Black Cat gets lucky at last in surprise yacht race win

Black Cat sets out in high winds. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography. Click the pic for more images

Black Cat sets out in high winds. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography. Click the pic for more images

For the triumphant crew of Black Cat, the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race has provided proof of the unpredictable nature of their sport. They have been named overall winners of the 2015 race, in a boat that finished near the back of the fleet two years earlier – despite sailing faster than the leaders.

The crew of Black Cat before the race. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

The crew of Black Cat before the race. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

The win came as a massive surprise to skipper Dave Immelman. A rival crew in the racing class had actually reached St Helena a few hours ahead of him, but they declared that they had used their engine for 95 miles of the race and switched to the cruising class – leaving Black Cat in the top slot.

Fickle fortunes also saw the 2013 winner Banjo set a new speed record in the race from South Africa, while other yachts were becalmed by a lack of wind that meant some might not even reach the island before the deadline for late finishers – extended by three days to Tuesday 13 January.

Banjo covered the 1,750 miles from Simon’s Town in nine days 13 hours and 36 seconds, shaving five hours off the record set by a different crew in the same yacht in 2010.

Banjo set a new speed record for the Governor's Cup race. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

Banjo set a new speed record for the Governor’s Cup race. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

The voyage was by no means straightforward for the crew of Black Cat, which was battered by high winds in the early part of the race. On their race blog, they wrote:

“To our horror the beating had damaged an already old (now 20 years) water tank and our fresh water became bilge water. Not to worry, on with the water maker and all is great.

“Our next little hurdle was a small hole in the main sail. This led to a venture up the mast and some fantastic views of the boat and Atlantic. Hole fixed without a hitch and full speed ahead.”

On arrival at St Helena Yacht Club, skipper Dave said: “We are absolutely delighted. It was such a surprise and we are over the moon. The owner, Adrian Pearson, is ecstatic because it is his first win ever in this boat.

Black Cat digs in. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

Black Cat digs in. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

“He spent a lot of money bringing the boat up to scratch last year and he has now realized spending the money has really paid off.

“Also we started the race in 2012 but had to retire with gear failure, so to actually finish and win overall is a dream come true.”

Dave was also skipper of Black Cat in the previous race, when he had to make for the Namibian port of Luderitz with near-complete electrical failure.

They picked up new parts and resumed their voyage, actually picking up better winds and sailing faster than the race leaders.

Read more reports on the Governor’s Cup website and Facebook page.

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