Go East Rally 2019 - Ordeal or Adventure?


During the later half of 2018 and the first half of 2019 38 registrations were received from the owners of vessels who had the intention of sailing from Australia to New Caledonia with the 2019 Go East Rally.

As is often the case, changes in personal circumstances such as family illnesses, along with crew changes and last minute vessels issues lead to 8 vessels withdrawing from the rally prior to departure.


There were several organised events leading up to the rally goal departure date including the Bon Voyage Party, which as always was enjoyed by all.

Bon Voyage Party

Bon Voyage Party

Bon Voyage Party

Bon Voyage Party

Kim -s.v Three Little Birds - Bon Voyage Party

Kim -s.v Three Little Birds - Bon Voyage Party

Wayne & Michelle-s.v Knot Again-Bon Voyage Party

Wayne & Michelle-s.v Knot Again-Bon Voyage Party


As stated in all published information the Down Under Rally and in particular the Go East Rally does not sail to a schedule and the final decision to depart with the rally fleet is always the responsibility of the vessel captain.

The goal departure date of the 6th May saw 30 vessels with over 100 captains and crew ready to depart. Unfortunately as is sometimes the case the weather was not suitable for the voyage and the waiting game began.

As a result of the delay some who were able to continue to tick items off there to do lists. The majority of the participants spent the time getting to know the other rally participants and making visits to theme parks and other Gold Coast attractions. A BBQ, which was well attended, was organised by s.v Sandy Cheeks one and there were a few informal get togethers at the Southport Yacht club, which were also enjoyed by all who attended. For a few others the delay caused frustration and meant last minute crew changes were required and changes to plans that had been made but all in all the majority were prepared for such an event and happy to wait for a more suitable forecast.

Two vessels, however, did decide to depart prior to the fleet. Unfortunately one of those vessels was dismasted prior to arriving in New Caledonia and the other reported having the traveller torn off the coach house roof.


On Thursday the 16th May officers of The Australia Border Force attended the Southport Yacht Club at 07:30 am and began the process of issuing outward clearances for the fleet and the 100 plus crew members. The process was completed in a prompt, professional and friendly manner by 10:30am. A rally departure briefing, which included a discussion and advise about the weather forecast and recommended voyage route was held immediately after the outward clearances had been issued and all that was left to do was set sail.

Departure Briefing at Southport Yacht Club

Departure Briefing at Southport Yacht Club

On Friday May 17th, after a 10 day weather delay the remaining 28 vessels departed the Southport Seaway bound for New Caledonia at 08:00 to coincide with the morning high tide.

The forecast for the voyage necessitated that the first leg be to the south to allow for a more comfortable sailing angle later in the voyage. Once again it was up to the captain of the vessel to decide which route to sail and soon after the fleet departed it became apparent that about half the fleet had chosen to ignore the advise to sail south and were instead sailing the rhumbline direct to New Caledonia. The remainder of the fleet heeded the advise of the weather and proceed to the recommended route.

Image: PredictWind 2019 Go East Rally Tracking page:   https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/rally/go-east-rally-2019/

Image: PredictWind 2019 Go East Rally Tracking page:


Day two of the voyage saw two vessels return to Australia. One as the result of a crew member having been injured after falling down the companionway and the other as a result of one crew member suffering severe seasickness.

The remainder of the fleet arrived in New Caledonia by Friday the 24th May. The majority made the voyage in 5-6 days with the last vessel taking just over 7 days.  

Go East rally fleet at Ilot Maitre - image credit Mark Rolle

Go East rally fleet at Ilot Maitre - image credit Mark Rolle


The passage itself was not ideal and whilst at no time were the conditions dangerous it did make for an uncomfortable voyage. The average wind speed for the voyage was 15-20 knots as predicted. Unfortunately however the wind did not shift into the south for the later part of the voyage as predicted. Dependant upon the route chosen this resulted in a wind angle that varied from 30 – 80 degrees apparent for almost the entire voyage. Whist the average swell was around 2 metres the sea state was for the most part confused which made for an uncomfortable passage. The occasional squall later in the voyage with winds of up to 30 knots (true) and some rain also kept crews on their toes.

The upside was that a full moon was present which always makes those night watches so much more enjoyable.

Interestingly the vessels that followed the recommended route sailed around 950 nautical miles without any significant issues. Those who chose the direct route sailed around 800nm with majority also reporting no significant issues however of those who chose the direct route some did sustain damage that included a broken forestay and some structural damage on a catamaran.


With arrival formalities complete and the fleet at rest off the island resort of Ilot Maitre in the pristine waters of New Caledonia’s UNESCO heritage listed lagoon, participants began enjoying the rewards of having made the voyage.

All were surprised to be visited by turtles and many species of fish but were even more surprised to discover that when they joined these locals in the water that they became their companions as they snorkelled and explored their new surroundings.

