The Armada Story: Why Our Shared History Matters

The Gay Armada is a special trip that has been called the week of a lifetime by its sailors.  Unlike similar trips, it has grown and continued by maintaining its spirit, and by keeping its costs affordable to all, through its use of a volunteer team to coordinate much of the trip

 

Because we think our history makes us who we are, we are including this page so that you learn about the Gay Armada, and why we think you should be a part of it.  We want you to understand how the trip started, how it was driven by volunteers, and continues to be run by a volunteer Organizing Team, and how it is truly an authentic experience based on new friendships and fun in paradise

2010: Wharton Sailing Venture

Each year, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania teaches a fantastic teamwork and leadership course, called the Sailing Venture.

 

During his first year of business school, Armada Commodore Tony Altimore sailed in the "Blue Pearl" group with classmates and fell in love with the magic of the British Virgin Islands

 

Having grown up among the lakes in Michigan, been taught sailing classes in the Pacific through USC's Nautical Sciences program, and been a recreational and diving powerboat captain, he could appreciate how amazing the islands were, and how he needed to come back again with friends (and no coursework!)

2011: Penn Goes Back to the BVI

The next year, Commordore Altimore went back to the BVI sailing with another group of friends from Wharton and the Univ. of Pennsylvania Cycling Team, which he was a member of.  They chartered their own boat, and the team president (a lifelong sailor with a boat on Long Beach Island in NJ) served as captain

 

While in the BVI, they met with flotilla groups and saw how much fun could be had with the big groups, as well as how easy it could be to create an amazing experience for their friends by taking care of the "little details," which they had learned on past BVI trips

 

What struck Commodore Altimore was how none of his gay friends --many of whom were well experienced glocbal travelers-- had never been to the BVI, and how much they were missing out on adventures in paradise

2013: Laying the Groundwork

During a Summer 2013 trip to Provincetown. Mass., the Gay Armada got its start.  A joint group of DC and NYC guys discussed while sailing in Cape Cod Bay how much fun a BVI group charter would be, and the trip went from there. 

 

At first, they tried to find a large group charter event to join up with, but there were no LGBT groups of note.   Then, the team considered "crashing" a straight event, but decided against it.  Most sailing trips were either two expensive for the group of friends that the team wanted to go, and others could not figure out who no customers were paying their high margins

 

Eventually, the team realized that they would have to create the trip for themselves.  With the Commodore's prior experience at Wharton, it seemed doable, so they went for it, and developed the innovative pricing and cost model that keeps the trip as cheap as it possibly can be, while still creating a robust and professional experience.  The first sign-ups began in Jul. 2013 for the Feb. 2014 trip

Early on, the Armada partnered with The Moorings, the world's best yacht charter company, and its sister brands Sunsail and Footloose to make sure the event would be fantastic.  They also set up the legal frameworks necessary, and partnered with leading travel and ground transport partners to make sure that Gay Armada sailors would have the smoothest and most fun experience possible

At the start, there was nothing to compare to or learn from, as no LGBT group had attempted something on this scale before, but the Organizing Team has worked to learn lessons each year so that the next Gay Armada will be bigger and better

2014: The First Gay Armada Sailing Adventure

With constant learning during every day of the planning, the first official Gay Armada got off to a strong start.  12 yachts joined in with almost 120 sailors from all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe

 

The yachts had an amazing time, and many new sailors were hooked.  A group from Washington immediately began group lessons for sailors to learn to skipper in the 2015 Armada.  As word grew about how fun the trip had been, more and more guys signed on for 2015.  10 months out, year two already had more registrations than year one

 

One of the sweetest memories for many was the adorable budding romance between two of our fantastic Fleet Admirals, who met on the ferry ride over, were dating by the end of the trip, and are happily still together to this day

2015: Massive Growth - Gay Armada II

2015's Gay Armada II saw dramatic expansion.  So many guys wanted to come that the trip had to be split into two back-to-back weeks to accomodate everyone.

 

With so many people, the trip knew it was time to "go legit."  An official logo was designed and a brand created.  The volunteer team doubled in size, and roles became formally outlined and communicated.  More professional skippers and advisors were brought on board, and the route was refinded to handle larger groups with more organized events.  A photographer helped the group take pictures, and much more detailed planning went into all aspects of the trip

 

While an amazing time, the huge growth was not without challenges.  People didn't get to know each other well enough, and wanted a more intimate feel.  There were some minor accidents and injuries that should have been avoided, and the Organizing Team had to balance their desire to help and support everyone with the logistical realities of running one of the largest sailing trips in the world

 

Regardless, the trip was so much fun that more and more guys got into sailing, and some have even ventured around the world on their own mini trips after developing friends and a network on the Armada.  The Armada also continued its tradition of new couples, one of which is still together to this day

2016: Back to Basics - Gay Armada III

The Gay Armada needed to get back to a managable size, and only one week, so the Organizing Team decided to shrink it and focus on recreating the authentic BVI experience.  With the right size, everyone gets to know each other better, gets to build more in-depth and authentic new friendships, and gets to really experience why the BVI is such a magical place

 

Most importantly, the managable size allowed the Organizing Team to get back to having FUN on their own vacation, rather than managing a massive army of people

With 70 sailors on 8 boats, the 2016 Gay Armada sets sail on February 20. 


There are still a very few last minute slots available - Email info@gayarmada.com if you want to join!

NYE 2017: A Whole New Adventure - Gay Armada IV

2017 is a time for something new for the Gay Armada:  New Years in Paradise!

Many of the Armada sailors had friends who coudn't come during February, and the mid-winter time was too tough to continue doing forever, so the Organizing Team decided to move the trip to New Years Eve week, and to radically change the format

 

With busy day jobs, it is too hard for the Organizing Team to deal with too many independent travelers wanting to come, all of whom have a million questions and take too much time to coordinate, so the Organizing Team needed to make the trip easier to manage

 

From now on, the main focus of the Gay Armada will only be on "full yacht groups," where a group of friends pays a set price for a yacht, and coordinates the sailors among their friends.   This makes it easier to run, and gives more control to the yacht groups to build their own groups

 

Recognizing that this is a loss for many that have wanted to come before and couldn't, the Organizing Team has reserved four yachts that can be used for individuals and small groups, and the rest will be only full yacht rentals.  It is planned that registration for the small group and individual slots will close April 1, 2016, so you should book your slot today if you want to come!

 

Registration is now online at:

https://gayarmada.regfox.com/gay-armada-nye-2017

 

Euro 2017: Summer in Greece - Gay Armada V

Nobody loved the magic of the BVI more than the Gay Armada Organizing Team.  Since 2010, it's where they have come back to for sailing, sun, fun, and recharging the batteries of life

 

But it's also time for something new

 

The Armada Organizing Team is in initial discussions for a Summer 2017 trip to Greece.  This is still VERY early in the planning, but would be a fun change for the group.

The Greece trip will be very small, and have much less organization than Gay Armada trips I-IV.  As such, it will ONLY be full yacht groups and invited guests.  If you want to come on the Gay Armada, we suggest that you join foir the NYE 2017 trip, and sign up today at:  https://gayarmada.regfox.com/gay-armada-nye-2017

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