Read what others have to say about the Go West Rally and arriving in Australia
s.v Ooroo 1 - Australia
After almost five years cruising overseas in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific we decided it was time to head back to Australia.
Our only passage joining an organised rally was the Atlantic Rally Crossing (ARC 2014), which was heaps of fun, packed with lots of information. We met lots of new friends that we will keep in touch with for a lifetime. With this positive experience under our belt and fond memories of being a participant, we then heard of an Australian Rally from New Caledonia to Bundaberg Australia, The Down Under Go West Rally for Cruisers.
After some research it seemed the Down Under Rally certainly had the hallmarks of being a great way to enjoy our final passage and celebrate our arrival in Australia.
We also learned that the Down Under Rally offers great seminars, continuous helpful suggestions and advice on not just Australia, but also some great tips on making the most of New Caledonia. The Down Under Rally sounded perfect for OOROO and plus it seemed like great value for money, so we signed up!
Although the official rendezvous was to start in Noumea, we received our Down Under Rally Go West flag in Fiji from the organisers, John and Leanne. We started flying our rally flag immediately and met new people through it.
We ended up sailing from Fiji to Vanuatu with new friends and then from Vanuatu to New Caledonia with more rally participants and the Down Under Rally possible for us to clear into the Loyalty Island which was a real bonus .
The Noumea rendezvous was fun and very informative and making landfall into Australia with the rally had the Australian Border Forces give us a very friendly welcome. Clearing in with authorities was a very quick and painless experience for us as we had previously been very well informed at the Noumea rendezvous by John on what we needed to do to make the process easy.
We found Bundaberg a great entry point into Australia, the staff at Bundaberg Marina were so helpful and friendly along with the people in the closest town of Burnett Heads where we spent a fair bit of time.
Once we were cleared in it just got better, 40 boats in all from many countries. It was non-stop fun and information during the rally welcome week with seminars on East Coast cruising, land travel, prize giveaways (which we won a haul out), discounts and parties, along with some great hootenannies with some very talented musical sailors.
Many new friends have been made once again thanks to a great well-organised rally.
If you plan on sailing to or from Australia do it with the Down Under Rally, you will not be disappointed.
Mike and I would like to thank both John & Leanne and the Down Under Rally for making our homecoming back to Australia such a happy and memorable one.
Mike and Leanne
S.V Freedom ll - Italy
We were horrified by the stories they told us about the inspection of Custom and Biosecurity in Australia, but we found the officers professional and very friendly. Thank you fo all you have done to help make our arrival in Australia a good experiance.
Adriano with Liliana
s.v Kea Lani - Australia
Clearing into Australia October 2017
We had an outstanding experience with customs and quarantine, which I want to share.
We are an Australian registered vessel and we approached Brisbane from New Caledonia. As we entered Moreton Bay we monitored Brisbane VTS on Channel 12: there were multiple ship movements in and out so it was good to get an idea of which of the Moreton Bay approach channels is being used by which ship. If we are concerned about getting in the way of a ship, it’s easy to contact the pilot on board and ask him how best we should stay out of the way. They generally appreciate this.
As we entered the Brisbane River we contacted Brisbane VTS on channel 12 and let them know we were making our way to the Customs Wharf at Rivergate. I asked if they would let Border Force know of our arrival time. He suggested we contact Border Force directly on Channel 16, otherwise he offered to telephone on our behalf. Border Force answered the radio promptly and told us they would meet us at the customs wharf when we arrive which we thought was an hour or so: 6:30pm on a Saturday 28th October.
The officers from the ABF were waiting politely when we tied up at the wharf and we were cleared promptly! Just as we finished with Border Force, the Biosecurity came. We obtained Pratique that evening, so that we were free to leave the boat if we desired. Our fresh fruit, veggies, and fresh meat were taken, but only after Biosecurity ensured we had enough food for our dinner that night! He said he would pick up any leftovers on Sunday morning. The full boat inspection had to wait until daylight on Sunday morning. Sure enough, at 0900 Sunday the same gentleman came and inspected the boat. This took about 45 minutes and we cleared without issue.
We would like to pay our compliments to the officers of the Australian Border Force and Biosecurity for the courteous and professional service we experienced I do believe that our preparation played an important part in our experience and we have the The Down Under “Go West” Rally to thank for this as they gave us really good advice and instructions
So don`t believe all you hear on the grapevine about clearing into Australia, our experiance could not have been better.
