St Helena’s crew in the 2012 Governor’s Cup yacht race sailed home from South Africa on a diet of curry sauce – and blocked the lavatory twice. Skipper CHRIS “HEDGE” SHUTER reports.
The race was a great adventure for the crew, who worked very hard together to overcome the challenges of a long ocean voyage.
The crew did amazingly well, considering that they were novices and we had only two training sessions in False Bay before the race.
We crossed the start line with them not knowing how to fly a spinnaker and I taught them to sail en route.
Even so, we managed to finish fourth overall and retain the Muira Trophy for yacht Patches.
There were many amusing incidents, including the crew blocking the heads [toilet] twice, much to their chagrin and causing the skipper to use some choice language as he dismantled it again.
For some reason the RMS St Helena food suppliers delivered us 19 cucumbers, 3kg of garlic, 30 tins of curry sauce, no meat and no water! This lead to an interesting diet for two weeks at sea.
The welcome home was a very humbling experience. Several boats came out to greet us and there was a great reception crowd waiting at the steps. The skipper and crew were overwhelmed and are very grateful to those who made the effort.
The crew took great pride in representing the island and did their very best to be good ambassadors for St Helena.
The winning skipper in the 2012 Governor’s Cup yacht race has hailed it an “incredible” experience – that he had no wish to repeat.
At least, not on such a small yacht.
The 29-foot Reaction won the overall Governor’s Cup – not open to multihull yachts – as the first monohull to reach James Bay, a few minutes inside 12 days.
Skipper Tinus Groenewald told SHBC reporter Sherilee Phillips: “It’s like a dream come true – fantastic feeling.
“This was our third attempt and at last we’ve got it. We worked very hard on virtually the smallest boat to make it. It’s a great great great feeling.”
Asked whether he would compete again, he said: “Not on the same boat. It’s too hard. I think we’ve achieved what we wanted to do but next time I come past here I’ll come cruising again.
“I think it’s an incredible package because you get the racing part, you get the week on the island, which is absolutely fantastic – it must be the most honest, friendliest place on Earth – and then you get the trip back on the RMS St Helena, which is just as great.”
St Helena’s crew in the Governor’s Cup yacht race has been praised by skipper Chris “Hedge” Shuter after a 15-day voyage from Simon’s Town in South Africa.
He described it as “a brilliant achievement by a novice crew”.
Four boats carried officials and wellwishers out to Banks Battery to escort Sandy Francis, Ross Towers, James McCabe and Kathryn Jackson for the final approach to James Bay.
Their yacht, Patches, crossed the finish line as light was fading, claiming fourth place on handicap in the racing monohull class.
A cheer went up from 70 people at the landing steps when Hedge and his crew stepped ashore.
In an interview with the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation, Sandy’s mother, Valerie, described how she cried with worry nearly every day while she was at sea, “but when I saw her today out there on the boat, I felt so proud.”
Sandy told reporter Sharon Henry it had been a “wonderful” experience, with “one or two scary moments”. And she said Hedge had been a wonderful skipper.
Hedge has also praised Graham Sim, Keith Yon and Craig Yon for their work laying new yacht moorings below Ladder Hill Fort in time for the arrival of the Governor’s Cup fleet. He said: “St Helena now has world class yacht moorings, something which is great news for the yachting world, and the island can be rightly proud of this achievement.”
Hedge Shuter and his crew aboard the Governor’s Cup yacht Patches are expected to reach St Helena by tea time on 6 January 2013 – just in time for the traditional end of Christmas on Twelfth Night.
Hedge and team mates Ross Towers, James McCabe and Sandi Francis have been at sea longer than expected, thanks to light winds that slowed down the 19-strong fleet.
According to the race positions at 0900 on 5 January, they looked set to finish at 18.00 – an hour ahead of chasing yacht TicoTico and four hours behind Maggie.
Fellow St Helena competitor Tyler Brady has found himself among the class winners aboard JML Rotary Scout, after a loss of wind frustrated Swedish challengers in Kuheli within sight of the island.
Kuheli reported being ten miles from the island at 09.00 on Saturday morning (5 January), with a good chance of crossing the finish line by 11.22 in order to beat the scouts team on handicap. The wind dropped in the final three hours, giving JML Rotary Scout a narrow victory.
Tyler was one of four scouts on the yacht – the others all from South Africa. He had little sailing experience before heading for Cape Town in time for to take part in a qualifying voyage of 200 nautical miles.
Co-skipper Stephen Jennings said Tyler would be welcome aboard in the future. He told SHBC reporter Damian O’Bey: “Tyler surprised us a lot.
“He came to us with hardly any experience, us thinking this might be a liability. As soon as he jumped on the yacht he was wide eyes, and he immediately got to work.
“He did tend to sleep a lot, but when he was helping us he learned quite quickly.
“Whenever we were pulling down a spinnaker, whenever we needed a bit of foredeck work, he would be chucking on his harness, tightening up, clipping himself in and trying to get in with the crew. Eventually he was on his own at the front, pulling in spinnakers.
“I was happy to have him as crew I’m quite happy to say he can be part of the crew whenever he wants.”
Johnny Clingham’s St Helena Community website reports that Tyler was not the only Saint novice in the race:
Sandi Francis is very new to sailing, he writes, unlike James McCabe – back in St Helena on a gap year – who has enjoyed boating all his life.
Ross Towers, who served as first mate, took time off from his job with St Helena National Trust to take part in the race.
Hedge Shuter, serving as a sergeant with the St Helena police, is a qualified Ocean Yacht Master who’d been a leading figure in yachting in a previous posting in the Caribbean.
The overall Governor’s Cup 2012 winner has been named as Reaction, which finished the race in 11 days, 23 hours and 43 minutes – just fast enough to beat Indaba on handicap.
