How to Save Sailing

Offshore Passage Opportunities: How to Save Sailing, Part Deux

In 2009, not a great time in our industry or the economy, economist and sailor Nickolas Hayes authored a very compelling book about the decline in sailing titled "Saving Sailing." In the book he listed and then refuted many of the common myths about why the industry was losing participation in America, i.e., too expensive, too hard, etc. It was an industry wake-up and compelling read. He spoke at several conferences and still writes a column in Sailing magazine.

How to Save Sailing, Part Deux

I will answer with a question.

Why is there not a professionally organized American Around the World Rally?

What I am about to explain is nothing new, nothing I invented nor take credit for. Most good ideas are discovered somewhere else, modified to another market and promoted in a way that makes sense.

In Europe, many people aspire and make their early retirement plan to go offshore sailing. They save for years with the goal of buying a boat, equipping her for long term cruising and "living the dream" while they are still young enough and fit enough to do so.

That reason is why the ARC Rally started in 1986 by Jimmy Cornell and expanded in 1992 with his first World ARC. The Rally concept is similar to dessert caravans of old crossing dangerous barren deserts with merchants and pilgrims linked together, camel to camel, by tethers and nose rings. Early rally participants were first tethered by SSB and intermittent Satellite navigation to cross oceans. This progressed to tracking boats with Yellow Brink, Spot or inReach trackers with short texts capability. Technology has leapfrogged so that now we have GPS, Chart Plotters, AIS and very soon full internet connectivity offshore with SatLink. SatLink will allow anyone who can work remotely to buy a boat and go cruising without the limitations of having to physically be in an office.

YouTube Podcasters and Bloggers

Technology and our industry have done a wonderful job making it much easier to sail a bigger boat shorthanded. Podcasters and Bloggers are helping more people dream about buying a boat and go cruising offshore similar to the explosion of the Westsail 32 after the Time Magazine article about offshore sailing in the summer of 1973. Before and after, National Geographic articles by Robin Lee Graham sailing "Dove" in the 1960s and Tania Aebi’s articles in Cruising World and her book Maiden Voyage in the 1980s inspired many to think about offshore sailing.

Today, multiple YouTube "celebrities" are building a new audience to convince the next generation to buy boats and go sailing offshore. We have been talking about the baby boomers for years. They are now in their late 50s to mid-70s and have the time and the money to buy a boat and go cruising. Many younger people also have the money and the desire to go cruising now.

The rally organizers let the boat owners concentrate on buying a boat and equipping it for a long offshore passage, while letting the rally organizers take care of the route planning and logistics.

Every sailor who buys a boat with plans for offshore sailing spends lots of money on everything our industry produces.

Everyone in the Sailing Industry benefits when a boat is bought and outfitted for offshore sailing. The owner buys everything from sails to electronics, safety equipment and multiple systems to carry the creature comforts today’s sailors crave and expect to cruise comfortably.

Once the dream takes hold they take sailing lesson, subscribe to sailing magazines and go to boat shows. What boat show exhibitor doesn’t get excited when they qualify an attendee who says "I just bought a boat and need to outfit her for a long passage" or "I am looking for a boat to retire and go cruising?"

Rally History

Jimmy Cornell sailed around the world with his young family and funded the circumnavigation with a BBC radio broadcast. Perhaps he was the first social media sailing influencer. Jimmy realized that every November boats would gather in the Canary Islands for a seasonal passage from Europe to the Caribbean. In 1986 he decided to organize this crossing with the Rally concept. It proved so successful he added other events like the 1992 America 500 following Christopher Columbus’s route with 146 boats, over half American-owned, myself included sailing my Tayana 37 named the Hunk-a-Schmitt. Jimmy also started his World ARC Rallies with a Rally for World Peace in 1992. The first of several. He sold the WCC to Chay Blyth. Chay was busy running his BT Challenge Around the World Race. Chay hired Andrew Biship and Jeremy Wyatt who had worked for Jimmy in the early 1990’s before departing and starting their own rally company called Epic Ventures with A Rally Around Great Britain and a Rally to Portugal. Competition from Robin Knox-Johnson owned Around the World Clipper Races and other reasons convinced Chay to sell the WCC to Andrew and Jeremy.

The Rally concept became so popular in recent years there have been as many as five competing Rallies departing from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. Europeans have more options to save and aspire to crossing an ocean and getting a boat outfitted for the crossing. There are presently two around the world Rallies. One by the WCC (World Cruising Club) and one run by Oyster Yachts for Oyster owners only.

