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Med Red Rally 2008 - A Summary

By Sue Richards last modified Aug 05, 2008 04:18 PM

Published: 2008-08-05 16:18:10
Topics: Rallies
Countries: Egypt , Israel , Turkey

Med Red Rally 2008 - The Adventure
May 11th to June 19th

The Med Red Rally celebrated its 4th year in 2008 – and as expected it was a great and challenging sailing experience. Sailing the Red Sea, traversing the Suez Canal and crossing the Mediterranean Sea as well as the camaraderie of the participating sailors brought back past participants and new sailors from around the world to join this year’s rally.

Despite a year of diligent planning and coordination, extensive knowledge of the region, tricky sailing conditions and therefore the importance of sailing together in a rally with guidance, the rally organizers and participants faced and conquered a few unpleasant surprises during the month long Med Red Rally 2008, causing great challenges for the organizers and participating sailors.

May 4th – Getting to the start of the Med Red Rally
Yachts joining the Med Red Rally grouped up in Finike and sailed together to Israel. They were welcomed warmly by the Israeli contingent in Herzliya Marina.

May 8th - Israel
Days before the rally kicked-off, Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary with a spectacular flotilla along the coastline. Rally participants sailed among the hundreds of yachts and Israeli Navy ships. The flotilla was only part of the festivities – the Israeli Air Force showcased their prowess in an amazing air show!

May 10th - Med Red Rally 2008 opening ceremony
Spirits were high at the opening ceremony in Marina Tel Aviv, hundreds of yachtsmen from over 15 countries gathered together ready to take off for the big adventure of sailing the Med Red Rally. We were honoured with the presence of the Egyptian Consul, the Turkish representative, the Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv and many of the Med Red Rally participants from previous years. The speeches centred on the importance of the Rally and highlighted hopes of opening the sailing areas between the countries to as many international yachtsmen as possible.

We believe that the Med Red Rally goes beyond tourism. It shares a good and positive image of the region with the world.

May 11th – Anchors Away - The grand start
50 Med Red Rally yachts set sail from Tel Aviv marina. The weather was perfect and everyone enjoyed the 130 miles of sailing to Port Said, Egypt.

May 12th –Welcome to Port Said
All 50 Med Red Rally Yachts sailed under lovely conditions and arrived during the day at Port Said. After finalizing all entry formalities, we set off in the evening, by buses, to the Port Said Sonesta hotel for the welcome party including dinner and dancing. The Rally Commodore put on the chef's hat and served out the traditional Melochia soup, this has become a traditional Med Red Rally event. It was a great party!

May 13th – Sailing through history
Early in the morning, we boarded buses for the tours to Cairo and Alexandria. It was a full day of touring and experiencing the wonders of Egypt. At 10:00 pm, that evening, Easy, Eitan and Ruth, the rally organizers, were called for an urgent meeting with the head of Suez Canal Authority in Port Said, regarding the canal crossing for the next morning scheduled many months before They were told that the crossing would be in 3 groups, at 7:00 am, 9:00am and 11:00 am, with 2 hours between each group. The groups would meet up in Ismaelia and arrive together the same night, the 14th , in Suez Port. Easy, the Commodore, requested to be a part of the last group, that way he could manage the rally movements and see that all depart as scheduled….

At 11:00 pm a skippers meeting was held on the jetty advising all of the rally skippers on the procedure for the next day's crossing.

May 14th – The Crossing....?
All was ready, the great adventure was starting, all yachts and crews were getting ready for departure. One last quick visit to the local bakery for fresh bread and we are on our way. At approximately 07:00 am, as scheduled, the first group set off on their way to cross the Suez Canal. At 9:00 am the second group getting ready to release the ropes and a message arrives that there is a slight delay and the second group will depart an hour later. It is 10:00 am and the second group ready to depart, Easy received a phone call from the head of the Suez Canal Authority informing that there is a “slight” change in program - “No more Med Red Rally yachts will cross today! The second group will cross tomorrow; the third group will cross the day after!!!!”

No explanations or reasons were given for this unacceptable decision made by the Suez Canal Authority. Hectic phone calls to the Israeli, American, Swiss and German embassies did not help, endless phone calls to the Egyptian Consol in Israel, did not help either. The remaining yachts were “stuck in Port Said!”

At the same time the yachts already crossing the canal were unaware of the drama happening in Port Said. Also, at the same time the 20 yachts that were sailing to Alexandria with the Mini Med Red Rally leg had departed from Port Said, without any problems. There were also 10 yachts returning to Israel as scheduled with the Med Race which had departed from Port Said. There was a lot going on in Port Said!