By special arrangement the facilities of the La Escapade resort at Ilot Maitre were available to the rally participants and many a tale of the voyage was shared around the bar & pool over the coming days.


Yoga & Cruisers Olympics.

Saturday morning began with a relaxing morning yoga session with Leanne, aka Yoga4Yachties. The location for the session was a deck at Ilot Maitre that overlooked the lagoon and was sheltered from the morning sun under trees that were home to many birds that seemed to almost serenade the class making for a truly memorable experience for all who attended.

Afterwards many participants chose to take the ferry to the mainland for their first taste of Noumea and to wave goodbye to some of the crew-members that had come along just for the voyage and were flying back to Australia.

Sunday morning Leanne held another Yoga session, which was well attended and just as special as the first. For many this was their first Yoga class. As is often the case with Leanne’s Yoga classes it seems those who attended on Saturday enjoyed it so much that they convinced quite a few to give it a go on Sunday and all commented on how much they enjoyed the experience!


Sunday afternoon participants gathered on the beach and took part in the Cruisers Olympics, which was followed by a Monohull vs Multihull tug of war, the outcome of which was a protest that remains unresolved, all be it in the best natured way.


Monday afternoon participants gathered at the resort and received their participant trophies and a welcome bag containing information and some gifts with compliments of New Caledonia Tourism and some of our New Caledonia rally partners. This was followed by various information sessions about visiting and sailing in New Caledonia.

Welcome Bags and rally participant trophy

Welcome Bags and rally participant trophy

Information seminars at Ilot Maitre,

Information seminars at Ilot Maitre,

Welcome Ceremony & End of Passage Party

On Monday evening, thanks to New Caledonia Tourism and Ilot Maitre island resort, the official welcome ceremony took place with a cultural dance performance, welcome cocktails and canapés. Participants then enjoyed a sumptuous BBQ dinner before the awards ceremony. The theme for the party was ‘anything nautical’ and many rally participants made the effort to dress up for the evening.


The last event of the rally is the awards ceremony. Crews of vessels in the fleet who wish to do so are asked stand and to nominate other participants (or themselves) to be considered for the following awards:

Hard Yards Award

Whilst there were a number of nominations including one entertaining tongue in cheek self nomination for the hard yards award by Sunrise 11 for spilling some of his mochaccino one evening whilst on passage, the Hard Yards award went to Mick & Jenny of s.v Euphoria 1. Their autopilot failed early in the voyage and as there were just the two of them aboard they hand steered s.v Euphoria for several days and nights in shifts of one hour on and one hour off. Anyone who has ever had to do this will agree that this was a well-deserved award in deed.

Mick & Jenny with rally organiser John Hembrow

Mick & Jenny with rally organiser John Hembrow

s.v Euphoria 1

s.v Euphoria 1

Spirit of the Rally Award

Greg White, captain & the crew of s.v Kalani 1 were awarded the Spirit of the Rally award. After learning of one vessel having reported a structural failure s.v Kalani 1 returned to the position of that vessel and sailed alongside them for the remainder of the voyage in case they required assistance.

Greg and crew

Greg and crew

s.v Kalani 1

s.v Kalani 1

So ordeal or adventure?

Before we departed on the voyage my parting words as organiser of the rally to the fleet were to quote Bob Bitchin who once said: “The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude”

Most of those with whom I spoke that made the voyage with the rally, captains and crew alike, said they considered it to have been an adventure. Some others, mostly crew members, saying it was a mix of both and a few, again mostly crew members, saying it was an ordeal, so I guess that along with attitude, the decisions made before and during the voyage also contributed to the overall experience.

As the rally organiser and someone who sailed on this rally and several more prior to this one I can say that for me and those aboard Songlines it was more adventure than ordeal however it was certainly not the most comfortable of passages we have made.

Ocean travel on small boats and all that goes with it, including the months, and for some years, of investing money, time and resources to fulfil a dream is without doubt an undertaking that most will find challenging at some stage and even questionable at times but in our experience and without exception those who live the dream are rewarded not by just having arrived safely at the destination but more so by the voyage itself, what they have learned along the way and by the people with whom they have shared the experience.

Organising and running an event such as the Go East Rally can be a frustrating, challenging and an all consuming task that spans several months every year. It is however also a hugely rewarding thing to do made so by the humbling gratitude that so many of our participants bestow upon us for helping them to achieve a dream.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who chose to sail with the 2019 Go East Rally and allow us to help them achieve a dream and “make some memories!”


The Down Under Rally would like to make special mention of the following individuals, organisations and government departments in relation to the assistance and cooperation they provided the Go East Rally.

  • John Martin - Sail South Pacific

  • New Caledonia Quarantine, Immigration & Customs

  • New Caledonia Tourism

  • Peter Mott - Northland Radio

  • The Australian Border Force

On behalf of the Down Under Rally and our rally participants we would also like to take this opportunity to recognise and thank our all our rally partners for their contribution to the memories that have been made and ask that you consider supporting them in return.