell

The ARC+ fleet should start arriving at IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia around November 27, with prize giving set for this group on December 7. The majority of ARC ralliers will make its Caribbean landfall in Rodney Bay by December 12, with the awards ceremony on December 17. ARC festivities in St. Lucia are numerous and include a Welcome Party by the tourist board, cultural activities, live music performances and lectures on Caribbean cooking and cruising.

Meanwhile, along America’s Eastern Seaboard, 30-plus entries are set to cast off in the ARC Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas. The two groups depart together from Portsmouth, Virginia, on November 6, en route to Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVI and Marsh Harbour, Abacos, respectively.

Isbjorn arrives in Nanny Cay – ARC Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas 2015. Photo: Mia Karlsson
Isbjorn arrives in Nanny Cay – ARC Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas 2015. Photo: Mia Karlsson


Sail Away arrives in Nanny Cay, BVI - ARC Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas 2015. Photo: Mia Karlsson
Sail Away arrives in Nanny Cay, BVI – ARC Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas 2015. Photo: Mia Karlsson

“The entry list for this year’s ARC Caribbean 1500 boasts plenty of familiar faces from previous World Cruising Club rallies for the sail south. Just one example are British live-a-boards John and Joyce Easteal, who will be taking their Hallberg Rassy 42F Starblazer to the BVI with the rally as part of an epic four-year adventure that includes a circumnavigation with the World ARC with a year’s break to explore the South Pacific. Since 2009, the Easteal’s have sailed in nine WCC rallies,” says Collins.

Fleet at anchor in Niue –World Arc 2015-2016. Photo: Troels Jensen
Fleet at anchor in Niue –World Arc 2015-2016. Photo: Troels Jensen

More than a dozen entries in the ARC Caribbean 1500, ARC+ and ARC make up the international fleet of nearly 30 boats that will set sail from Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia on January 7, in the World ARC 2017. The first leg takes the fleet to Santa Marta, Colombia, before cruising to the idyllic San Blas Islands and transiting the Panama Canal. Other highlights of the planned cruise include stop-overs in the Polynesian islands, Christmas and New Year’s in South Africa, Carnival in Brazil and heading back to the Caribbean via Grenada to finish in St. Lucia in April 2018. worldcruising.com


Swan Program Gains Popularity at North American Rally to the Caribbean, New Bermuda Rally for 2017
The North American Rally for Cruisers (NARC) will depart from the Newport Yachting Center, in Newport, Rhode Island, November 1, with a first leg sail to Bermuda to the St. Georges Dinghy and Sports Club, and then second leg to St. Martin. It’s a formula that has worked well for nearly two decades for this rally for professionally skippered boats and veteran offshore sailors, according to organizer Hank Schmitt, who is also the chief executive officer of Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO), a Huntington, New York-based crew network service.


“The NARC started as a way to move the Swan charter fleet to the Caribbean and the Swan Program remains one of the great components of the rally,” says Schmitt, who will skipper the Swan 48 Avocation. “This year we have three great boats and skippers. You can pay a very reasonable fee compared to any other vacation in price and sail 1500 miles on a million-dollar boat (i.e. Swan 60). You can spend hours a day on the helm if you wish. These are very cool boats to sail on a challenging classic offshore passage.”

Each Swan, which in addition to Avocation includes another Swan 48 and a Swan 60, has a crew of six including the skipper. This means two person watches with three hours on watch and six hours off. All crew have their own bunk. The per person crew cost is $2750 for the 18 days all-inclusive except airfare to and from the boat and any meals ashore outside the NARC Rally socials.

The NARC fleet and other cruisers will meet up February 12th to 19th 2017, for a rendezvous at Yachtie Appreciation Week in Dominica.

“I am hoping to have 40 of the planned 50 moorings in place by then in Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth,” says Schmitt, whose OPO members donated funds for the moorings.

The big new rally news from Schmitt is its Rally to the Cup. The Rally sets sail on 7 June 2017 from six East Coast U.S. ports en route to Bermuda for the America’s Cup finals. The ports are in Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina and Florida.

Heading south – NARC 2015
Heading south – NARC 2015

“The Rally to the Cup is all about promoting the rally concept and getting as many boats to Bermuda as possible to enjoy watching the competitive side of the sport,” say Schmitt. sailopo.com


New Association, New Rally from Southern Caribbean for Salty Dawgs
The latest news from Salty Dawg Rally organizers is the formation of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA). Since 2011, when a small group of experienced offshore sailors dubbed themselves the Salty Dawgs and began an annual cruise-in-company from the Chesapeake Bay to the British Virgin Islands, the event has grown from a single fall Rally to a wide range of sailing-related activities held throughout the year. Thus, the name change reflects the broader nature of the non-profit organization, whose educational mission is for experienced offshore passage makers to share experience with those who wish to learn more about the sport and the adventure it presents. Membership is $75 annually. The Salty Dawg Rally is for blue water sailors who have completed at least one blue water passage.

