Setting sail from the continent to the Caribbean remains one of the great sailing adventures. The last three decades has seen the popularity of cruising in company soar, a concept that’s not new since Christopher Columbus traveled in a fleet of three vessels during his famous 1492 voyage. Cruising rallies are especially gaining interest from veterans who enjoy the sociability and first time offshore sailors who appreciate the safety. Here’s what’s new from four popular Caribbean rallies taking place this year:
North Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
Newport, Rhode Island
Departure: October 28
Destination: St. Maarten, via Bermuda
Practiced yacht owners and professional skippers form the nucleus of the 18th annual North Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which homeports out of Newport Yachting Center. Here, discounted dockage is available starting October 23. A weather briefing, dinner for all skippers and crew are part of the pre-rally activities. The rally stops briefly in Bermuda at the St. Georges Dinghy and Sports Club and then continues to IGY’s Simpson Bay Marina, in St. Maarten.
“We expect to have the usual 15 to 20 boats,” says organizer, Hank Schmitt, who is also the chief executive officer of Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO), a crew network service based in Huntington, New York. “We have four Swans in the Swan Program and three boats from Rob Swain Sailing School as well as the usual boat repeats heading south. The NARC Rally has always ended in St. Maarten, but if boats wanted to go to the BVI or somewhere else I never made them finish in St. Maarten. We will continue that idea and let boats decide where they wish to base for the winter. The NARC boats are usually scattered from Grenada to Puerto Rico.
One of this year’s ralliers is John Slingerland, from Beverly, Massachusetts, who will sail his Oyster 41, Avocet, for the third time in the NARC. Slingerland, who this summer set a personal record of 58 consecutive hours under spinnaker during the Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race, says what he enjoys best about the rally is the camaraderie and excitement of setting off on a challenging trip and the pleasure of learning things from other like-minded sailors.
For first time NARC ralliers Slingerland recommends, “Get the right number of crew with the right number of sailors who know what they are doing. It’s usually safer to pick crew you know, but one time I took someone Hank recommend. The guy was a great person, excellent sailor and mechanical engineer so he fixed stuff. We sailed to St. Maarten with an inoperable engine that he got working long enough to power five minutes through the bridge into Simpson Bay,” he says. “In addition, if it’s your boat, be prepared to cut a check in each port for stuff that breaks. That way, it becomes part of the deal and isn’t a big deal. If your spouse isn’t onboard, get com gear to make a call or send an email halfway and try to get him or her to join you at the other end. Also, learn weather routing and have fun.”
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Schmitt, through his OPO, has started an online St. Maarten Relief Fund to help those in the nautical community. To donate, visit: www.sailopo.com/store.aspx
Salty Dawg Fall Rally
Departure: November 2
Bluewater sailors who enjoy a full range of social activities will set sail in the 7th annual Salty Dawg Fall Rally, hosted by the nonprofit Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA). Prior to the departure from the Bluewater Sailing Center in Hampton, ralliers have a chance to participate in a wide array of social, technical and educational activities, including the annual Salty Dawg Halloween Party. New talks this year include how to make your own ‘killer Mahi lure’ and inside info on how the USCG uses high tech methods in their search and rescue efforts.
A fleet of about 80 boats, a mix of monohulls and multihulls ranging in size from 34- to 70-feet, are expected to set sail.
New this year, the rally will end in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, instead of the British Virgin Islands, says SDSA director Hank George. “With the widespread damage across the BVI, we have changed the destination for the rally. While they did sustain some damage on Antigua, it was quite light. Their sister island of Barbuda sustained major and quite serious damage but not so with Antigua. Our visit to Antigua by such a large fleet will help bring much needed revenue to that island nation and aid in its recovery.”
In Antigua, George says, ralliers enjoy many of the same benefits that they are accustomed to in the BVI such as wonderful anchorage opportunities in Falmouth Harbour, historic sites in Nelson’s Dockyard, excellent marine services, plenty of opportunities for socializing, fascinating hikes and super dining options. Antigua also offers excellent flight connections to the US, England and Europe for crew flying out or guests coming in.
