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REGIONAL, REGATTA, CLUB AND CLASS NEWS Editorial and picture submissions to this section of the magazine are welcomed & encouraged. DEADLINES ARE THE 1ST OF EVERY MONTH

Vasco da Gama Ocean Race

Skitzo Skittles Them By Richard Crockett

Preparing for an early start on an overcast morning in Maputo. pic by Richard Crockett

The Vasco Race is always a tough one, and this year was no exception as un-forecast galeforce winds from behind blasted the fleet on their first night at sea. Yet despite this hammering, and a short sharp blast from the south-west as the leaders closed the finish off Durban, the fact that most competitors had ‘beer ‘n bikini’ weather on the way up to Maputo with lots of fish caught, and a glorious first 10 hours of sailing at the start of the race, many tended to ‘blow the downside off’ and take it in their stride. Those who checked the weather and left

44 SAILING June 2012 | www.sailing.co.za

Durban for the delivery with a good window, had dream-like passages northwards while those who left late bore the brunt of a tough passage. The Royal Natal Yacht Club this year decided to bring the race forward and also cast the start date in concrete to bring stability to an event which has had a chequered past. With 11 boats on the start line (and it should have been 12 had SAMSA been more user-friendly) it was the biggest fleet to compete since 2008. In something of a record for the race, every boat that started finished, and that included the cats which have, over the years, tended to

regard Richards Bay as the finish line rather than Durban! Clube Naval in Maputo is always a pleasant place to chill, quaff the great Mozambican beer that country is famous for, eat as many prawns as possible, and generally shoot the breeze with fellow yachties. Next year the Clube celebrates its centenary and they have stated in no uncertain terms that they intend to make the 2013 Vasco one to remember. So, start your planning now for next year. Thanks to the generosity of the Royal Cape Yacht Club and their Commodore John Martin, the Vasco Race was able to benefit from the same satellite tracking system from Xtra-Link that was used on the last Rio Race. This created tremendous excitement for family, friends and followers who said, as the race unfolded, that the hourly updates were insufficient, and almost demanded that instant live tracking was what was required. With Facebook being used to disseminate race info, it appeared that many a follower decided to ‘tough’ it out for the race duration as did the guys and girls on board racing. Interest peaked at some 1500 ‘hits’ per hour, a staggering figure considering just 11 boats and about 70 people were at sea. A fortuitous error by the race chairman in mixing up the tides saw the start brought forward by four hours to 09h30 on Thursday 26 April. It cannot be claimed to have been a master-stroke, but it did not backfire and it saw the fleet leave with wind behind them. The race forecast was for light to moderate following winds until late on Friday afternoon when a moderate south-wester was due for about three hours. The organisers had little option this year but to leave out the traditional second compulsory mark rounding in Maputo Bay as the permanent marker on the chart was, quite simply, not there.


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REGIONAL, REGATTA, CLUB AND CLASS NEWS Editorial and picture submissions to this section of the magazine are welcomed & encouraged. DEADLINES ARE THE 1ST OF EVERY MONTH

This opened debate as to whether anyone would gain an advantage by being able to take a chance through the shallows as they headed for Inhaca and Portuguese Island. Frankly, this is ocean racing, and anyone foolish enough to take chances and cut corners deserves whatever may come their way. Race organisers are not there to police stupidity! The end result was that most took the cautious route, although some did tempt fate - this time without incident fortunately. Skitzo cut the corner the closest, as did the cat Nomad. Last year’s winner, BMA, and the L34 Aquavit, led the fleet away at the pin end. Skitzo was poised for a good start, but just as her spinnaker looked to fill it floated down into the water. Not that this deterred her as she was soon up and going again and making her intentions clear that this was a race she was determined to win. Having rounded the islands it was pretty clear that BMA was heading offshore looking for the current. Most of the fleet hugged the coast for the first few hours after rounding the islands, but as midnight came, two in particular chose to head offshore. They were Kimaya and Phezulu, and they crossed BMA’s inshore track at about 04h00 the following morning. By this stage the wind was pumping and boat speeds were increasing, although it was only at 07h00 in the morning that the real stories of the night came out as the fleet reported their positions live to race control. Inshore, the boats reported winds from behind of 30-plus knots, but those further out reported 40, 50 and even 55 knots. It had been a tough night, but by daybreak the leaders were already off Richards Bay and the rest of the fleet were closing quickly, leaving just 80 miles to the finish. There was little talk of damage during that first night, although one could only wonder what was going down on the boats as BMA had altered course quite significantly and was heading inshore, and appeared slow. Had she broken something or was this simply her tactics? It was later revealed that she had blown a few sails and had noticed some rig damage, so the boat was being nursed. The talk of the night was the performance of the cruising cat Nomad. This 54-foot cat had held the lead for much of the night, and if conditions held it looked as if she could have been a contender for line honours. Gazza, the

