START OF THE CHRISTMAS CARIBBEAN RALLYMonday 16th December 2013
Heading West for Christmas
Start Line: First 40, Southern Child and Sintesi 45, Furibonda. Photo by: Sailing Rallies/Louay Habib
After 14 months of preparation the first ever Christmas Caribbean Rally set off from Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote on December 16. Nearly forty sailors from Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, Columbia, Argentina, Canada and Italy had a memorable send off. With a solid easterly breeze of 20 knots, the fleet enjoyed a feisty downwind start. At 1200 local time, the flotilla waved goodbye to friends and family and set sail, bound for Jolly Harbour Antigua, 2850 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
The cosmopolitan fleet has been well prepared for the crossing with all manner of useful seminars and fun filled social activities in the weeks prior to the start. These included a weather and routing master class from renowned meteorological expert, Mike Broughton, who has crossed the Atlantic on 16 occasions. The Lanzarote Coastguard staged a safety presentation and a liferaft demonstration, where crews got the opportunity to practice boarding a liferaft in the water under the watchful eye of the coast guard officers. On the social side, crews took part in a wine tasting event with the renowned local winery Stratus, and even honed their culinary skills in a brilliant tapas masterclass with chef Pedro from restaurant Casa Brigida.
On Saturday there was a farewell party at restaurant La Cubierta, hosted by Marina Rubicon with drinks and a magnificent barbecue. “ Marina Rubicon is very proud to host the first Christmas Caribbean Rally and we have been very impressed by the attention to detail and organisation of the rally. These are values that are very important to the marina and we have all the facilities here that are necessary to assist in preparations for an Atlantic crossing. We are very much looking forward to hosting the rally in future years” commented Karin Rasmussen, Adjunta a Direccion at Marina Rubicon.
“We could have filled Southern Child twice over.” commented the charter yacht's owner, Lucy Reynolds from Performance Yacht Charter. “The professional manner of the organisers and the timing of the rally has really suited our guests and the Christmas Caribbean Rally has a great atmosphere. John Simpson and Mikaela Meik have been incredibly helpful and that is such an asset when preparing for a long passage. I am sure this event will continue to grow and it will certainly be on our agenda for the forthcoming year.”
Ocean Phoenix, skippered by Spaniard Juan Luis Serra was a late entry for the rally. The Rob Humphreys designed 77’ yacht has several crew on board including Alex Merzlecko and his son Konstantin “It will be a great experience to cross the Atlantic with my son. The timing of the rally means that Konstantin will not miss any school time during the crossing and we intend to spend a week exploring the Caribbean when we arrive, before flying back to a snow-covered Moscow. This will not be my first trip to the Caribbean but to sail across the ocean to get there will be a first for me and my son. I am sure it will be a memory we will both treasure for years to come.”
Eduard Numan's Dutch Shipman 63, Jinthe, is likely to be just as fast as Ocean Phoenix across the Atlantic. Although the Christmas Caribbean Rally is not a race, the crews of Ocean Phoenix and Jinthe have been enjoying a friendly debate about which yacht will be the first to make it to Antigua.
“We are a group of friends that have come together to enjoy each other’s company to realise a special ambition.” smiled Eduard. “We are all in business and the date of the rally really suits us. To take time away from work earlier in the year when we are busy at work is very difficult so this timing is perfect. Jinthe's crew are a competitive bunch and we were delighted to hear that Ocean Phoenix will be challenging us across the Atlantic. Safety will always be our top priority but we will be taking a look at the position reports to see how we are doing!”
British couple Alan & Terry Ryall, sailing two-handed on their Island Packet 465, Seminole Wind is also taking part. “2013 has been a busy year in our businesses but it is quieter over the Christmas period, so the timing of the rally is good. When I first started to look at the rally I was attracted by the fact that the organisers, like me are keen musicians, which says a lot about the character of the event.”
John Simpson and Mikaela Meik started planning for the inaugural Christmas Caribbean Rally over a year ago.
“Working with Marina Rubicon has been a real pleasure – this is such a fantastic marina and all our crews have thoroughly enjoyed their stay here. We must thank them for all their support. They have helped to make this a very special event. We wanted to create a modern version of an Atlantic rally and we felt that this required a later start date. The Trade Winds should be better established in December and by leaving at this time, it means that the sailors can use their time away from work or study to enjoy this amazing adventure. Watching the fleet depart gave us a great sense of satisfaction but I must admit, my feelings were tinged with jealousy, as we would have loved to be setting off on this adventure with them. We will be flying to Antigua next week to meet the fleet and we can assure you, they will have just as much fun and entertainment once they reach Jolly Harbour. We are determined to make the Christmas Caribbean Rally an enjoyable, well managed event. By organising a smaller event we are able to offer a very high level of service to our participants. Bookings for next year are already strong and we see the event going from strength to strength over the coming years. For many, crossing an ocean can be a life changing experience and Sailing Rallies will always strive to enhance that experience.”
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