Rally Portugal - The ensuing high sea adventure

Some of last year’s participating yachts moored at Mayflower Marina - Rally Portugal
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Rally Portugal's international field promises a colourful spectacle before setting off on a high seas adventure from Plymouth's Mayflower Marina.

Rally Portugal, an event for cruising sailors organised by the World Cruising Club, leaves from Plymouth’s Mayflower Marina on 29th May as it has done every year since 1994.

Charles Bush, Managing Director of the marina, is very pleased to host the participants in the 17th annual running of a rally which for many will be the first time they have tackled the notorious Bay of Biscay.

He says: 'The yachts gather at Mayflower Marina on 26th May prior to the official start of the event on 29th May. They make a magnificent sight as all of the yachts involved will be ‘dressed overall’, that is flying signal flags up and down their forestays and backstays during their stay'

He continues: 'The build up to the Rally is great fun and the event adds activity and excitement to the marina as participants ready their boats for the start of a big adventure. As well as the social side of the event, there is a real sense of camaraderie which encourages people who have always wanted to undertake some ‘blue water sailing’ but who have been unsure about heading out alone.'

The Bay of Biscay is a wide concave sweep of water that stretches around the western coast of France and along the northern coast of Spain. This geography, combined with the prevailing westerly winds that sweep in from the Atlantic, creates one 310-mile long lee shore.

Sailing ships of old had a great fear of getting embayed here after a succession of westerly gales, but the Bay is also notorious for its stormy waters, driven up as the Atlantic Ocean meets the shallower coastal shelf of the Bay. Modern yachts, with their much more efficient rigs and engines, should not have the same problems with upwind sailing but nevertheless crossing The Bay of Biscay is a formidable challenge.

The late May departure from Plymouth is a good time to cross the Bay of Biscay in order to avoid gales and high seas, but it should also give the Rally downwind sailing past the coast of Portugal using the northern trade winds.

The 16 boats entered in Rally Portugal 2011 make for a smaller fleet than average, but the numbers will make for a more intimate group on what is always a very friendly and fun-packed cruise down the Atlantic coastline. No less than five different nationalities are represented – more than ever before.

The majority of the fleet are British, but they are joined this year by the Belgian Gibsea 52 Libertas, skippered by Luc Metens; the Dutch Wauquiez 43 Jansen, skippered by Caroline Jansen; the Irish boat Gabelle, Skippered by Michael Madsen. The Finnish Najad 405 Nadja, skippered by Jorma Poyhonen, are also joining the Rally just for Leg 1 in the trip across to Bayona.

The average size of boat this year is 41ft, although more than half the fleet are under 40ft. The largest is the Discovery 55 Brizo, and the smallest is the Vancouver 32 Reveller.

'With events such as Rally Portugal and the Americas Cup, Plymouth continues to prove itself to be a world class venue for international sailing,' says Charles Bush.

'We’re all looking forward to welcoming Rally Portugal to Mayflower Marina and it is a great opportunity for us to showcase our marina and the services available on site. We shall be having a big party in Jolly Jacks, our onsite restaurant and bar, on 28th May prior to their start on 29th May.'

Event website