Friday, 22 July 2016
Sailing Yachts about to set off

Record Number of Yachts Take Part in the 2016 Ocean Village/Boatshed Gibraltar Morocco Yacht Rally and Raise £10,591.33 for the Gibraltar Red Cross. Forty-eight yachts including the star of the show, HMS Scimitar of the RN Gibraltar Squadron, took part in the annual yacht rally to Morocco in aid of the Gibraltar Red Cross. HMS Scimitar was there to provide search and rescue cover for the yachts. Their services were thankfully not needed but their presence at Marina Smir was hugely appreciated by the participants and the Moroccan public who were pleased to see the unusual sight of a British warship at Smir.

The amount raised for the charity has exceeded the organisers’ target. The amount was announced at the “After Party” that was be held at the Waterfront at Queensway Quay Marina on the evening of the 21st July.

The rally started at 13:00 on Friday with sailing yachts getting a 5 minute head start on the power yachts. The sight of the motor yachts accelerating through the sailing fleet provided some great photo opportunities. The first yachts into Marina Smir arrived barely an hour after the start. The sailing yachts came in during a 4 to 6 hour window after the start. This rally is not a real race because there is even a prize for for the last yacht in! Still there is a friendly competitive spirit.

By sunset most yachts were safely tied up with some yachts having to raft up to accommodate the record number of boats. After some initial gremlins getting shore power connections all the participants got together on the hammerhead to enjoy a few bottles of well earned cava. This reception was an opportunity for meet and greet (sometimes for the first time).

Saturday morning saw the crews disappearing to explore the local beaches or the exciting souk in Tetouan. Some even ventured up into the Rif mountains to the “blue town” of Chefchaouen. By mid-afternoon they trickled back loaded down with watermelons, local delicacies and the unavoidable carpets and slippers. It was then time to prepare for the highlight of the event, the fancy dress party, prize giving, raffle results and auction. The fancy dress party is an opportunity to give free rein to participants, creativity. They did not disappoint as witnessed by the hilarious and elaborate costumes that emerged from the berthed boats. such was the eccentricity of the whole thing that members of the Moroccan public were left agog. Some had the presence of mind to ask for “selfies” with the fancy dress characters. The fancy dress party is sponsored by GibOil, a stalwart supporter of the event over the past three years. The organisers are hugely grateful to GibOil and all the other sponsors who make this event so successful not just in terms of the fun for the participants but for the huge amounts that are raised for the Red Cross over a single weekend.

On Sunday morning the crews drifted back across the Straits with some putting into Ceuta for another night and a slightly different experience. Sailing conditions were light but the 10 knots of wind allowed most yachts to push home at 5 to 7 knots. The flat sea provided ideal conditions for spotting turtles, dolphins, pilot whales and voracious tuna feeding close to the surface.

This year the rally reached new heights in terms of participation and funds raised. There are not many marinas that can accommodate 50 additional yachts over a weekend. Marina Smir may be reaching its limit so the organisers plan to explore the possibility of using the new marina at Tanger that should open before the end of 2016.

Note: You can find over 300 photos of the event at the BoatshedGib page on Facebook.