A unique approach to a fun and welcoming on-the-water event has taken shape in Tacoma. The next opportunity to get involved is coming in early June.

Do you need motivation to get your boat out on the water? Are you looking for a fun and relaxing way to help people experience sailing?  Or are you and your club looking for a new unique and fun activity on the water?

Boats relishing the fun of a Cruising Day Sail Rally on Commencement Bay in Tacoma. Photo by Greg Overton.

Corinthian Yacht Club of Tacoma has started hosting what we call “Cruising Day Sail Rallies.” Whether you might join us for our upcoming day sail rally on June 11, or you find inspiration in the idea for an activity you might run in your local waters — these events are an terrific way to untie from the dock, socialize with other sailors, get your friends out on the water in a non-competitive (ok, slightly competitive) fashion, and experience a fun and relaxed day out on the water. 

 So what is a Cruising Day Sail Rally? It is NOT a race! The entire day is based on many varying challenges, and points are awarded accordingly. Here’s how it starts:

  • You have to show up to the meeting location for the first challenge, which starts with a safety inspection for which you get points based on having all of your safety gear and appropriate burgees and flags flying.
  • Then, a randomly selected crew member is tasked with tying a knot or two (also selected at random). I hope you brought some seasoned crew with you! If not, it’s ok, as this is only a couple of points.
  • Next, we host a skipper’s meeting to go over all the rules and tasks for the day.
  • Points on the water are generally gained by following all of the clues and instructions, answering nautical-themed trivia questions, and always making sure tasks are completed in order. The course is unknown by any of the boats until you open your first clue.

Here’s the central premise of the on-the-water game:

  • Each skipper is given a packet for the day, containing several envelopes for each of the clues.
    • Envelopes for the clues include either the right answer, a course heading, and a standard playing card (for the best poker hand at the end of the day); or if you got it wrong, you’ll know.
    • Each correct answer gives you a point, each incorrectly opened envelope means you don’t get that point. Using the correct envelope, it is time to set off.
    • Submit your answers and scores before rounding the buoy for your points to count!

      You’d better have your sails ready to go, because an extra point goes to those that use less than a set amount of motoring time.

    • While you are out, spotting wildlife and posting to the club’s facebook page gets you additional points.
    • Once you reach the destination of your first clue, you usually round a buoy with some sort of distinguishing mark that helps you determine the answer to the next clue. Get it right, and you’ll know your next course heading.
    • Your nautical-themed trivia answers and total leg score needs to be submitted to (via a photo to the organizer with a crew member in the shot) before rounding the mark. If you don’t, your trivia points don’t count for that leg of the course.

The rules can get a little confusing… But that is the point. This event keeps you and your crew engaged the entire time — whether the crew are completing trivia, helping sail towards the next mark, watching for wildlife, or making delicious snacks and beverages!

How It Worked for Me and My Crew

I’ll share a fun experience from a rally I attended. For this event, I did something I never do — I put an open invite out on facebook for people to come sailing. I had no idea who would respond, but this is a social event, and a fabulous way to get people some experience on the water and for recruiting. I ended up with two club members, an ex-coworker, someone who lived in my old building and her friend, someone I met from a birthday party the night before, and a few other random friends. Everyone met at the boat, and there was some predictable awkwardness as 10 people from different walks of life met one another.

After the entire crew made it aboard, I left for the skippers meeting, leaving them all to their own devices. Fifteen minutes later, I returned to raucous laughter from the boat of a gregarious group of people that had somehow already gelled into a cohesive crew. We went over safety rules of the boat, how the day was going to go, and prepped for departure.

The author’s awesome 10 person crew of varied backgrounds.

Within a couple of minutes, we were underway sailing and had started dividing the crew into different groups — one for trivia, one for navigation and sailing, and others to look for wildlife and keeping tabs on engine use time, and snacks of course. Over the course of the day, we experienced the best of what the PNW had to offer — steady wind, beautiful teal water, wonderful warm temperatures, sunshine, and Mt. Rainier gloriously towering over Commencement Bay. Halfway through the course, we even had time for a quick swim.

To have that many people come together seamlessly, and for them to be instantly engaged in unique ways and have such fun — it was the pure magic of this event. We all know what it’s like to be on a sailboat for the first time, having no idea what a sheet or halyard is or what they do; and the rally helped everyone feel welcomed, involved, and valued regardless of their sailing background. One of my crew members who had been in Washington for a year declared, “This was the single greatest event I have attended the entire time I’ve been in Washington.”

If you want to make a weekend of it, CYCT would love to help you come join the fun!

Many of our club racers have started attending these events, and one enthused, “This is the most fun I have ever had on the water, including racing.” I truly believe that these are one of the best events on the water, and our club would love to have any boats or clubs come out to participate — even if just to learn how to host something similar at your club. Please reach out to our Cruising Captains at cruising@cyct.com.

Our next Cruising Day Sail Rally is scheduled for June 11, 2022. Exact time and locations will be posted on our website at www.cyct.com. Mark your calendars and get your crew lined up. We’ll see you on the water. Pre-registration will be required to plan for instructional and rally materials and prizes. Happy sailing!