Three generations of Kavanaghs take line honours

2014-06-23 00:00

THREE generations of the Kavanagh family and the Ray of Light yacht battled high swells and strong southerlies to win this year’s line honours in the Vasco da Gama Ocean Race from Maputo to Durban on Saturday evening. The handicap winner was Gregg Hurter sailing Bellatrix.

“There are two award categories in yachting,” explained race publicist Sophie Thompson: “The first boat to finish or cross the line is the winner of the line honours. The second is the handicap honours. Because most distance yacht racing is not a one-design race, boats of all shapes and sizes compete, so there is a handicap award. This award takes into consideration such things as the design of the boat, the size of the boat and the dimensions of the sails to even out the competition.”

Although the cut-off time was 9 am yesterday, skipper Michael Kavanagh pulled his family boat into the Durban harbour just after 8 pm on Saturday after a gruelling 300 nautical miles (about 550 km) non-stop race.

His crew members, the youngest being five and the oldest being 70, endured heavy winds and high swells that poured into the cabin. It took the family 59 hours and 11 minutes to get to Durban. Several crew members were sea-sick during the first night at sea.

The fleet of 11 yachts left Club Naval in Maputo on Thursday morning.

“We had a very tough day at sea on the first day of the race,” said Kavanagh. “In the evening the sea conditions changed and we had to be on the rails most of the night, trying to keep the boat level. Strong southerly winds beat and battered us for the next 24 hours or so. That night, with heavy winds pushing the water on board, kept me and my crew on our feet. We were wet and cold and some got seasick.

“But in the end, we stood our ground and the crew worked hard against the swelling ocean.”

As he was relating the experience, the youngest member of the crew, Sean (5), chipped in laughing: “I was throwing up, and some of the others were throwing up. It was wet and there was water coming in.”

Kavanagh said they had close competition with Southern Storm, with the lead changing hands a number of times at various points.

“It was an excellent showing, but under very tough conditions. On the second night Southern Storm went offshore looking for current, but we decided to stay inshore and that played to our advantage.”

For Kavanagh the defining moment came in the early hours of the morning on the third day when they decided to make it offshore from Richards Bay. “We had good current and that too worked to our advantage. One of our sails got damaged in the breeze, but that was no major concern.

“Throughout the race Bellatrix was shadowing us, and they were fairly close to us,” he added.

Handicap winner Gregg Hurter, on Bellatrix, said the race was fantastic from Maputo.

“It was exciting because we had our competitors in sight. It was a gruelling race though. We took twice the time we did to finish the race last year.

“If we had to go for another day, we would have run out of food. It was frustrating at times because we had to decide whether to go offshore or to remain inshore.

“In my previous participations [three in all] I’ve done it in less than what it took us this time around,” said Hurter. “On the first night the crew had to sit on the rail to keep the boat level as the strong current kept the boat unstable.”

Participating in the race can set you back a few rand. Race publicist Thompson said participants are in the race for the love of it.

“It costs to ensure the boat is in mint condition, that the crew and the boat are transported to Maputo, and that everyone is well catered for.

“All this amounts to between R50 000 to R150 000.”

The course record of 31 hours and 11 minutes was set in 2006 by Chris Frost on Prodigy.

This time Frost, sailing on Southern Storm, came fourth in the handicap and second in line honours.

Handicap results

1) Bellatrix, Gregg Hurter

2) Sticky Fingers, Rob Samways

3) Ray of Light, Michael Kavanagh

4) Southern Storm, Chris Frost

5) Pallucci, Warren Clark

Line Honours

1) Ray of Light, Michael Kavanagh

2) Southern Storm, Chris Frost

3) Bellatrix, Gregg Hurter

4) Sticky Fingers, Rob Samways

5) Pallucci, Warren Clark.

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