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A new cruising rally for trawlers

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Trawler Trek will join the Bermuda Cup sailboat rally from Virginia to Bermuda

Trawler Trek will join the Bermuda Cup sailboat rally from Virginia to Bermuda

Trawler owners seeking offshore passagemaking experience will have the opportunity to participate in a rally to Bermuda next summer.

Organized by the Cruising Rally Association and sponsored by West Marine, Trawler Trek will depart Hampton, Va., June 21 after a couple days of briefings, inspections and workshops. The trawler fleet will join CRA’s Bermuda Cup, a 640-mile sailboat rally from Hampton to Bermuda.

Bill Bradshaw, who is in the process of refitting a 40-foot Island Gypsy trawler for Trawler Trek, sailed his 44-foot motorsailer in the 1994 Bermuda Cup. “It was an absolutely wonderful trip — well-managed, very safe — and [I] just had a ball,” he says.

Bradshaw followed the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally and wished there was a similar event for powerboats that don’t have the range for a trans-Atlantic crossing. He says he asked CRA president Steve Black if he could motor along with the sailboat fleet in 2005, and Black agreed. Bradshaw, who describes himself as “somewhat retired” from the aerospace research and development industry in Virginia, noticed there was no mention of trawlers on the CRA Web site. Black asked him to help rewrite the rally rulebook with trawlers in mind, and Trawler Trek was born.

“As time goes on, you’ll see more and more voyaging go on under power, as more people become capable,” says Black. “Hopefully this will be some sort of farm system that will pass along skills to a new group of people.”

Black says the trawler and sailboat fleets have separate needs, and the trawler group will have its own leader. “In their own best interest they need to function as a pure trawler event,” he says.

Rally participants will stay in contact through scheduled radio conferences, and organizers say most trawlers should make the passage in three to five days. To be eligible trawlers must measure at least 30 feet overall and pass inspection, have a recorded capacity to safely make the trip with a 25-percent fuel reserve, and be crewed by two or more people. The $650 entry fee ($750 after May 1) covers the food budget, including two dinners and five cocktail parties; there is a $45 charge for each crewmember.

Participants will have the opportunity to cruise Bermuda waters before an awards party and dinner July 3 in St. George’s. An optional return rally is scheduled to depart the island July 4.

Black and Bradshaw agree that the June-July time period is suitable for first-time rally participants. “Generally speaking, it’s a nice time to be out on the Atlantic, and more relaxing than the fall trips that are a lot more challenging,” says Black. Also, the night watches go by quickly, helpful for a 24-hour-a-day undertaking.

Black says interest in Trawler Trek has been high. “Everywhere we’ve turned, people have been interested in it and appreciated that we’re doing it,” he says. “Our goal the first year is somewhere between eight and 10 boats. I think there’ll probably be a lot of people that’ll wait and see how this group does.”

Based in Hampton, CRA also organizes the fall Caribbean 1500 sailboat rally from Hampton to Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Black says he hopes to see more rallies patterned after Trawler Trek in the future, as a new sport for people that own this type of boat. “I think it’s good for boating to bring people together with common interests, to help them stretch their legs a bit,” he says. “[Trawler owners] should have a safe and fun way to play with their toy, too.”

Contact the association at (757) 223-5070 or visit www.trawlertreks.com. n