Rough seas take toll on Vasco da Gama race

2014-06-21 00:00

ROUGH sea conditions had turned the Vasco da Gama Ocean Race into a marathon rather than a sprint, race organisers said yesterday.

The fleet of 11 yachts are making their way from Maputo to Durban and were expected to arrive in Durban after setting off from Club Naval in Maputo at 9 am on Thursday.

But on Thursday night the boats reported swells of over seven metres high further out to sea and winds in excess of 60 km/h, making it extremely challenging.

Principal race officer Robert Bell said after the 32 km from Club Naval to Inhaca Island it was clear that the skippers were up for the voyage and that all boats were in good condition for the race.

“After rounding Inhaca heading south towards our shores, the wind speed was between 35 to 40 knots as nightfall descended. Crew members had little sleep because of the high winds.

“Seas were high and this resulted in the race being tough. In such conditions crew members get on the rail of the boat to keep it level,” said Bell.

At 10.45 am two boats, Ray of Light and Bellatrix, skippered by Michael ­Kavanagh and Gregg Hurter respectively were neck and neck at Cape Vidal (Lake St Lucia).

“We had a nervous morning when two boats hadn’t reported in and we weren’t getting any pings from their tracking devices. We sent out a precautionary alert to authorities and NSRI were on standby. By early Friday [yesterday] afternoon all the boats were accounted for, a couple of them had electrical issues resulting in a lack of communications,” said race committee chairperson Dave Claxton.

“We had one retirement from the race on Friday afternoon — the yacht Alacrity skippered by Dave Taylor made her way to Richards Bay,” said Claxton. “We are going to hear war stories from all our bruised sailors who have been battered by this front that passed through.”

Cut-off for the final boat is tomorrow at 9 am. “Most of the fleet will continue to arrive throughout the day [today] and I am sure they will enjoy the 24-hour breakfast on arrival that is tradition to present to the sailors after a long race, and of course a hot shower!” Claxton said.

Publicist for the race, Sophie Thompson said the competition was fierce this year with the course record holder, Chris Frost sailing on Southern Storm, taking on Bellatrix and Skitzo which have over the last few years juggled the honour of crossing the line first.

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