It may come as a surprise that not many American owned boats sign up for the ARC or World ARC. Less than 10% of the ARC Rally fleet have been American-owned boats with the exception of the America 500. One reason is that none of the rallies have a stopover in the US. As big as the United States is, we are not on the normal around-the-world route. Another reason is that Americans balk at paying $50,000 or more to join a rally. Yes, the European organized Rallies are very expensive to join.

There have been and are still some shorter American-run Rallies. Steve Black started the Caribbean 1500 back in 1990. He emulated the British model. It costs a couple of thousand dollars to join based on the size of the boat and crew for the 10-day passage from the Chesapeake Bay to the BVI. The British WCC bought the Caribbean 1500 from Steve Black in 2011. They bought a rally that had as many as 80 boats participating. Through mismanagement, arrogance, and not understanding the US market, they dwindled to 12 boats two years ago and ceased to exist. Why?

The British Rally Model vs. the American Model

Aka, why the Brits failed with a concept they started. In short, they did not understand the US market. Simply put, doing what Jimmy taught them to do was not going to work with the American market because we are different.

America is a big country. Both Chay Blyth and the WCC club thought they could waltz onto our shores and teach us a thing or two. Chay failed first. He signed up for one of the early Atlantic City Boat Shows and tried to emulate what they did in the UK. Boat shows in Europe are huge. The markets are close together. The London and Southhampton boats show used to have over 100,000 visitors. Paris well over 250,000. In Germany the Dusseldorf shows has had 400,000 visitors spread out over many days and several venues. In America, the biggest sailboat show in Annapolis has only recently had over 50,000 visitors. Most sailboat shows today average 25,000. We know in the US, we have to spend a lot more time and money exhibiting at many smaller shows to cover the US market. Chay thought that one Atlantic City Boat show would convince the media to fawn over him and deliver his message. He figured Americans would jump at the chance to spend thousands of dollars to race around the world the wrong way, with 15 crew aboard, eating British cuisine organized with military precision. Chay’s plan was to organize a BT Challenge Wrong Way Race Around the world race starting in San Francisco. When that was not working, they shortened it from San Francisco to Boston and with a finish in the UK. Still not working, they ended up with a race that sailed from Boston to the UK. Many participants were Europeans who flew to Boston for the start.

Why Boston you ask? That was the 2nd big mistake that the Brits made not understanding the US market. In the UK there is one big sailing magazine. It is a very good publication called Yachting World. With one magazine catering to the entire UK population, (half the subscribers live outside the UK) it is easier to promote a race or rally. In the USA we have at least six national sailing magazines and many regional. Just like there are many boats shows to attend, there are many magazines to cater to and buy ads from to get the word out about what our industry tries to market.

First Chay, and then Andrew Bishop, thought an alliance with Sail magazine in Boston would suffice to market their plans to invade the US sailing market. In the UK they had a writing contest in one of their big national newspapers. (The Telegraph?) They asked readers to write a short essay about, "Why they should get a free berth on a leg in the BT Challenge?" 40,000 people wrote an essay. In the US they tried the same thing asking subscribers at Sail magazine to write an essay on why they should get a free berth. 400 people submitted an essay.

The WCC tried to do the same thing when they bought Steve Blacks Caribbean 1500 Rally. While they said they would not change anything the first year, they signed a 3-year exclusive media deal with Sail. You may remember that George Day and Blue Water Sailing magazine built the Caribbean 1500 helping Steve Black promote the event in return for editorial content, similar to what the Brits did with Yachting World. It worked in the UK, but not in the USA. When they agreed to a media deal with Sail magazine, they blindsided George Day.

The British Model

The British run rally is to make a profit. They need to charge a big entry fee since they have a crew of employees (called Yellow Shirts) who they have to pay, to fly ahead of the fleet and put up in hotels. They have the usual overhead of running a business. Their goal, the same as any business, is to turn a profit. The Around the World Rallies are usually limited to about 30 boats since many ports they visit cannot handle a big fleet. With a small number of clients, plus high overhead, you need to charge a lot to make a profit.

