Our mentors in SV Totem http://sv-totem.blogspot.mx/are doing an article on rallies and we were humbled to be asked to provide our perspectives based on our very limited experience so far.
From our limited experience with one rally and limited cruising:
- Instant social network. As a "kid boat" this was our primary motivation for the rally and was worthwhile.
- Mutual assistance. Not so much at sea although there was a few cases of people being helped at sea with dead batteries and the like. For us the mutual assistance with helping fix things at the stops was great. For once we were able to help others as well as receive assistance. This of course happens whether or not you are in a rally but it helps if you have met the folks ahead of time.
- Discounts: we saved quite a bit at the marina in San Diego while we continued to prepare the boat. Also we received some discounts at Downwind Marine before departing.
- "Race" mentality. Not really a race but they are keeping track of times so ... good motivation to learn how to sail the boat efficiently
- Local knowledge: intro available from the organisers so much of the planning was done for us.
- Schedule: no excuses to procrastinate cutting the dock lines as you have paid to leave with the group ...
- Schedule: Although the Ha Ha is very informal we found the perceived pressure to depart and arrive with the group a burden. Several of us "kid boats" decided to stick around Bahia Santa Maria for another day to allow time for a dingy expedition up the estuary which meant we missed the infamous Squid Roe party.
- Racing Mentality: we can be a bit competitive so we most probably pushed our "home" a bit hard especially with the spinnaker (came second in our division though).
- Crowding: 147 boats is a lot in one place so we flooded some areas creating an environment for inflated prices and supply shortages. Not a big issue though.
- Nets: although the nets had certain utility, they took a long time. In harbour there was considerable radio chatter that led us to shut off the radio sometimes.
Overall, we are glad we did the rally as we met some great folks and accelerated our learning process on cruising in Mexico. That being said, we are also glad to be done with the schedule and slow the pace down a bit.