Under a blazing sun and the gentle Mediterranean breezes off the Ashkelon Marina, six boats crossed the starting line headed for Crete on the first leg of the Millennium Odyssey. On board each boat was a special brass lantern designed to carry a symbolic flame around the world. The day before, crews of these boats had joined in a moving flame-lighting ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. The flames are to be carried around the world and passed along to other boats starting the rally at different points.
At a ceremonial dinner, Jimmy Cornell, organizer of the event, explained that the Jerusalem flame would circle the globe and be delivered to Rome on Easter Sunday in 2000 as a symbol of peace and friendship for the new millennium. He noted that passing the flame on to boats starting their circumnavigation at other points around the world was like mankind’s earliest gesture of friendshiphelping tribes sustain their fires.
World Cruising Ltd. and Jimmy Cornell have organized this latest rally following a string of successful rallies since 1986. These have included the America 500 Atlantic crossing celebrating Columbus’s voyage, the Hong Kong turnover and Europa ’round-the-world rallies, and the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, ARCs, from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia. Over the past dozen years, about 4,000 boats have taken part in these rallies. Many sailors seem to enjoy the rally environment for the camaraderie of sailing in company, the safety of daily radio roll calls and chats among boats that are sometimes stretched hundreds of miles apart, the administrative assistance provided for immigration and customs formalities, and the cultural themes and backdrops associated with the events.
The Millennium Odyssey was designed to fulfill many daydreams, and is by far the most complex of the rallies conceived to date by Jimmy Cornell, sometimes referred to as the impresario of cruising rallies. There are several millennium circumnavigation routes and rendezvous points around the world to encompass the various starting locations and choice of routes.
The first group started in Ashkelon after the flame-lighting ceremony and church blessings in Jerusalem. This group will cross the Mediterranean headed for the Canaries. Shortly after the Ashkelon start, a group will start in Williamshaven, Germany, to meet up with those starting in London and also headed for the Canaries.
In the Canaries, one group will continue across the Atlantic headed for Panama while another group heads for Cape Horn and Antarctica. One of the aims of the rally is to start the new millennium by connecting all corners of the globe, its six continents, and all the oceans in a sailing gesture of goodwill.
A group starting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will meet up with the European starters in Panama to receive the flame from Jerusalem and then cross the Pacific to Tahiti. This will be a major rendezvous of all boats, including those that round Cape Horn and touch Antarctica.
From Tahiti, one group heads for Honolulu, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore while another makes for Australia and Bali. Routes split again in Bali, with one group heading for Singapore, across the Indian Ocean, and up the Red Sea, back to the Mediterranean, where the symbolic flame will be given to the Vatican in Rome. The other group leaves Bali for Cape Town and then crosses the South Atlantic to South America and the Caribbean. St. Lucia will see another rendezvous before the remaining group splits up with boats headed homeward to the U.S. and others returning to Europe across the North Atlantic by way of the Azores.
The rally schedule calls for a circumnavigation in about a year and a half. Many would consider this a fast orbit, far too hurried, with not enough time to smell the roses.
For others, the time frame is ideal. It satisfies the yen for a circumnavigation without having to drop out of their land life for too long. The rally falls under the modern notion of “trophy travel.” It allows participants to claim a circumnavigation, transiting a major canal, visiting exotic ports, rounding a major cape, and crossing all seven seas.