What better place to enjoy Christmas than in the Caribbean where the sun shines and the sand on the beach is as white as snow?
The second annual Christmas Caribbean Rally leaves Lanzarote on Sunday December 14th bound across the Atlantic to the historic island of Antigua. The event is organized by UK-based Sailing Rallies who run several European rallies throughout the year. From the beginning, the company realized that they faced strong competition from the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) but the ARC’s November start date made it difficult for some would-be ralliers to take part and the Christmas Caribbean Rally was born.
“The timing is everything as many can’t get time off from work to go in November,” explains Mikaela Meik of Sailing Rallies.
Although only in its second year numbers are up and the rally is attracting people from all walks of life: families, experienced blue-water passage makers and sailors undertaking their first ocean crossing.
Last year, Mike Broughton was the weather router for the rally, this year he is taking part with his partner, brother, his two sons and a nephew. To say Broughton is an experienced sailor is an understatement, he has made countless Atlantic crossings and taken part in a number of Sydney-Hobart and Fastnet races. He worked on the mighty J Class yacht Velsheda and recently won the Swan Worlds on the boat Nikata. Broughton says he considered taking part in RORC Transatlantic Race “but it was the way the CCR brought crews together in Lanzarote and Antigua” that made him want to take part with his family.
“Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote proved to be a popular venue for the start of the rally and, because it worked so well, the pre rally program will be on similar lines and will include safety briefings, a liferaft demonstration, wine tasting and a tapas master class,” says Mikaela.
And there will be music … Mikaela is a top class musician who studied classical violin at the Royal Northern College of Music before working in the world of sailing. “The music was very well received last year,” she says and encourages people to take their musical instruments with them on the rally.
Using Nelson’s Dockyard as the rally’s finishing marina has been a popular choice with participants and new this year is a special celebration ‘Taste of the Caribbean’ evening held in association with the Admiral’s Inn.
Also new in 2015 is the Antigua 2 Falmouth Rally for boats going to Europe and the UK. The event, in association with Antigua Yacht Club, offers a choice of a racing or cruising division and is run in two parts. Leg one (Approx. 2300nm) goes from Antigua to Horta, Faial in the Azores where boats enjoy a short layover to relax, recover, re-stock and change crews (if necessary) before leg two. Boats heading for the Med finish in Horta. Leg two (1250nm) takes the boats to Falmouth to enjoy the Falmouth Classics Regatta and leaves enough time for them to reach the Solent for the Round the Island Race on June 27th.
Unlike other long distance rallies, the CCR encourages small boats to take part by lowering the minimum LOA to 21ft (6.4m). This opens up ocean rallying to sailors with a seaworthy boat and a limited budget who are usually excluded from such events. However, all yachts under 30ft should contact the organizers prior to booking and a decision to take part will depend on the yacht’s suitability and preparedness for an extended ocean passage.
The CCR, with its warm, fun and intimate atmosphere, will attract more boats every year and already boats that took part in other events organized by Sailing Rallies, delighted with the way they are run, are making plans to join the CCR.
“Having completed the first edition of the rally we only have words of thanks to the team responsible for the organization,” says the skipper of Tjula, a Barracuda 50.
He added that from the minute they signed up it was spectacular with every detail taken care of throughout many memorable moments.
“Activities, drinks, dinner with all participants always under the watchful eye of Mikaela and John (Simpson) who joined us at all times making us feel like family and enjoying every moment. Laughter and good times. Summary: Spectacular. Embrace.”
For full details, visit: www.sailingrallies.com
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He is and the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. For more information visit: garyebrown.net