17 January 2024
The Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Rodney Williams, fired the cannon to the 27,000-mile, 16-month adventure that will take in some 27 destinations and explore some the world’s most spectacular cruising grounds.
Oyster Yachts Chief Executive Ashley Highfield was also at the starting ceremony on Fort Charlotte, Antigua.
Ranging in size from 53 to 90 feet, the 21-strong fleet will meet again in Panama for their transit through the canal in mid-February.
Some 18 yachts have been bought specifically for the rally, and just under half the fleet are new Oyster yachts, which were launched in 2023 and built specifically for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It has been an emotional and exciting build-up to the start of the 16-month adventure, with some of the fleet arriving in Antigua in mid-December, having taken part in the ARC Rally, the traditional delivery passage to the Caribbean for Europe-based yachts.
All the crews have spent the past few weeks building up to this day ensuring their boats are fully ready for this experience-of-a-lifetime event. They’ve taken part in safety training, weather briefings, technical workshops and more – all supported by the Oyster Technical and Logistics Team, who will be on hand for the whole event to support and advise the fleet.
Among the rally fleet are 14 new-generation Oysters – five Oyster 565s, three Oyster 595s, two Oyster 675s, an Oyster 745 and three Oyster 885s – a testament to Oyster Yachts standing as the ultimate builder of luxury long-distance bluewater cruisers.
However, these luxurious British-built bluewater yachts are also capable of impressive speeds, as was demonstrated by four Oyster Yachts (565 Tír na nÓg and 675 Rí-Rá from Ireland, and 595 Sydney Rock and 575 Ahlam) finishing in the top 10 of the ARC Rally, the feeder event that many yachts participate in to get from Europe to the Caribbean.
The first stop for the rally will be Shelter Bay, Panama, where the fleet will all come together ahead of transiting the Panama Canal. “Logistically, this is one of the trickiest parts of this edition of the rally,” commented Oyster World Rally Director, Allie Smith.
“Lack of water in the lake that feeds the canal has put additional pressure on the number of recreational boats allowed to transit at one time, but we’re hopeful we should be able to keep with our current schedule of arriving in Galápagos, our second stopover, in early March,” says Smith.
Follow the Oyster World Rally and keep up-to-date with the fleet’s adventures around the world here.