Cape Town - The second start of the 2017 Cape2Rio presented by Maserati was the number one drawcard at the V&A Waterfront on New Year’s Day.
The first round of yachts set sail on December 26, 2016, but on January 1, 2017 it was the turn of the racing yachts to set sail from Table Bay, with 20 yachts leaving Cape Town for Rio in warm conditions and a gentle breeze blowing.
In all, nine countries were represented by the departing boats, ranging from South Africa to Russia.
Cape2Rio is the longest continent-to-continent yacht race in the southern hemisphere, spanning 3 500 nautical miles.
Now that the competitors have departed Cape Town, they will head north-west towards Ilha Trindade island in the southern Atlantic Ocean and then on to South America.
“It’s incredibly exciting and fulfilling to see the yachts and the high calibre of sailors taking part in 2017,” says event director Simon Borchert.
“We’ve attracted a stunning field from around the world for this iconic race and we’re looking forward an excellent event. Cape Town is an iconic destination and to be able to host and start a race like the Cape2Rio further enhances the global appeal of the city.”
As the boats prepared to leave for Rio on New Year’s Day, most participants were engaged in final checks and then long farewell hugs with family members. Jose Guilherme Caldas, owner of Angolan entry Team Angola Cables - Mussulo 40 was in high spirits, primed and ready for his second Cape2Rio.
“We are very excited to start and to get the boat out on the water,” he said.
“Our skipper Leonardo Chicourel is actually from Brazil, so we are really taking part in the race so we can get him home!”
The favourites for line honours at the race include Runaway (Peru) and Russian boat Weddel. To ensure Runaway and her crew arrived in Cape Town in the best possible shape for the Cape2Rio, the yacht has sailed in the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race (1 300 miles) and the Pacific-Cup Race from San Francisco to Hawaii (2 000 miles).
Crew member Tom Corkett says their main race ambitions are to get to Rio in the best possible time.
“The length of the race is a challenge but we are looking forward to trade wind sailing in off the wind surfing conditions, in which Runaway excels.”
As for Weddel, skipper Vladimir Kulinichenko believes they have a great mix of talents on board to ensure a successful southern Atlantic crossing.
“We have a combination of experienced offshore sailors and amateur sailors eager to discover and learn more about offshore sailing,” he says.
“We have an older boat but she is specifically made for this kind of sailing and that gives us reassurance in our race goals.”
In the race for handicap honours at the Cape2Rio, the duel looks to be set between local boat Lion of Africa Vulcan (42-footer) and German boat The Black Pearl (47-footer).
Vulcan is owned and skippered by Cape Town sailor Hylton Hale.
This will be his and Vulcan’s first Cape2Rio, as well as crew member Sarah Niedzwiecki-Mecoy.
“Over the last few days we’ve been putting in a lot of work to get the boat ready; loading it with food and other supplies, and doing final preparation,” says Niedzwiecki-Mecoy.
Lion of Africa Vulcan isn’t designed for ocean crossings, so in the build-up to the event the boat has been outfitted to handle the rigours of the Cape2Rio.
“The guys have done a lot of work to get her ready for the Cape2Rio,” says Niedzwiecki-Mecoy.
“They’ve installed a water maker, safety gear for offshore racing and satellite communication technology. This is my first Cape2Rio, so I’m looking forward to some good downwind sailing, and also what they call ‘champagne’ sailing!”
The Black Pearl is also a first-time entrant, made up with a mostly South African crew, many of whom are experience ocean crossers.
One is Mark Sadler.
“This is my third Cape2Rio and I’m looking forward to getting onto the water again. There are no nerves or butterflies; just excitement. I think if things go our way we’re looking at 12 days to do the crossing; worst case scenario, 14.”
Owners and skipper of the Black Pearl Stefan Jentzsch believes that his boat has what it takes to perform well at the Cape2Rio, but also acknowledges the tough field.
“We are a racing team and while we want to have fun in what we do, we compete to win. But we also recognise that we have some very formidable competition, so a good race awaits.”
An interesting entrant into this year’s event is the 26-year-old Scatterling yacht. Its crew of five is made up entirely of current and recently graduated UCT students, all taking part in their first Cape2Rio (though the yacht itself has completed the event three times).
Along the way the crew will also be engaging in some research for the UCT Department of Oceanography and the South African Weather Service.
“On our way to Rio we’ll drop off surface drifting buoys that will gather information on the ocean currents for UCT, while on the top of our mast we’ll have a mini weather station that will send data to the South African Weather Service,” says Scatterling navigator Alex Lehtinen.
“The weather data will help improve weather models for South Africa, so the next time you check the weather on your news feed the update will probably be coming from us.”
Race chairperson Ray Matthews was upbeat about this latest edition of the famous race.
“It has an extremely high class field, with the largest yacht at 80 foot (24.38 metres) and some proven race boats around the 50 foot size. These vessels have come from Peru, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, UK, Angola, India and Germany and we expect some exciting results.”