The British model started by Jimmy Cornell gets local sponsorship and strives to make a profit. Jimmy Cornell is a very smart man. He spoke several languages fluently which helped gain entrants. Jimmy was born in Romania, but spoke fluent English. Germany is usually the 2nd most represented nationality in the ARC. He speaks German, also French. Knowing Spanish gave him a huge advantage getting to know the main players in the Canary Islands who donated things like a week or two of free dockage in Gran Canaria, donated buses for tours of the island, and even some meals for skippers and crew. While Jimmy collected money, based on the size of the boat and per head crew fee but many of the rally benefits did not cost him any money. Brilliant as the Brits like to say. Jimmy got sponsors to pay for as much as he could. The money he charged went to pay for the staff, travel, hotels and if done well, a profit.

The American Model

The Caribbean 1500 started out like the British model. It was a business to organize a rally and make a profit. However, Steve had a small staff and low overhead. He sailed with the fleet on his own boat or with an owner who needed crew on a bigger boat so he would be one of the first in port to welcome the fleet. Blue Water Sailing magazine was all the promotion he needed.

The NARC Rally (North American Rally to the Caribbean) was started soon after the Caribbean 1500 gave up Newport as a starting port and moved to Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1999. Founder, Hank Schmitt (me) had taken over the Swan Program moving a fleet of up to 10 Swans between Newport RI and St. Maartin each fall. Since Hank had sailed in the America 500 event and learned about the rally concept, he decided to invite private boat owners to join.

The fall departure from the US East Coast is a lot more challenging than the downwind crossing from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. The NARC Rally differed from the Caribbean 1500 in that it is broken up into two legs with a stop in Bermuda. Two, 4-to-5-day weather forecasts, are a lot more reliable than one 8 to 10-day forecast. Plus, a departure from the Chesapeake Bay to the Caribbean starts over 200 miles further West. The prevailing trade winds are from the East and South East as you get closer to the Caribbean so boats load up with fuel jugs and plan to motor sail upwind. Of course, if you are living on your boat, you do not want to stay in cold New England for weeks waiting for hurricane season to be over. Many boat owners choose to take their time going down the coast. They spend October in the Chesapeake Bay and attend the Annapolis Boat Show.

You can still break up the passage in two legs by sailing from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to Bermuda and making a stop so you will have a much better angle to sail the 2nd half of the passage. The further south you depart from the East Coast the harder your passage will be until you end up making the "Thorny Passage" from Florida to the Caribbean.

Since Hank does not treat the rally as a profit center, he does not charge a lot of money.

Hank Schmit’s NARC Rally, using the American Model, has sponsors. He does not take any money from them. Instead, he tells them to offer  discounts and good service to boat owners and crew. The per person crew fee does in fact pay for the Surf & Turf meal at Benjamin’s in Newport, The Fish Fry at the St. Georges Dingy and Sports Club in Bermuda, and the final meal in St. Maarten, among other benefits. There are discounts on dockage, cruising tax waivers, and many discounts on marine services at the end of the sail in St. Maarten. See

After reading a book entitled "What Would Google Do?" purchased on a whim at an airport bookstore, Hank bought into the new way of marketing. Think free, think Craigs list. In 2010 the NARC Rally was free to boat owners with a per head fee to pay for socials. That year was the biggest rally to date with thirty boats. The American Model is not free anymore, but $300 per boat plus $175 per person to pay for three meals, free t-shirt, and other benefits offered by sponsors is very reasonable.

The Salty Dawg Rally, started in 2011 when the WCC bought the Caribbean 1500, is another American Rally. They also charge a modest $300 per boat fee, plus membership in the SDSA (Salty Dawg Sailing Association). Additionally skippers and crew pay ala carte per person for meals and social functions. The Salty Dawg Rally was started by Linda & Bill Knowles after the World Cruising Club bought the Caribbean 1500 from Steve Black. Linda and Bill were perplexed why they had to spend several thousands of dollars on safety equipment for a passage they had already done seven times. What they did not realize was that the WCC wanted to use the Caribbean 1500 as a feeder to get more American boats to join their World ARC which stopped in the Caribbean after departing from the Canary Islands. The safety requirements that Steve Black had required now needed to match what the ARC and World ARC required so they could qualify to join the World ARC. It did not matter that one rally was a 10-day passage and the other was a 16-month circumnavigation.

The Knowles called Hank Schmitt when they were thinking about starting this upstart rally in competition with the WCC Caribbean 1500. They were especially pleased that Hank had a section on taking pets along on his web site. Hank was happy to assist. Hank introduced them to George Day and then a couple years later to John Glynn who was the marketing director at the Bitter End. Remember, George was not happy when the WCC left him for Sail magazine. He was happy to help the Salty Dawg Rally get started and compete with the Caribbean 1500. John was happy to offer free mooring at the Bitter End in November well before their season started.


