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New Caledonia to New South Wales: The Inaugural 2015 Down Under Rally Wraps Up

By Down Under Rally — last modified Dec 15, 2015 09:34 AM
In total 26 vessels, hailing from ports in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France & Australia, participated in the rally with most arriving in Newcastle during late October & early November 2015.

Published: 2015-12-09 00:00:00
Topics: Rallies
Countries: Australia , New Caledonia

http://www.downunderrally.com/

Prior to arriving “Down Under” the majority of the fleet had been cruising the islands of Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia, with some having crossed the Pacific Ocean since departing Panama and Mexico earlier in the year.

 

Choice of Departure Port

Participants in the Down Under Rally are free to choose their own departure port, date and weather window with no obligation to depart as part of the rally fleet. All participants in the 2015 Down Under Rally however chose New Caledonia as their departure port for the passage “Down Under”. Most departed in mid October with arrivals in Newcastle concentrated over the two week period between the last week of October and the first week of November.

Participants experienced a variety of conditions during their passages, some sailed the entire leg whist others 
reported having motor sailed in calm conditions for some of the approx. 1000nm voyage. The fastest passage was recorded by catamaran “Songlines” who logged 1086 nm in 4 days and 22 hours. The average passage time was around 6 days.

Australian Clearance Ports

Cruising Yachtsmen & Women know that we don`t always get what we expect from the weather when we are on passage. This is especially true when the passage will take more than 3 or 4 days. One of the great things about sailing to Australia is that the East Coast is a big target with a choice of clearance ports available such as Sydney, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Brisbane and Bundaberg to the far north meaning that you can adjust your course to suit the conditions you encounter.

The Australian Border Control agency requires all visiting yachts to submit an Advance Arrival Of Notification a minimum of 96 hours prior to arrive in Australia. A PDF document called the “Down Under Rally Factsheet” is available to view or download for free at http://www.downunderrally.com/#!downloads--docs/c1it3. This document was prepared by the Australian Border Control specifically for Down Under Rally participants and it details what is required in regard to customs, immigration and quarantine.

Whilst you are required to notify Australian Border Control of your “intended” port of arrival, they have no issue with yachts changing their arrival port whilst on route. They do request that, if you can, you notify them of the change in plan, however they also understand that some vessels have no email available on board at sea so it is not mandatory. By making notification of a change to your port of arrival the officials can be sure that they will have sufficient staff on hand at your arrival port to process your arrival in a timely manner.

Choice of Arrival Port

This year, 70% of the 2015 Down Under Rally fleet made Newcastle their port of arrival with 20% choosing Coffs Harbour, 200nm North of Newcastlel. The remaining 5% cleared in to Australia at either Brisbane or Bundaberg and then made the coastal passage to Newcastle. All reported having been impressed with the professionalism and friendliness of the officers during the clearing in process. Some were so impressed they provided testimonials about their experience. These testimonials can be found on the Down Under Rally website at http://www.downunderrally.com/#!testimonials/cxrs.

The Down Under Rally culminated with what is referred to as “Welcome Week”. Once again participants have
provided testimonials stating how impressed they have been with the amount, relevance and quality of information that was shared by the rally organisers during Welcome Week. All who participated also enjoyed the tours of Newcastle, The Hunter Valley Wineries and various other social events.

After the Rally

The goal of the many of the rally participants is to spend the 2015-‐2016 Cyclone Season in Australia and most have New Years Eve on Sydney Harbour on their “Down Under” bucket list.

After Cyclone season some will then continue their world circumnavigations and head off into SE Asia later in 2016. Others who intended to move on after cyclone season, have now realised that to experience all that Australia has to offer they will need to spend a lot more time here, and as such many will now call Australia home for up to 3 years.

Rally director John Hembrow commented by saying;

“We have been both overwhelmed & humbled by the positive feedback we have received from this year's participants. We would like to thank all those who have been instrumental in making the inaugural Down Under Rally the success that it has been and in particular we would like to commend the Newcastle branch of the Australian Border Force & Immigration, (Customs) and the Department of Forestry & Fisheries (Quarantine) for their professionalism and courtesy as well as all the rally sponsors for their support of the event. Our thanks also go to The Island Cruising Association for their support and assistance with the running of the 2015 Down Under Rally (http://www.islandcruising.co.nz/)".

“The rally has achieved its goal of dispelling the many rumours that exist within the international cruising community that Australia is a “no go zone. We expect that as a result many more international yachts will join the rally and follow in the wake of this years participants”.

Next Year?

The rally organisers will begin seeking expressions of interest from participants, sponsors & advertisers for the 2016 rally early in 2016, with an announcement confirming the future of the event expected in March of 2016.

Rally Small Print

The registration fee for the 2015 Down Under Rally was $185.00 AUD per participant. The fee included:

  • Exclusive & FREE access to weather and passage planning advice from rally "weather guru" Rod Waterhouse
  • VIP Clearance on arrival in Newcastle
  • A FREE credit voucher from the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club Marina for up to 7 days free marina berthing on arrival valued at $380.00
  • A FREE Goodies Bag containing T-shirts, Hats, Flags
  • FREE Yoga classes during Welcome Week
  • Invitations to FREE events during Welcome Week including Cocktail Parties, BBQ`S and more
  • Invitations to attend FREE presentations during Welcome Week on Cruising in Australia, Land Traveling in Australia, Australian Culture and Customs
  • Discounted tours and activities during Welcome Week

It is expected that the cost and offerings will be similar for the 2016 rally.

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Skipperette
Skipperette says:
Dec 14, 2015 10:31 PM

The Down Under Rally was well organized and a week of fun and events during Welcome Week. We highly recommend participating. The city of Newcastle, NSW is a great destination: friendly, easy to get around, inexpensive train ride to Sydney, a shore sail to Sydney and a more economical place to berth. The Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club welcomed us with a complimentary membership and great service and hospitality! This will be our base as we travel throughout Oz.

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