46 SAILING June 2012 | www.sailing.co.za

other cat in the fleet, also impressed with her performance. The strong winds quickly abated and soon the fleet was almost becalmed. The fleet was by this stage quite well spread from the Richards Bay area to the Tugela River mouth. The next challenge was the south-wester which had been forecast to blow for about three hours as the sun set on Friday evening. True to form it came through, and although blowing in the 30-knot region, it was short and sharp. And again the inevitable light winds followed. Late on Friday afternoon the L34 Aquavit reported that their forestay had broken, but that they would continue under jury rig. In the prevailing headwinds and then light winds it was tough going for them, but they toughed it out and made the finish line under their own steam rather than taking the easy way out and retiring to Richards Bay. But those headwinds did not really affect some of the front runners, and it was the two boats farthest offshore that were looking good. These were Kimaya which stayed out and Phezulu which had come inshore. At one point the money was definitely on Phezulu taking line honours, with good odds being offered for Kimaya. But the unknown factor was Skitzo, whose tracker had gone off. She was the dark horse, although her last known position report showed her to be in contention and just ahead of BMA and the other two. The combined strong headwinds and light conditions affected the cats adversely, as too, the cruising boats in the fleet. From here one could see the straight line tracks from the tracker change to zig-zag tracks as they battled for wind and to make headway. After 37 hours at sea and a few minutes before 23h00 on Friday night Nigel Milln’s Skitzo took line honours. She was followed about two hours later by Phezulu, and even later by BMA and Kimaya. All four boats battled in the darkness to finish as the winds were exceptionally light, and this effectively closed the door on the rest of the fleet as the next boat finished just before midday the next day, with the rest of the fleet rolling in throughout the day and early evening. Nigel Milln and a clearly exhausted crew were elated at their line honours victory, and later they added the handicap honours too. It was hard-earned, as they buried the bow in

a wave, tore the pulpit out and broke some forward stanchions. They also had to cut away a spinnaker, sheets and all! Leo Kroone (Phezulu) sailed a great race and was close to being a line honours contender. He was rewarded with second over the line and first in the PHRF class as a 50th birthday gift. Stuart Ritchie’s BMA had sail damage and they had been nursing a suspected damaged rig, effectively denying them the opportunity to challenge for the overall honours and repeat their victory of the previous year. Willy Vandeverre, with a scratch crew, also sailed a well judged race and used his years of experience to bring Kimaya home in a creditable fourth over the line and second on PHRF. Every boat had stories, and every boat had its ups and downs, but to a man every skipper said that they would be back next year - and that’s what we want and the race so desperately needs. Flyer, Alkistis, Aquavit and the others had their opportunities. The enthusiasm for ocean racing in Durban is growing again, so a bigger fleet could well be on the start line next year. As already mentioned the cats had everyone talking about their performance and had the wind held they would have been a serious threat for line honours. Maybe next time? The trackers and exchange of news via Facebook brought a lot of supporters down to the finish and every boat was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd of families, friends and others. That’s a refreshing change from the old days when the fleet headed over the horizon after the start to be forgotten until they popped over the horizon at the finish.  Results IRC Division Skitzo BMA Flyer Pallucci Aquavit

Nigel Milln Stuart Ritchie Brad Rayson Warren Clark Ross McGill

Fast 42 Beneteau First 40 Beneteau First 10 Simonis 35 L34

PHRF Division Phezulu Leo Kroone Kimaya Willy Vandeverre Spindrift John Banfield Alkistis Christo Moller

Fast 42 Fast 42 Lavranos 40 Jean. Sun Odyssey 40

Catamaran Division Gazza Gary Warren Nomad Craig Deverson

Voyage 45 Cape 54


Regata Vasco da Gama 2012