While sailing in tandem is not to everyones taste, it does have its definite advantages. The obvious one being friendships and safety.
We have completed three organised rallies and the positives far outweigh any negatives we had heard, particularly when sailing offshore.
While the onus of planning belongs to the captain, the organisers certainly put a huge amount of work into preparation. This starts months out with guides on yacht preparation down to passage information pre departure and even during the rally. We have found this a great tool.
You depart and sail at the speed you choose (a misconception we had heard is that you had to stay together at the same speed!). We sailed for 24-hours seeing no one for that 24 period, that was our choice. Some prefer to sail closer together.
We have been witness to and assisted others in their time of need, broken steering, disabled yacht (totally in every way including steering), loss of radios, damaged sails and the list goes on.
Rule of the sea states that vessels hearing another in distress, are required to assist the vessel in distress. So while the fleet may be scattered and way out of sight (with faster yachts long gone), someone will come to assist.
One thing that stands out is the assurance that someone is not far away.
Additional security is provided by rally organisers, who have uncanny ways of inquiring of those who may be doing something unusual (i.e have stopped mid-route for an extended period etc).
We were called up the evening on day one into a 2-day passage. We had chosen a much more southern route than the rest of the fleet, to meet a favourable wind and tidal flow change predicted later that evening.
This took us close to a reef (that we were actually trolling off at the time). We had had no visuals on any of the fleet for the last 5-hours.
We have no idea how John knew where we were - Dead Reckoning or AIS I suppose. Another good reason to ensure you have an AIS that is actually serviceable and on. Whatever their system, it's comforting that someone was around had we had an issue. They too are aware of all yacht positions with the last 24-hours.
Finally, once you arrive at the destination, the rally is then finished after a party or three. Everyone then goes there own way until the next rally leg starts.
We have come to know and become very good friends with other rally yachts, who are like-minded in the sailing, some we buddy-boat with on smaller passages to this day.
A rally is only as good as the least prepared yacht.
Those who put the time and money into the experience, will add value to the yacht and reap the positive reward of new experiences, while having a blast doing it and learning along the way.
Those who try and get by with minimal preparedness, will struggle. If it's old and has one-sailing-season left, best to think carefully.
Thankfully, organisers go out of their way to guide one in correctly preparing a vessel.
Down Under Rally is who we have used and is run by John Hembrow. Together with his wife Leanne, they have extensive experience, not only as sailors, but knowledge in this part of the south Pacific.
I have come to know John very well. He is very passionate about offshore sailing and trying to get the best value for money for his Down Under Rally members. He tells it how it is, exactly how we like it.
We respect his input hugely and the reason we are doing more rallies with him. Not only that, we get Down Under Rally member benefits, some 5-20% off what non-members pay for business services on the yacht.
Down Under Rally fees take care of 95% of the bureaucratic red-tape in and out of countries. The rally fees also provides professional weather services, assessment and monitoring prior-to and during passages. We add this to our pool of information and then make our decisions knowing all bases have been covered.
Down Under Rally Membership - it's a no-brainer
In the ramblings of our 3-year plan, we have parted with 1/5 of the yachts value (in dollar terms) in upgrades and improvements. We have tried to use as many of Member businesses as possible and our savings from this membership alone, exceeds AUD $4000. This alone is two rally entry fees paid in our eyes.
This year (2023), our member renewal was $100. We bought one new sail, have done two theory courses, about to do the 'marine first aid' and 'sea survival practical' and saved upwards of $480 by using rally partners. That's our membership fees back, plus the next three years paid. It really is a no brainer in our eyes.
Down Under Rally Fees - Bureaucratic headaches...gone.
In a past life, customs, immigration and police dealings were daily affair. The rally entry fees take care of all the bureaucratic nightmare and red-tape.
For those who want to save a few bucks, go for it - wish you well.
For the rest of us, come over for a cup-of-tea or coffee while we wait for someone else to deal with the bureaucratic paperwork.
We leave you with this rally-fees-opinion. To quash the 'fees-are-to-expensive-brigade', from what we have seen and been shown first hand, rally organisers get paid a pittance once all the publishing, organising, customs and immigration, border force dealings, import & export fees, foreign language issues etc are taken out.
Caveat - I am a Down Under Rally member. That being said (and from those who know me will testify), I tell it as it is...James (dated February 2023)