Yachting World|January 2022

There is a pent up enthusiasm for experiences right now. After nearly two years of limitations, many of us are hankering for wider horizons, to escape the Zoom meetings, look beyond the box-set, and sense freedom once again. But international travel is still not straightforward: entry regulations and health checks vary frequently, and simply keeping on top of the ever-changing rules is time-consuming and stressful.

So it’s no surprise that organised rallies are seeing a resurgence. Already the default option for many cruising sailors planning to take on a first transocean passage, many rallies are gathering bumper entries for 2022 and beyond after cruisers postponed their 2020/21 plans. But there are also growing numbers of sailors prompted by the pandemic to make the leap to long-term cruising, and for whom the safety net of an organiser on call, who’ll keep on top of the health protocols and even catch your lines on arrival, was the deciding factor.

Jeremy Wyatt of the World Cruising Club, organisers of the ARC transatlantic rally among other events, is seeing a trend: “We are definitely getting some interest from sailors because of the extra administration that Covid is causing them as a cruiser.

“But I would also say there’s been a definite mindset of people reviewing their lives, looking at what their priorities are and saying ‘No, we need to go and do what we talked about doing’. So in terms of numbers of enquiries and how it’s looking for next year, it’s really gone crazy.”

Wyatt has noticed that an increasing proportion of enquiries come from the younger families. “The 40-something families are the ones deciding, ‘Let’s go and do it. Why are we sitting in the rat race?’”

With up to four or five years from first enquiry to first rally entry for many ARC crews, Wyatt is expecting participation numbers to stay high for years to come.

Allie Smith, head of group events at Oyster Yachts and organiser of the Oyster World Rally, has noticed similar: “We’ve got experienced owners that are on maybe their third or fourth Oyster that have taken the plunge. And we’ve got people that wanted to seize the day, and just said: ‘This is what I want to do. I’m going to buy an Oyster – whether new or brokerage – to just do it.’

“The vast majority of [owners] now confirmed as taking part are the type that will think, ‘Right, we’re just going to go for it.’ We know things may not be as we would like them to be in certain places. We have to do a bit of compromising, but they’re all quite gung-ho that they’re going, which is fantastic.”


A rally can be anything from a loose group of friends who choose to sail in approximately the same direction at the same time, to a commercially run, strictly organised series of stopovers with a full maintenance, service and social programme, and range from free to join, to tens of thousans of pounds.

Over the past decade several small rallies have been absorbed by the larger, more professionally-run events, while others in less popular seas have been cancelled. However, social media now enables sailors to connect, share information, and liaise to cruise in company in a more informal set up.

Jimmy Cornell is widely regarded as having created the first organised cruising rally when he formed the World Cruising Club to run the inaugural Atlantic Rally for Cruisers in 1986. “The ARC was certainly the first properly organised transocean sailing event,” Cornell explains.


“I happened to be in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria in November 1985 and a group of French cruising boats had been brought together by a Frenchman, Guy Plantier, for an Atlantic crossing named Le Transat des Alisées. People arrived when they felt like it, and it all looked like the proverbial attempt at herding cats.

But I could see the potential of organising a proper sailing event with its own structure, rules and regulations, and an absolute stress on safety. That format was applied the following year, when 209 boats took the start of the first ARC,” Cornell recalls.

“Before the start all boats had been inspected for their seaworthiness and all essential safety equipment was checked. That structure, which I’d laid down in those early days, has been followed to this very day in the ARC, and has been adopted by countless other rallies.

“I spoke to Dick Johnson [Yachting World editor of the time]. He embraced the idea wholeheartedly and the ARC has been closely associated with the magazine ever since.

“I am convinced that the rally concept will continue to attract participants for the same reasons, especially the safety aspect in today’s uncertain world, as it is even more important to be part of an event where the organisers are in a position to liaise with the hosting authorities.”

See overleaf for our complete guide.


There are as many reasons to sail with a rally such as the ARC as there are sailors taking part, but for the crews we spoke to in Las Palmas ahead of November’s start the most commonly cited were safety and the social side.

Oliver Vauvelle and his partner Claire Padillav are newcomers to cruising, having bought a new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410, Amanaki, on something of an impulse in January 2020. Lockdown followed shortly after.

“I was getting fed up with being trapped in the house, so we were thinking about moving out of London. I, at least, had had a dream for a long time to go sailing, so we signed up to the ARC to give us a deadline,” explains Vauvelle.

Having committed to the ARC in December 2020, the pair then double-handed around the UK in 2021 to get their sea miles up. While in Las Palmas they have also been drawing on the experience of other ARC skippers as Vauvelle admits he is a novice when it comes to marine DIY.

“For me, it’s been mainly about the deadline. But for Claire and our family and friends it’s about having that safety aspect covered. It’s also about having people to talk to about stuff, because you can speak to people in the marina knowing that they are doing the same thing, and everyone is very welcoming.

“The only thing is that looking at the weather now for the start, in zero wind. So that deadline is a double-edged sword.”


For more experienced crews it’s the shoreside element that is typically the bigger draw. British couple John and Susan Simpson first took part in the ARC in 2011, and kept in touch with friends they made on that crossing. This year they have returned with their Discovery 55 Casamara.

“We were planning to do the World ARC, which is cancelled for next year,” explains John. “So we’ve decided to stay in the Caribbean for the season. We’re going to go to the ARC Europe, back to Portugal. And then we’re going to come to Las Palmas again and do the ARC+ next year, hopefully arriving at the Caribbean in time to start the World ARC, in January 2023.”

John and Susan took early retirement this year, initially sailing to Jersey double-handed. “We had a nice couple of months, having not really seen each other since our children were born. But to suddenly find there was just the two of us on the boat was a bit of a shock...!” He’s joking, but it’s a point worth bearing in mind for anyone considering a major lifestyle change from a busy work, family and social life to spending 24-7 with a partner.

“For us being on the event when we’re actually on passage is incidental, really. You can’t see anybody anyway, and we’re of the view that we need to be self sufficient if anything goes wrong.

“But I suppose we are social sailors rather than lone sailors. Our plan is to go to Australia and we’ve even been looking at the Down Under rallies there.”



Start: Cherbourg and La GrandeMotte, France; Seville, Spain; Key West, USA.

Route: This three-year epic has two routes, including one through the Panama Canal, an option of going around Cape Horn, and several start options from France and Key West from autumn 2021-January 2022. The two routes, one along the tropical tradewind route, and one around Patagonia, will come together in Tahiti.

About: Created to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano, it was originally only open to Grand Large Yachting models but later opened to a limited number of other yachts. The first edition has 32 participants, the second is planned to start in 2025.

Cost: c.€40,000


Start: Antigua, January 2022.

Route: Headed west through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific, past Vanuatu and north Australia, Cape Town, up the coast of Brazil and back to Antigua: a 27,000-mile circumnavigation.

About: Fully booked for 2022. The fleet is made up of a wide range of Oyster models, ranging from 56ft70ft plus. Registration for 2024/25 is now open, with a waiting list already filling up. Prestart seminars and training included, while Oyster service team will assist with repairs, sourcing parts etc at stopover ports.

Cost: From £40,000-£70,000 according to length of boat.


Start: Saint Lucia and Australia, 2023.

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