How to Fund the American Rally

The reason the American organized Rally will cost much less is because we get sponsors to help keep costs down.


Harken sponsors the New Zealand stop. Harken would pay for a couple of socials, encourage the tourist board to pay for a free bus tour and a vineyard to host a wine-tasting event. We know if Harken sponsors New Zealand, Ronstan would sponsor the Australia stop. Smaller companies could combine with two or three others to sponsor a stop of their choice for whatever benefit or contacts they may have in that port. The rally lasts about 16 months to conform to the sailing season as you sail around the world. For the price of sponsoring one stop or part of a stop, companies will get promotional rights and good will for supporting the rally for the entire rally, not just during one stop. Plus, they will get preference for marketing and helping sell product and services to the fleet. Presently several manufacturers fly in personnel at the start of the ARC each year as a show of support.

By making it an annual rally with a new start each year, the sponsoring companies would build a relationship with the local tourist boards and local companies that see the benefit of having a bunch of wealthy Americans visiting each season. Rather than get more expensive each year, the cost of the stopover will decrease as more local sponsors chip in. If skippers do not want to race around the world in 16 months, there will be an option to drop out for a season to stay longer or to lay the boat up and fly back to the USA to see family or attend to business, then rejoin the next fleet the next year.

Another Revenue Stream

We all know boats need constant maintenance, especially as they sail around the world. With an industry supported rally anyone in the rally will be able to request parts and know-how to help keep their boats working. With the internet and soon Starlink, it will be easier to stay in touch with suppliers. The rally participants, supported by the industry, can order parts and have them delivered to the next port. The rally organizers will also ask the boat owners, who have crew changes, to have incoming crew hand deliver spares from the US. Not only will this be a valuable benefit of the rally for participants, but also a revenue stream.

What can the Sailing Industry do to help the Industry prosper?

Remember ...
Every Sailor who buys a boat with plans to go offshore sailing spends lots of money on everything our industry produces.

Where it Began: Sail America and Atlantic City Boat Show

Many people may not remember the Atlantic City Boat Show. It was a 10 day show in the middle of the winter in an old boxing arena on the boardwalk. You walked in to the hall and all the boats were rigged with the masts up and some sails raised. It was very impressive.

Sail America was the brainchild of Everitt Pearson, The Harken Brothers, Randy Repass and Frank Butler among others. They realized that the NMMA was focused on power boats. They energized the Sailing Industry to take charge of their future. The show was a success for a few years. They even had a profit for three or four years and invested in new and innovative ideas to promote sailing.

I distinctly remember my first boat show in Atlantic City in 1996. I was young and excited about my new idea for a crew network that offered sailors the opportunity to go sailing for free by helping delivery skippers and boat owners move boats. I went up to Randy and told him what I was doing. He responded, "I am sure if you work hard and do a good job, you will be successful." Basically, he told me "There is no magic to building a business. Simply put your head down and get at it."

"Sail America" is the Sailing Industry association whose mission statement includes growing our industry. I think it might be a place to start. I have always been a company of one by choice (to keep my life simple). Next month I will attend my 5th "Sail America" conference, my first since Charleston. There are usually only about 100 to 150 industry leaders in attendance. This year I am not only attending but also a sponsor.

If a small subgroup of forward thinkers would like to brainstorm with me and put a small team together to move this forward, I am happy to volunteer and help.

The baby boom generation is retiring. Those 50 and over have the time and the money to buy a boat and outfit for offshore cruising before they swallow the anchor and retire to Florida. For every person who buys a boat to go sailing offshore, there is a person who spends money on everything our industry produces.

The sailing lifestyle is being promoted by bloggers and podcasters to the younger generation who do not want to wait to go cruising. Our industry has made it easy to buy a boat and ramp up the skills needed to sail offshore. Today, new sailors do not want to spend many years learning to go sail offshore. What we can do with an American organized rally is give them a date to depart and help ease the logistical problems associated with long distance cruising and help them navigate the bureaucratic red tape of clearing in and out of foreign ports. Streamlining parts delivery and technical support is a big part of the plan.

"Sail America" could spark the industry with a new goal of promoting the rally concept and getting more people to aspire to buy a boat and go cruising, piggybacking on the many bloggers and podcasters who are getting more new people to go sailing with the intention of travelling and seeing the world. There are a few more years that the baby boomer can still go sailing.

