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Rally around the world
Tristan Rutherford for Camper & Nicholsons
8th May 2020

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Rally around the world

A mid-Atlantic epiphany spawned the World Yacht Rally. However the ideal of a luxury flotilla, pausing for tropical breeze and biodiverse seas, is only possible with meticulous planning. Step forward yachting’s dream team. A squad of Olympians, America's Cup racers and Volvo Ocean Race veterans have detailed a once-in-a-lifetime itinerary for owners and guests alike.

Stef van 't Zand’s epiphany came after the 1997 Volvo Ocean Race. “I was in my twenties sailing across the Atlantic,” the Dutchman recalls, delivering the world’s fastest racing yachts back home. The round-the-world yacht race had pitted Olympians against America's Cup champions as they circumnavigated the globe from Southampton via Auckland, Sao Paulo and Fort Lauderdale. “It gave me a certain romance to sail between such different cultures,” says van ‘t Zand.

During subsequent round-the-world races van ‘t Zand’s job got harder. That’s because he was promoted to Head of Host Ports. This jetset role entailed gladhanding tourism ministers in China and marina owners in Cape Town. “I had to make sure the sponsors were ready, the suppliers could cope, the hotels could be flexible and that each port had enough draft to take a 22m-long racing yacht,” says van ‘t Zand. “Then we had to shadow the Volvo Ocean Race with a travelling maintenance depot the size of a small shipyard. We had up to 80 staff specialising in carbon, sails and electronics.” Like a Formula 1 team, only bigger.

The mix of stress and celebration, within a uniquely global arena, gave van ‘t Zand the knowledge to share the experience with like-minded people. “So I thought, why not? I love finding the right partners, setting up the structure and building a once-in-alifetime experience.” However, this time van ‘t Zand’s fleet would sail at leisure with chefs and masseurs alongside shipwrights and marine engineers.

The result is the World Yacht Rally. A circumnavigating flotilla of the world’s most luxurious sailing yachts, where participants travel in the comfort of their own boat, or by chartering another. Camper & Nicholsons, the rally’s exclusive yacht partner, will assist with the latter. The rally’s 26 stops are chosen for culture and colour. Like the Cocos Islands midway between Australia and Mauritius, where two coral islands sat uninhabited until two centuries ago - although another 25 atolls are populated only by frigate birds and green turtles. Other highlights include New Year’s Eve in Cape Town and a special dispensation to cruise around the Galapagos.

Further stops have been planned around similar meteorology reports that van ‘t Zand used during the Volvo Ocean Race. “It’s best to make the transatlantic crossing from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean in autumn,” he explains. “After that the World Yacht Rally fleet navigates the Panama Canal.” The Marquesas, Tahiti and Fiji are at their most sailfriendly during summer. “North Americans can tag in at a second start point at the San Blas Islands where we reassemble for the channel passage,” continues van ‘t Zand. “You can finish this section in New Zealand or Australia depending on your preference for golf, diving, wine or whatever we can help arrange. It’s a rally, not a race.”

Other ports like Sydney and Singapore are “not on any sort of generic itinerary list,” asserts van ‘t Zand. “I’m sure Camper & Nicholsons clients are familiar with many amazing places, but try finding a charter or crew from Rio or Cuba.” The latter tempts with over 5,000km of barely explored coastline. Highlights include Cayo Lago, a sandy pirate lair frequented by Sir Francis Drake, who carried out the world’s second global circumnavigation after the Magellan expedition. “When Cuba recently began to open to yachts we knew we had to include it,” says van ‘t Zand.

Needless to say, the World Yacht Rally is made possible by experience, a global network and logistics. “Owners and guests want to follow in the wake of Francis Drake and William Dampier,” says van ‘t Zand, both of whom have islands, straits and passages named after them. “However, we believe that they want to make sailing’s ultimate challenge unburdened and worry free.”

Essentially, the Dutchman’s team does all the worrying for them. In charge of all on-the-water activity is Jack Lloyd, a former America’s Cup umpire and race director of the Volvo Ocean Race. Lloyd oversees the first air training that all guests undertake plus overseas permits, ports and risk assessments. Ensuring medical safety at sea is rally partner MSOS. "These medics have a direct line to every boat,” explains van ‘t Zand. “They can help treat immediate problems like a fractured elbow or broken finger. Or they can helicopter an injured crew member off in an emergency if they’re close enough to land.”

Volvo Ocean Race veteran Nick Bice is another star signing. Bice oversaw the Volvo Ocean Race’s travelling ‘Boatyard’. “For the World Yacht Rally, Nick has distilled our mobile yard into two large containers,” says van ‘t Zand. “At each maintenance port his team will check your engines, rigging and sails. If you need, for instance, a new spreader or new head seal, he'll make sure that happens.”

Two final extras might be of most interest to Camper & Nicholsons owners and guests. “Granted, not everyone can make the full 30 month navigation,” says van ‘t Zand. “So owners and sailors can leave at any time and allow our professional crew to arrange delivery of your yacht at the next start point.”

Alternatively, a participating yacht can be chartered commercially through Camper & Nicholsons in an owner’s absence. The attraction for charter guests is obvious: not everyone can claim to have circumnavigated the earth by sail.

Of course, crossing oceans is nothing new to Camper & Nicholsons. When Britain’s greatest sailor, Sir Francis Chichester, chose to sail solo around the world at the tender age of 64, he turned to yachting’s oldest name to provide the yacht. After 226 days at sea, Gipsy Moth IV sailed into the record books for the fastest and longest passage at sea for any small yacht. British passports include an illustration of Sir Francis’s Camper & Nicholsons vessel.

Several of Camper & Nicholsons charter fleet have already sailed around the world. Imagine's iconic lines are currently prowling the coasts of South America before making for Oceania - and her fourth circumnavigation. A 2018 refit added new generators and the latest tech to the 33m Dubois design, allowing guests to boast about their adventure live from the South Pacific.

Twizzle was built by Royal Huisman as a worldroaming family cruiser that can hold her own in an ocean race. As well as bagging a circumnavigation, the 57.5m yacht won two ShowBoats Design Awards for best interior design and best recreational area. Both are key assets when sailing the world’s largest expanse of ocean. A paperback of the circumnavigation classic, Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum, would make another prudent pack