With all the rallies to choose from, there’s a perfect route for every sailor in every corner of the world. While all rallies take pride in creating community, providing logistical support and most of all making sailing safer for their participants, they each have their own specialties. Here are some options for those interested in cruising in company.
World Cruising Club
The world cruising club hosts some of the most popular rallies out there, and with so many available options, it’s no wonder why. Their shore team organizes a warm welcome in every port, parties, pre-departure briefings and support. The following are a few favorite routes. For more information, visit worldcruising.com.
Crossing the Atlantic from Las Palmas to St. Lucia, the ARC attracts over 200 boats and 1,200 people every year. The 2,700-mile route welcomes everyone from families to racers, aboard boats both big and small. Two weeks of pre-departure activities help solidify the sense of community and friendships made, a point of pride for this event. Some sailors can also opt to do the ARC+, an alternative route that begins two weeks earlier and includes a stopover in either Cape Verde or St. Vincent. The 2019 ARC starts November 24 and typically takes 18-21 days to complete.
The World ARC begins at St. Lucia or Australia for those interested in either a full or half circumnavigation. The 26,000-mile tradewind marathon takes place in stages and is paced to ensure the fleet stays together, avoids bad weather and has plenty of time to enjoy visiting the many locales along the way. It’s ideal for families, retirees and couples looking for friendly circumnavigation companions. The 2020-21 World ARC begins on January 11 with the finishing up by late March 2021
This west-to-east Atlantic crossing has two starts, with beginning in either Portsmouth, Virginia or Nanny Cay in the BVI. The two fleets then meet in Bermuda and carry on to the Azores where time is set aside for sightseeing before continuing on to Portugal’s Marina de Lagos. The WCC notes that the ARC Europe “is a convivial way to start a European adventure or to end a Caribbean season.” This year’s ARC Europe begins on May 4 and is scheduled to finish up by mid-June.
The “1500” is on many a cruiser’s bucket list as the longest-running North American rally, with the fleet sailing from Portsmouth, Virginia, to Nanny Cay in the BVI. Timing a trip to the Caribbean can be difficult because of the hurricane season and winter storms. However, the ARC’s support team helps take the stress out by choosing the weather window, ensuring that cruisers make it to warmer waters as safely and comfortably as possible. A week-long pre-departure program also helps sailors prepare for the passage ahead. Dates for 2019 had not yet been released at press time, but sailors can expect to leave in early November and be en route for about 12 days.
Salty Dawg Sailing Association
Hosting several rallies per year in the United States and Caribbean, the Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) is a nonprofit created for the purpose of allowing seasoned ocean sailors volunteer their time and help developing sailors safely realize their dreams of cruising. In its rallies, the SDSA provides weather routing services (including predeparture forecasts and daily updates while en route), communication with experienced advisors and online tracking for the fleet, all with an eye toward creating “high-quality events with the greatest possible value at the lowest possible entry fee.” Typically, SDSA fleets are made up of about one-third multihulls. For more information, visit saltydawgsailing.org.
Fall Rally to the Caribbean
Starting from the Bluewater Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia, and finishing in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua, the SDSA’s Fall Rally to the Caribbean begins with several days of seminars, weather briefings and social events to get the fleet prepared. Their “Follow the Fleet” tracking system allows friends and family to spectate from home as well as providing critical information in the case of an emergency. The rally leaves in early November.
Spring Rally to the U.S.
Cruisers heading home after a winter in the Caribbean or after completing an Atlantic circle may choose to participate in the spring counterpart to the Fall Rally to the Caribbean. Sailors depart the Virgin Islands from Crown Bay Marina, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, in early May and finish in various ports along the U.S. East Coast or in Bermuda.
Rally to Maine
If you’re looking to head north instead of down to the Caribbean, consider the SDSA’s Rally to Maine. Leaving from one of two locations in the Chesapeake Bay, this rally stops in Rhode Island and Massachusetts before finishing in Rockland. The rally begins in early July and takes up to 10 days to complete, stops included.
Rally to Nova Scotia
As a possible continuation of the Rally to Maine, sailors can go from Rockland up the Atlantic coast to the Canadian Maritimes. Following a stop in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, which includes time for some free cruising and social events, the fleet gathers in Halifax and then continues on to the Bras d’Or Lakes. The event begins in early August and lasts about two weeks in all.
North American Rally to the Caribbean
Better known as the NARC, the North American Rally to the Caribbean began as the delivery of a fleet of Swans in 2000 that lived on to become a distinguished annual event. They are celebrating their 20 birthday this fall. Catering towards more experienced crews, the NARC is free aside from fees for social events. Other past benefits have included discounted dockage and fuel, weather information and waiving the head tax in Bermuda. Departure is in late October, weather permitting and the rally leaves from Newport bound for Saint-Martin with a stop in Bermuda and the option to start from the Chesapeake Bay. For more information, visit sailopo.com
Pacific Puddle Jump
The Puddle Jump is the perfect rally for more independent-minded sailors who still like having the support of a community. There’s no real management here, as the rally lacks an official start, committee boat or daily radio check-ins. However, information on preparation, weather routing, and inter-island cruising is shared among the fleet, and the organizers maintain a database of safety and identification information in the event of an emergency. Departures happen anytime between February and early June all along the West Coast, with boats finishing in French Polynesia in time for the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, scheduled for June 21-23 in 2019. For more information, visit pacificpuddlejump.com.
Over on the West Coast, the Baja Ha-Ha takes fleets of cruisers from San Diego, California, to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. In 2019 the 750-mile route also includes stops in Bahia Tortuga and Bahia Santa Maria with time enough for even the slowest boats to have at least a day at each. This year’s rally sets out on November 3 and will take about two weeks to complete. For more information on the Baja Ha-Ha, visit baja-haha.com.
Following the Baja Ha-Ha, the Panama Posse is the next logical step for those sailors planning to continue down to Central America. The loosely scheduled route allows participants to lag behind or jump ahead as they please. The rally begins in Marina Puerto de la Navidad in Barra de Navidad, Mexico. Boats start gathering there in October for a rolling start at the end of the following month. With a relaxed pace, cruisers can expect to complete the route to the Pacific side of the Panama Canal by May. For more information, visit panamaposse.com.
MHS Summer 2019