Jingle bells and downwind tales for Caribbean Rally participants

As you sit down to your Christmas turkey this year, one fleet of yachts will be hoping Santa got the temporary change of address email, as they head for sunnier climes on a 3000nm adventure across the Atlantic.

The 2014 Christmas Caribbean Rally starts on December 14th, from Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote, bound for Nelson’s Dockyard Antigua. The theory is that by mid-December the trade winds are better established, making for a faster and more comfortable crossing; last year, the quickest cruising boat completed the crossing in just 13 days.  If this proves to be correct again this year, the first arrivals are expected into Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua from around 27th December, with the majority of the fleet arriving in time to celebrate New Year in the Caribbean.

For most of the crew this will be their first hop across the pond, but some have crossed the Atlantic many times – the fleet record going to skipper of Beneteau First 45 ‘Raven’, Mike Broughton who will be completing his 17th crossing. Professional sailor, navigator and meteorological expert Mike provided daily weather forecasts to the fleet in the 2013 event and was in Lanzarote before the start. He was so impressed with the organisation and format of the event that he decided to enter the 2014 CCR himself and sail with his partner, Janet, his brother and his nephew.

Five other boats are also making it a family affair, choosing to take on the challenge with their nearest and dearest relations. For most families the reality of spending three weeks in such close quarters together might be a living nightmare, but Hans and Helen Wenkenbach onboard ‘French Kiss’ are relishing the opportunity to sail across the Atlantic with their two sons Ian and Kevin. Both are in their twenties and are confident their parents won’t have to suffer the sibling rivalry of their childhood during the crossing.

On their decision to enter the CCR 2014, Hans commented, “We wanted a rally that wasn’t overcrowded, Antigua is a brilliant location to make landfall and [the CCR] encompasses the spirit of how a rally should be.” The Wenkenbach’s are taking a break from their busy work schedules to achieve their dream of sailing the Atlantic, and the timing of the CCR fits perfectly with their holidays and work commitments.

Sailing Rallies pride themselves on bringing crews together and making their events accessible to all, whilst being able to provide that personal touch for every single crew member. The team will be on hand from the minute the crews arrive at Lanzarote airport to personally meet and take participants to their boats in Marina Rubicon, a unique service for a rally company to offer.

With a smaller number of boats and hard work from the organisers the social side of the event is outstanding. Mikaela Meik, Events Manager commented “it’s wonderful to see our participants form lifelong friendships. Having a smaller number of crew allows a strong community spirit, and  many sailors prefer the more personal and intimate approach. Typically at our events we have around 50 crew members, which makes for a fantastic social programme.”

The early arrivals have already enjoyed a certain amount of socialising and next week sees the official start of the social programme. Crews will enjoy a Canarias tasting evening, with a Tapas masterclass and local wine tasting, a safety demonstration courtesy of the Consorcio de Seguridad y Emergencias de Lanzartote, plus a new edition to this year's event in the form of a Salsa & Mojito evening supported by CCR sponsors Peters & May. An official welcome evening and farewell BBQ sponsored by Marina Rubicon rounds off the social schedule.

The entire fleet will receive an individual safety briefing and inspection before the start and all will be fitted with the latest satellite trackers for the crossing, so family and friends back home are able to keep up-to-date with their positions.

The Christmas Caribbean Rally is an annual Transatlantic event, which starts next year on 6th December 2015, giving crews the opportunity to arrive in Antigua just in time for Christmas. To be part of this unique event contact the Sailing Rallies team via www.sailingrallies.com. Follow the progress of this year’s fleet at http://www.sailingrallies.com/christmas-caribbean-rally/blogging-tracking/.

– Sailing Rallies Media

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