Motor yacht CHRYSALIS reporting on crossing the Suez Canal “The rally was divided into groups of 6-8 who were supposed to convoy through the canal together. The Canal authorities put a “Pilot” onto a few boats in each group. Ours was supposed to arrive at around 6am, but didn’t arrive until 7. Our group was the first to pull out into the canal around 7:30 and away we went the remaining groups to follow at 9 and 11am. The morning was sunny with a nice cool breeze and we enjoyed the desert surroundings. We emerged at the other end in Suez City around 9:30pm, moored, and crashed into bed.”

May 15th –Still not crossing
Early morning, the situation is getting more complicated! It is clear that the remaining yachts will not cross today apparently neither the next day. We were told that over the next 2 days there are war ships crossing the Suez Canal and we would not be able to cross the Canal and join up with the other yachts of the rally. After collecting ourselves together, a fast decision was made; we will not let them spoil our trip. We are going to make the best of it and continue our program if not by sea by land! Fast reorganizing of the tours by Ruth the rally coordinator and tour organizer, quick bookings on the night train to Luxor, and a new program was set – an in-depth tour to Cairo and down to Luxor by overnight train.

May 16th – Making the best of it
John from J’SEA “So what has happened, we left our remaining 14 boats in Port Said and took a bus trip to Cairo. enjoyed a good dinner and the Pyramids. At 10 PM we took an over night Train to Luxor.”

Kim from CHRYSALIS “Being moored in Suez City was pleasant enough. The view from the port side of Chrysalis was of town–a couple of bars and a lovely open sitting area with flowering red trees ablaze even from a distance. Off to starboard, the Canal. We could sit in the cockpit and watch a steady stream of tankers go by. Sort of like sitting in a café and watching the world go by, which in this instance was exactly the case.

Back aboard Chrysalis, we held a Skippers meeting in the cockpit with crew from the other 5 boats in our Med Red Group. There was a bit of pressure from the Rally Organizers to wait for the rest of the tour to catch up, but cruisers are an independent lot to begin with so I’m fairly certain they weren’t too surprised when the 6 boats in Suez decided to carry on with the original schedule, arguing that we had no idea when and if the rest of the rally might be able to join us.”

May 17th – enjoying the sights
John from J’SEA “To day we went sightseeing at the burial grounds in the Valley of the Kings, sailed a felucca, an Old Egypt Sailing vessel to our hotel. Tomorrow we take an overnight Train back to Cairo, then a bus to Port Said and our boats”

In the meantime, the skippers of the yachts which did not join the tour were informed that they would cross the canal the next morning.

Kim from CHRYSALIS; “We would caravan loosely down the Sinai Peninsula to Hurghada Marina. One boat left shortly after the meeting, three more (including us) the following day. Stage Sea with engine trouble left the day after. We spent a busy night navigating traffic. Once a small blip on my radar approached quickly from our stern. I took the binoculars to the cockpit and scanned the blackness to find out what it was, but couldn’t see anything. Ten minutes later a huge tanker passed us less than a 1/4 mile off to starboard, dark as night and looking ghostly, with only a small bow and stern light. I was awake after that I can tell you.”

May 18th – The decision
Returning from our tour to Luxor, we were informed; no crossing today, no crossing tomorrow, no idea if and when the remaining boats would be permitted to cross the Suez Canal. That evening all the sailors “stuck” in Port Said gathered for a potluck dinner on the jetty. We enjoyed a great meal and decided together that enough is enough and we do not want to spend any more time in Port Said or in Egypt. It was a collective decision to return back to Israel. Steve and Barbara from Sidereal Time decided to stay on and cross whenever the opportunity was afforded to them.

May 19 – Various stories
13 yachts with disappointed sailors set sail from Port Said back to Herzliya, Israel. Disappointed, because they did not cross the canal and sail the Red Sea, but relieved to leave Egypt and return to Israel.

CHRYSAILIS reporting from the Red Sea “We briefly met up with a couple boats in our group at Bluff Point to consider anchoring there, but strong winds pushed us on to Hurghada. We cruised through the breakwater into gorgeous turquoise waters. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was in the Bahamas. The marina here is a new project, almost complete, with colourful condominiums and shops ringing it. In contrast to Port Said and Suez, there are many tourists here. Further on down the street is a bustling, modern town complete with everything you might need in the way of shopping and fun. Although a cosmetic version of Egypt, it's a great place to hang for a while.”

