Sailing Rallies Around the World

Every year, nearly 50 cruising rallies take place around the globe. There are rallies that cross the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Gulf Stream and even the Indian Ocean, routes that circle the Baltic, the Delmarva Peninsula and the World.
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Every year, nearly 50 cruising rallies take place around the globe. There are rallies that cross the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Gulf Stream and even the Indian Ocean, routes that circle the Baltic, the Delmarva Peninsula and the World. There are free rallies and paid rallies, inshore rallies and offshore rallies, rallies for racers and rallies for a cause.

The rally concept, however, hasn’t always been so seemingly ubiquitous. In fact, the first modern cruising rally occurred just 28 years ago, in 1986, when Jimmy Cornell started the first Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), a transatlantic trip that aimed to help European sailors get to the Caribbean in company for the winter. At the time, Cornell, originally from Romania, was working as a reporter for the BBC and sailing the globe with his family, frequently reporting back on his travels. After seeing the ARC quickly gain popularity, Cornell founded the World Cruising Club and expanded his offerings to include round-the-world rallies as well; he himself led five such rallies between 1986 and 2000. After Cornell sold the World Cruising Club to Andrew Bishop in 1998, the organization continued to grow and adjust to the times. Today, the World Cruising Club runs no less than 10 rallies every year.

After taking a decade off to focus on his writing (Cornell’s World Cruising Destinations and Cornell’s Ocean Atlas are widely considered the global cruisers’ bibles), Cornell came back on the rally scene with a new concept: “Odysseys.” These long-distance sailing events include a transatlantic, a transpacific and two round-the-world rallies, one focused on ocean health and one on amateur racing. All Odysseys place an emphasis on ocean awareness through ecological projects.

Over the years, a handful of other entrepreneurial rally hosts have also started events, expanding the breadth of rallies as well as the definition. For example, Steve Black’s Caribbean 1500, from Hampton, Virginia, to Nanny Cay, Tortola, has now led hundreds of boats south every year (the World Cruising Club acquired the rally three years ago and continues the tradition) while Hank Schmitt’s NARC Rally (North American Rally for Cruisers) has provided a free southbound rally from Newport, Rhode Island, to the Caribbean for 15 years. On the West Coast, Latitude 38 has been loosely organizing two rallies for the past 20 years: the Pacific Puddle Jump, which sails to French Polynesia, and the Baha-Haha, which takes a fleet of cruisers and racers from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. This year, SAIL is jumping in with a rally of its own: the Snowbird Rally down the Intracoastal Waterway.

The following rally preview provides a global perspective of the coming year’s major rallies. For a truly intimate view of the rally experience, we’ve included first-hand looks at three great fall rallies here in the United States: the storied history of the ICW and how the Snowbird Rally fits into it (page 38); an on-board look at the stormy running of the 2014 Delmarva Rally earlier this year and an explanation of the safety checks that go into all World Cruising Club events, highlighted by a look at the Caribbean 1500.

Since Jimmy founded the first sailing rally in 1986, these events have been making distance cruising more approachable for sailors of all stripes, from all ports.

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