To support the Dawgs long-time rally home, the SDSA has started its tax-deductible Salty Dawg BVI Relief Fund. The organization’s volunteers have been working with local BVI Rotary and similar groups to channel all contributions to where it’s needed most. To contribute, visit: www.saltydawgsailing.org/hurricane-relief-fund/
Departure: November 5
Destination: British Virgin Islands
Returning veterans and cruising newbies from the US, Canada and UK will take part in the Carib1500, organized by the World Cruising Club, headquartered in Cowes, UK. The fleet’s largest boat is the Canadian Hanse 575, Spritzer, with rally stalwart Karina, a Tayana 55, the next largest. Six boats close the list at just over 40-feet, with Belize Magique, a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 40 being officially the smallest. Preparatory seminars and parties take place at the Ocean Yacht Marina, in Portsmouth. Underway, the ‘safety in numbers’ popularity of rallies extends offshore with satellite trackers on each vessel, daily weather forecasts and nightly SSB radio chats. Social activities continue at the end destination, Nanny Cay Marina, in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
“Since Hurricane Irma in September, the message we have had from the BVI, is that the community wants visitors to return, and that they will be open for business and able to give a warm welcome to returning boaters. In fact, Nanny Cay’s new marina basin was undamaged in Hurricane Irma,” says WCC communications director Jeremy Wyatt. “The reaction from our ralliers has been overwhelmingly positive. In coordination with www.sailorshelping.org, many of our boats will carry practical supplies to aid and assist the communities after our arrival and many crews are keen to lend a hand with practical skills as engineers and technicians.”
A good example of Carib1500 sailors, who used this event as a learning experience for longer cruises, are Steve and Kate Jenkins. The couple sailed their 44-foot Antares, Blue Summit, in the 2015 Carib1500. Since then, they have cruised half of the World ARC 2016, explored the Pacific for two years, and will soon complete their first circumnavigation.
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Departure: November 5
Destination: St. Lucia, via Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Departure: November 19
Destination: St. Lucia
Experienced cruisers as well as those fulfilling a bucket list dream to cross the Atlantic make-up the capacity 300-yacht fleet for both the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and the ARC+. The latter of which gives ralliers a short layover in Cape Verde prior to the transatlantic crossing to IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia. Some 1500 sailors, ranging from three to 80 years old and representing more than a dozen nationalities, will enjoy a pre-departure program of seminars and safety briefings along with local tours and social activities planned in St. Lucia.
The average length of boats in this year’s fleet is just below 50-feet. However, the Pogo 30, Avel Biz, is the smallest in the ARC, while at the other end of the spectrum and sailing in the ARC+ is the Sparkman & Stevens sloop, Altair. Multihulls have proved extremely popular, according to the WCC’s Wyatt, with an impressive total of forty-four catamarans and three trimarans on the entry list.
The industry-award-winning Lagoon 42-2 tops the list as the most popular model of boat in the ARC with seven sailing this year. It’s the first time a catamaran has been top of the pile as the boat of choice, showing the growing popularity of cruising on two hulls. A radical cruising boat in the fleet is the Rapido 60. Designed to be sailed double-handed, this 60-foot cruising trimaran is expected to break records.
“The ARC will be particularly special for two boats who are returning to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria three decades after they set off for their first ARC journey, as younger generations follow, quite literally, in their parents’ wake,” says Wyatt.
One is the 45-foot Cetus, Mateńka, built by Nikodem Jasiński in 1986 and sailed by him in the ARC 1987 to Barbados, where the rally used to make landfall. Back then, few Polish sailors took on such a journey as crossing the Atlantic. Thirty years later, and armed with Jasiński’s meticulously kept log books, his daughters Elisa and Joanna, have gotten Mateńka Atlantic-ready again for ARC 2017. The other is Haji, a Rival 38A which was built and sailed by Frank Nixon in the 1987 edition of the ARC. His son David and granddaughter Amy will now deliver Haji back to the Caribbean again, sailing the Cape Verde route.
The ARC is a popular ‘launch-pad’ for a round the world adventure, with 22 boats this year signed-up to sail on around the world from Saint Lucia in January with the World Cruising Club’s World ARC Rally.