May 22 – Who is having more fun?
The group in Israel enjoyed warm hospitality from Marina Herzliya, endless dinners, and fun tours to Caesarea where we sailed around the power station and ancient harbour on zodiac boats, all events were organized by Ruth and Easy who returned with the group

John from J’SEA; “This is Friday the first day of the Jewish weekend and there is a lot of festive activities going on. Tonight we are having a big dinner for our rally group. Tomorrow we will participate in the Tel Aviv Sailing Regatta. With any luck I will be on the EasySail2, it won the last 2 years of competition. Sunday we are off to a KIBBUTZ, sightseeing and then more rides on power boats on the Israeli coast”

Meanwhile the group in the Red Sea reports great sailing to Sharm el Shekh.

May 24th – Tough sailing in the Red Sea
The reports arriving from the Red Sea, strong winds and heavy seas await the rally yachts starting there, some depart from Sharm el Sheikh and others from Hurghada.

The Chrysalis reports “Just to round out the whole experience, we spent about 6 days bashing our way from Hurghada up the Gulf of Suez, where the 25-30 knot never ending northerlies kicked up some of the most substantial seas we’ve seen yet. While not steep enough to worry us, the 2-3 meter waves were often served up confused and so close together that I told Mike one afternoon that if they were any closer we could just skip our way on crest of these breaking 8 footers and enjoy a more comfortable ride.”

May 26- The accident
After 2 days of tough sailing against the seas, Samba, Nisos and Kismet stop over for shelter in Abu Zneima. Upon entering the bay, Timm on the Nisos falls and breaks his hip. Easy and Ruth, now back in Israel, are informed and immediately start organizing the rescue for Timm. After hours on end, dealing with various authorities in Egypt all night and with the great help of the Search and Rescue team in Sharm, we managed to organize a rescue team that got Timm safely to a Sharm hospital. The treatment in Sharm was excellent; Timm was successfully operated on and sent home for a full recovery.

In the meantime the group in Israel are enjoying a sailing regatta off Tel Aviv.

May 27-31 – Stuck in Suez Port
After rough seas and very tough sailing, the Med Red Rally yachts arrived in Suez City and again had to wait for a few days before crossing the Suez Canal and sailing back to Israel.

“We tied up at Suez City at the southern end of the Canal, physically and emotionally exhausted. We were able to transit the Canal the next day in its entirety, stopping briefly in Ishmalia to exchange pilots (where we also received a call from our agent who said it might be a good idea to give “baksheesh” to his representative there on the dock so we could transit the Canal the rest of the way. “But we are already scheduled with the Port Authorities to go the whole way today. Why do I need to give your rep a present?” Mike asked. “Still, if you want to go all the way, it would be a good idea to pay. Otherwise maybe you stay in Ishmalia a few days” said our agent who clearly knew who he was working for. We paid.)

June 1st – Back together
Relieved and exhausted sailors arrived back one by one to Herzeliya. The most common sentence among the sailors was "Good to be back". The returning yachts were greeted by their friends who did not cross the canal. Those that stayed may have been disappointed that they did not cross the canal, but they definitely enjoyed their extended stay in Israel.

CHRYSALIS reports; “It was a relief to pull back into Herzliya, Israel, it was a bit like a homecoming. We were back in familiar territory on so many levels. Had made local friends. We spent a lovely evening with an Israeli family, including 4 teenagers, who had us for supper one night with some of their neighbours. Talked about what is was like living in Israel. Mike and I spent one last day in Jerusalem with no agenda but to putz around, which by this time we’re pretty good at."

June 2nd -6th – Touring all together again
The Med Red Rally is at last back on schedule. Tours in Israel and Jordan are departing as planned.

June 7th – Off to Turkey on the last leg of the Rally
18 yachts set sail from Herzliya Marina on the last leg of the Med Red Rally. The start was great, we had 8 hours of perfect sailing, and then the weather changed to a windy and choppy sea. From then on it was rough and wet for 24 hours. After that the weather eased up and finally changed to 10 to 20 knot west to a Northwest wind, which was a beam reach to a close haul, allowing us great 10 hours of sailing into Finike Marina.

June 9th – Arriving Finike
It is great to be all together again! The group enjoyed a wonderful welcome party by Setur Finike Marina, who hosted the rally for 3 days.

June 12th – 17th – Lots of fun on the Med
All are enjoying the terrific sailing along the coast of Turkey, endless dinners, beautiful bays, tours, parties, wonderful hospitality from ECE Seray Fethiye marina and so much more.

June 19th – Ending the rally
After 10 days of wonderful and fun sailing from Finike to Marmaris, we arrived in Marmaris Yacht Marina our host for the last 3 days of the rally. Despite the many surprises, we experienced great and challenging sailing days, and had a great rally –the end of Med Red Rally 2008.

We are already getting started on the planning of the Med Red Rally 2009 – Details coming soon!

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