The new American organized around the world rally would not have to spend thousands of dollars to market the rally if all the magazines and media got on board. More people would take sailing lesson, buy small boats to learn before buying a big boat. Then they will equip them to sail offshore, buying everything our industry produces. We love to meet new boat owners at a boat show who has a big shopping list and questions galore about how to get their boat ready for a long passage.

I hope enough people are interested to at least talk about this and see if we can grow our industry. Maybe not save the industry, but focus on the bigger profit margins of selling big boats that need a lot of equipment and services because they are out there sailing the world. The Sail America Rally would inspire new people to go sailing offshore before retiring to their golden years.

About Hank Schmitt

Hank Schmitt has more days on the water than he has on land.

Like many in the industry, he started at a young age sailing small boats at a local Yacht Club. He was fortunate to attend a high school that had a sailing team. Forgoing college at 19 he ran away to sea to work the oil patch on offshore rigs off Newfoundland, Columbia, SA and the West Coast of Africa.

When the oil field went bust as is normal when the price of oil falls, he went back north to work in the same boatyard he did in high school. He then worked for a Catalina/Jeanneau dealership. At 26 he started delivering boats moving new boats from NY to Newport, then Stamford CT and finally the Annapolis show. Almost 40 years and 275,0000 miles he is still active.

He lived aboard a Tayana 37 for 14 years and has been self-employed since 1998 as a rigger, commercial diver and delivery skipper. In 1992, he sailed solo from NY to Spain for the start of the America 500 Rally where he first learned about the rally concept. While in the Canary Islands in 1992 he saw many people who flew into Gran Canaria and seeking passage. Remember this was before the internet. During this 3000-mile passage to the Bahamas that he came up with the idea for his crew network company, Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO).

Save Sailing

In 1997 there was another 500th Anniversary of an Italian captain, Johann Caboto (John Cabot) sailing from Europe to North America for Great Britain. Hank organized the American fleet of boats starting from NY with stops in Newport, Portland, Halifax and St. John’s Newfoundland. It was his first organized rally.

Save Sailing

In 2000 everything seemed to align and cry out for an Around the World Rally. He called it Millenniums First Sail. The fleet planned to be on the international dateline to celebrate the start of the next century. Then visit New Zealand for the Americas Cup and Australia for the Olympics. At the Atlantic City boat show in 2000 he had a replica of the America’s Cup in his 10' x 10' booth and invited sailors to sign a 40 foot "Good Luck" card to Paul Cayard and the "America One" Campaign.

Save Sailing

Save Sailing

In 2000, he took over the Swan Program moving a fleet of Swans between Newport and St. Maarten. He started the NARC Rally (North American Rally to the Caribbean) that year inviting other boats to join.

In 2017 the America’s Cup was held in Bermuda. He organized the most fun and successful rally which he named "Rally to the Cup." This rally helped 30 boats travel from several US ports to arrive for two weeks of exciting racing.

Save Sailing

However, after 2023 there will be only one rally departing the US East Coast. There use to be three.

This year, 2023, will be the last NARC Rally with plans to relinquish the Newport departure to the Salty Dawg Sailing Association. After this year, the Salty Dawg Rally will be the only organized rally departing from the US East Coast going to the Caribbean. With the help of George Day, they have grown to an annual fleet of 100 boats. Mostly a volunteer-based organization, they were recognized with a Blue Medal Award for helping many worried crews get back from the Caribbean during the 1st Covid migration north sailing from the US Virgin Islands through the Bahamas and back to US soil. A very well-deserved award.

It is a shame that the US Sailing Industry cannot organize or offer more support to the rally concept, help more people go sailing offshore ,and to popularize the rally concept and make it a goal of aspiring sailors to go long distance cruising.


Earlier this month, Hank was given the Robbie Ferron Trophy for promotion of Sailing in the Caribbean. Twenty-Two NARC Rallies, Eighteen Heineken regattas, and his mooring development program in Portsmouth Dominica are the main reason.

Save Sailing

Most people when they retire want to give back. I have helped my friends in the Caribbean. Now I would like to help the Sailing Industry by volunteering my time to help organize a professionally run American Industry Around the World Rally. Like my OPO crew service, my work would be free. Will this be enough to convince "Sail America" or any part or parcel of the industry to join me?

My office number is Call 1-800-4-PASSAGE (800-472-7724) or 631-423-4988. My e-mail address is