Laurie & Carol
S.V Carmina - France
Congratulations Dear Leanne and Dear John, you have reached your goal!
You have shared with us everything you know about Australia. We consider we have been very lucky to meet you at Noumea.
Thanks to Down Under Rally, we had no problems arriving at Bundaberg and we have been discovering Australia with a great pleasure. Your excellent seminars were not only very interesting, but also very useful for us.
You have created a very good atmosphere for every member of rally, and Anne-Marie was sad for stopping Leanne`s yoga lessons so soon. So THANK YOU for what you have done for the members of the Rally.
Now we are sailing alone along Queensland, but we know if we need something, you will help us friendly, and we do hope we shall meet you again when sailing up to Cairns in autumn.
S.V Yara - Germany
Thank you very much for all your very perfect organisation and care.
It was a great experience for us to join the rally!!!
We wish you both all the best and hope to see you again soon somewhere....
S.v Sophia RYS – United Kingdom
An extract from an article written by s.v Sophia for the OCC Newsletter
"Yachts from 10 countries took part in the rally, most of who had gathered in Noumea by 14 October to attend the excellent briefing given by the rally organiser – John Hembrow.
The purpose of the briefing was to familiarise participants with Australia’s stringent entry requirements, brief them on the passage to Bundaberg in Queensland and provide them with an indication of what awaited them in Australia as a cruising destination.
The passage from Noumea to Bundaberg is just over 800nm and with the prevailing SE trades is a relatively quick and easy one.
This was certainly our experience.
On arrival in Bundaberg participants enjoyed a really well organised welcome week programme from 6 to 13 November, which John Hembrow and his wife Leanne had put together.
The programme not only provided many opportunities to relax and unwind in the company of other participants, but also included an excellent series of briefings on cruising the east coast of Australia from Queensland to Tasmania."
A personal message to us from S.V Sophia RYS;
Considering the number of yachts, which arrived on the day we did, the inspections by Border Force and Department of Agriculture were well organised, businesslike and efficient.
Bundaberg Marina staff did a great job throughout our stay - friendly, helpful and efficient.
Despite its somewhat remote location Bundaberg worked well as a port of entry. You guys ran a great rally!
Organised, fun, informative, excellent value and a great meeting of friends old and new. We have been on a couple of rallies before and none so well put together as yours. It is a Must Do for foreign cruisers in our view.
In addition; We have found everyone really friendly and helpful everywhere we have been and so far we are having a great time down under.
S.V. Southern Cross - Australia
From the moment The Southern Cross was pushed onto Bundaberg Port Marina’s purple pontoon by strong winds, and John grabbed our lines saying ‘Welcome to Australia and congratulations on your circumnavigation’, our experience of the Down Under Rally was very positive.
Being part of the rally enhanced the completion of our circumnavigation. Instead of making landfall as an individual boat, we were part of a community which honoured our achievement and helped us to celebrate. We especially appreciated John and Leanne buying champagne for everyone on our first night ashore and toasting us at the Lighthouse Hotel. A very special memory for us.
John made it clear that he wanted the Down Under Rally to be a standout experience for participants. He went out of his way to achieve this. The program was relevant and flexible and we were encouraged to participate as we chose. John was ably supported by Leanne.
Thanks, in part, to the briefing given by John in New Caledonia, we were well prepared for our quarantine inspection. The officers were efficient and friendly and the cost was less than expected.
Bundaberg Port Marina staff were helpful and friendly. They accommodated our plans written at low water in the sand. That is, we were able to arrive on a date prior to our booking and to stay longer than we’d planned.
The courtesy bus was a great asset and we appreciated being transported to Bundaberg Racecourse on Melbourne Cup Day, to town for shopping and business, and to the Shalom Markets on a Sunday.
The laundry, shower and toilet facilities were clean and satisfactory. The rubbish collection area was adequate. Gardens were well tended. Pontoons were in good condition. The recreation area ‘Cruisers’ Cove’ was innovative in design but not adequate when the rain fell and the wind blew.
Bundaberg as a Port of Entry; we believe that making landfall in a town, rather than a major city, enhanced the Down Under Rally experience. Our group was a significant economic and social factor for Bundaberg, rather than a small add on. Down Under rally participants were focused on rally events rather than being distracted by the fleshpots of a large city. The town was large enough for our shopping, chandlery and business needs, and it was easy to navigate our way around. Burnett Heads with its IGA supermarket, hairdresser and Lighthouse Hotel was only a short bike ride away. There was a wonderful walking/cycling track along the coast to nearby towns, beaches and a turtle sanctuary.