Fifty-one pound mahi mahi caught by crew of Flash during the Salty Dawg Rally 2015
Fifty-one pound mahi mahi caught by crew of Flash during the Salty Dawg Rally 2015

“Rally participants will likely all join the SDSA, which will further the bonds with fellow Dawgs well after the Rally,” says spokesperson Hank George. “Flying the new burgee of the Association will foster continued get-togethers in the Caribbean and beyond. In fact, the SCSA has rendezvous scheduled at Frangipani Restaurant in Bequia; Bamboushay Lounge in Tortola; Foxy’s in Jost Van Dyke; Portsmouth, Dominica; an annual (huge) dinghy drift in Francis Bay, St. John, and several meet-ups later in the year in the US.”

Over 100 yachts are expected to participate in this year’s SDSA’s Fall Rally. These vessels range from a Westsail 32 to a Hylas 70. Several skippers or crew are USCG licensed captains. There is no age limit to participate. In fact, ages of participants typically range from four- to eighty years-old.

“The collection of over 20 catamarans will be the largest fleet of catamarans going offshore together in any rally in the US, ever. This is perhaps an indication of this growing class of vessel,” says George.

Cruisers will start arriving to the Blue Water Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia, on October 25. During the week, crews have opportunities to sightsee, socialize at several parties and attend numerous safety lectures and demonstrations. Departure is set for November 2. Family and friends can follow the fleet’s progress offshore in real time via the Fleet Viewer on the SDSA’s website. The Rally ends in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, where a rally arrival dinner takes place at the Bitter End Yacht Club.

Salty Dawgs arrival party at the Bitter End, BVI
Salty Dawgs arrival party at the Bitter End, BVI

In addition to the formation of the SDSA, new this year is the Bequia to North Sound, BVI Rally. This event is for sailors who leave their boats in the Southern Caribbean to get work done or avoid hurricanes and would like to enjoy the company of other Salty Dawgs on the sail back to the northern Caribbean.

“The plan is, weather permitting, to depart Bequia on November 9 and hopefully the northbound fleet will arrive in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, close to the same time as the arrival of our southbound fleet,” says Phil Worrall, who will lead the rally aboard his Caliber 40, Rum Runner. “In addition to the rally, we are having an SDSA Rendezvous for the northbound fleet and others with dinner at the Fig Tree Restaurant on November 7 and a free Pain Killer Party with a steel band followed by a dinner at the Frangipani Restaurant on November 8. All SDSA boats in the area and any non-SDR friends are welcome to come.”

Over 400 boats and more than 1,600 sailors have participated in the Salty Dawg Rally, started in 2011 by Bill and Linda Knowles, of Bristol, Rhode Island, aboard their Jeanneau 54DS, Sapphire, with their Jack Russell terrier, Brie, the original ‘Salty Dawg’. www.saltydawgsailing.org


Rallies Bring Millions of Dollars to Caribbean Island Economies
Caribbean island governments measure the economic impact of tourism chiefly through airlift, cruise ship arrivals and overnight resort stays. Yet over the past three decades since the first rally, the ARC, started, a quartet of cruising rallies are now adding to island coffers in a startlingly significant way.

“Our estimate of spending directly in the Caribbean due to the fall rally to the Caribbean (excluding airfares) is about US $2.5 million per season,” says Hank George, spokesman for the Salty Dawg Sailing Association. “We figure each year most of our fleet, that’s 80 to 100 boats with 300 to 400 sailors aboard, cruises the Caribbean extensively. The owners will be aboard and cruise for most of the season, while their crew will stay a shorter period and fly back home to either the US, Canada or Europe. Most all have family or friends fly in to join the vessels’ owners for a one to several weeks’ vacation. About half or more of our fleet chooses to leave their vessels in the Caribbean after the winter season, and fly back the following season, which means they engage local yards, marinas and services from Puerto Rico to Trinidad & Tobago.”

Organizers of the ARC, estimate that in 2015, skippers, crews and their families spent over US $2 million in Saint Lucia on expenditures such as berthing, marine services and hospitality in port, plus entertaining family and friends that joined them on the island to celebrate the boat’s arrival.

“After the ARC, 60% of our boats stay to independently cruise the islands for the season and 20% sail in the spring time regattas,” explains Sarah Collins, communications executive for rally organizer, the World Cruising Club.

Hank Schmitt, organizer of the North Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and chief executive officer of Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO), a crew network service, has participated in 12 St. Maarten Heineken Regattas, 11 Antigua Sailing Weeks, three BVI Spring Regattas and nine Swan Rendezvous in the years he’s operated the rally.

“What I and other OPO members, friends and ralliers have spent taking part in Caribbean regattas must run US $60,000 to $80,000 a year and that is just for one boat. Dockage alone is half of this. Consider we averaged 20 boats a year on the NARC for the past 16 years and the expenditure is a huge number,” says Schmitt.


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