SV Il Silenzio - New Zealand
Hi John and Leanne
Well done! You guys gave us an experience we will remember and as a first timer the Down Under Rally was fun, well organised, very informative, fun and we met a great group of fellow sailor’s. I feel you have set us up for a couple of great years Down Under.
The reception and treatment I received when I arrived at both Noumea and Bundaberg were easy and hassle free, obviously well versed. The Australian Border Force (Customs) and the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources (Quarantine) were very efficient, pleasant and easy to deal with.
The Bundaberg Port Marina and staff were great, always helpful and efficient, a well run business with easy going, pleasant people. As a Port of Entry this is a great choice.
The fact that the participants were a great bunch of people reflects directly on the organisers of the rally and you two certainly set a great tone with your laid back yet highly efficient and pleasant approach. Well done, thank you and yes, bring on the next one!
Cat Impi - South Africa
A 4-day crossing from New Caledonia to Bundaberg Australia. Bundaberg Port Marina was just awesome in welcoming us. Lots of thanks to John Hembrow and Leanne Hembrow for organizing the Go West Rally.
Probably the easiest crossing and check in we have had since leaving Panama!
Awesome reception by customs, immigration and bio security. Amongst the friendliest we have had, with a good sense of humor.
Wow we are blown away!
Robbie and Bev
"Thank you, thank you ,thank you for making our Australia experience infinitely more wonderful than we expected it to be!
Despite a long-held position that 'we are not rally people,' we just couldn't have had more fun in Newcastle this month. The Down Under Rally event planning and execution were impeccable; sightseeing, dining and dancing together were all fantastic; sharing movies, jokes and happy hours were enormous fun; and the prizes and benefits offered by the rally sponsors were remarkable.
Not only that, but your efforts, John, to be there for each participant were beyond compare. You caught our dock lines, you arranged taxis to the emergency room, you located marine services for anyone who needed them, you built an incredible web-based Australia resource that will be wonderful for any cruiser - even without a rally. All this AND you treated every single one of us with a warmth and genuine interest that made it seem as if you had nothing in the world to do but cater to our whims.
Remarkable job, John. Simply amazing. You've absolutely ruined us for any other rally - now we're afraid no other event could possibly measure up to the standards set by your Down Under Rally!
Robbie & Bev Collins
Cruising Australia until August 2016
Brian and Sue
The Australian officials (Border Control and Immigration), who have had quite a feared reputation in the past, could not have been more helpful, and made our entry into the country a pleasant experience.
Several boats diverted from their notified arrival port due to changing weather, and again not a problem to the officials.
As part of the rally "Welcome Week" talks were given on cruising the East coast from Tasmania to Cape York, Land travelling tips and any info we needed was freely given to help us maximise our time in the country. Many parties and tours were also on offer including a complementary wine tour and tasting in the Hunter Valley.
Organisers John and Leanne Hembrow, worked really hard to keep everyone up to date with all information, their professionalism organising the event was a first class example for any other organisers of similar events to follow.
Darramy is planning at least a year here in Oz, a massive country with lots to see and do, and the beers not bad either!
Brian and Sue S/V Darramy
Maureen and Doug
My husband Doug and I are relatively new to cruising and had never had the opportunity to be a part of a rally.
When we met John and Leanne in Fiji their enthusiasm very much caught our attention. We were pleased to register our interest and then right away started to receive news and messages from John. He works tirelessly!
From the very beginning we have felt grateful to be a part of this group under John's fine leadership.
We have found the rally to be wonderful!!!! It has exceeded our expectations time and time again! We would not hesitate at all to recommend the Downunder Rally to future participants! It has been excellent.
Our clearing-in process went smoothly and without a hitch. The officials recognize the rally which helps and makes for a nice introduction.
Now that we have our feet wet, we can't wait to go cruising and enjoy the hospitality and beauty of Australia!
Thank you Downunder Rally!
Maureen and Doug Backhouse
Karel and Philip
Dear John and Leanne,
Phil and I believe that the Down Under Rally was a great success and would like to say, congratulations on a job well done!!
We cannot compare as we've never done one before but without doubt we enjoyed it immensely.
We would like to thank you both for your assistance, patience, smiles, friendship, yoga classes and general organisation.
We wish you success in all your endeavours and long life to the rally.
Until our wakes cross again, happy sailing.
Karel and Phil xoxox