Thinus Groenewald said the win resolved “unfinished business” from the previous race.
“Last time, when we were flying towards St Helena, our rudder failed and we had to pull into Saldanha Bay to fit a new one. We were convinced we could have won that one had we not had gear failure.
“Therefore we are absolutely delighted with this result. Once we found the breeze we enjoyed a fabulous sail all the way to the island.”
The first yachts home in the race, Banjo and Sandpiper 2, actually finished second and third in the rally multihull class behind Compromise, the winner on handicap.
Hedge Shuter and his St Helena crew aboard Patches have moved up to fourth place in their class in the Governor’s Cup yacht race, overhauling PERI African Renaisance in the handicap table.
JML Rotary Scout, with young Saint Tyler Brady aboard, is now leading the eight remaining boats in the rally monohull class.
The race tracker showed the scout yacht to be 559 miles from St Helena at 11.32 hours on 31 December 2012, with Patches lying 786 miles from the island at 10.47 hours, towards the rear of the fleet.
The leading yacht, Banjo, was 270 miles from the island at midday, with the tracker suggesting it had re-established its lead over chasing yacht Sandpiper 2. However, the catamaran Compromise was still listed as leading the four-strong racing multihull fleet at 0900.
The crew of Black Cat, now back in the race after pulling into Luderitz for repairs, report good spirits on board: “Other than being damp, with little sleep, we are all very happy to be heading north again. The air is warm and last night’s sunset was magnificent, the food is good and plentiful and the morale high.” Read more here.
A snapped mast has forced a second yacht out of the Governor’s Cup race between South Africa and St Helena.
The skipper of Ray of Light, Michael Kavanagh, had to climb the mast unaided while the yacht pitched in waves off the coast of Namibia.
“We are all devastated,” said Michael. “Why this happened we do not know yet. We have all the pieces, so when the experts get to take a look we will no doubt be able gain more insight into the failure.”
Another yacht, Black Cat, has had to make for Walvis Bay in Namibia after losing power to most of its systems, including VHF radio. Skipper David Immelman told race organisers he was hoping to make repairs and continue to St Helena.
The crew aboard Unwind retired from the race on Christmas Eve after reaching Yachtport, in South Africa’s Saldanha Bay, with rudder problems.
They too still hoped to sail to St Helena once the steering was fixed.
The dismasted Ray of Light had steered a course up the African coast, well to the east of the main fleet, meaning it had only a short journey to the port of Luderitz.
“We had worked hard to get ourselves into a north easterly position and our race strategy was starting to play out nicely,” said skipper Michael.
“We had wonderful SSW breeze on the afternoon of 25 December, initially up to 25 knots. On the evening of 25 December our routing suggested that we should push north for another 30-40 miles before turning for St Helena.”
After a “beautiful” night’s sailing, the yacht was turned towards St Helena, but the autopilot steered away from the set course and the spinnaker began “flogging”, said Michael.
“I re-adjusted the auto pilot to steer more to starboard and the spinnaker set. I then altered course to port again at which point the boat heeled over and there was a loud bang.
“The top section of the mast had fallen over and was now dangling in the wind, the main doubled over and the spinnaker in the water.
“The forestay had collapsed and the end of the spinnaker pole was in the water with the spin still attached.”
As the crew attempted to bring the spinnaker under control, it streamed out from the mast.
“We were concerned that the broken mast section would come crashing down as the boat rocked on the waves.
“However, it was held in the air by five halyards and electrics at the break. We steered the boat downwind as there was no forestay while contemplating our next move.
“I realised that I had no other option but to climb the remaining mast section. As I had no halyard to go up on I had to free climb. It’s amazing what adrenaline can do.”
With holding repairs in place, the crew decided to make for Luderitz – where they were welcomed by a large pod of dolphins.
As they cleared customs, a French yachtsman offered to help, and then climbed the mast with tools in his pocket and a diving knife attached to his leg.
He made it possible to lower damaged material to the deck, then helped set up a jury rig – a temporary arrangement to allow a boat to continue sailing with a broken mast.
“We now face a new challenge, to get our crew and vessel safely back to Cape Town,” said Michael. “We are grateful nobody was injured. All are in good spirits and contingency plans are being discussed.”
Race leader Banjo was 971 nautical miles from St Helena at 20.59 hours on 27 December 2012, giving only a narrow lead over Sandpiper 2 – which was 982 miles from the island at 22.02 hours.
The St Helena crew aboard Patches lay in fifth place of the six remaining yachts in the racing monohull class. At 1900 hours, they were 1,215 nautical miles (NM) from St Helena.
JML Rotary Scout, with two Saint scouts aboard, was 1,123 NM from the island at 20.32 hours, putting the yacht in third place of eight remaining yachts in the rally multihull class.
Father Christmas manages to deliver presents to children even when they are at sea in a yacht race, it seems.
The youngest competitor in the 2012 Governor’s Cup race is reported to have been untroubled to spend Christmas Day on his parents’ boat.
Sean Kavanagh, who is four years old, did not let sailing get in the way of playing with his new toys.
Dad Michael reported that they included “an activity book and coloured pencils, Lego, a little light torch, and a quad bike that pulls an inflatable rubber boat, so he can fantasize about pulling and launching his own boat.”
A lack of wind meant a leisurely Christmas morning for Sean, mum Heidi, Michael and their regular race team aboard Ray of Light.
In a radio interview, Michael told race journalist Sue Pelling: “We are now 377 miles into our voyage and are all enjoying a fabulous Christmas Day at sea.
“We are currently becalmed but the sun is shining and everybody is in good spirits. We’ve had one round of Christmas presents this morning, and yesterday we discovered a hunk of pork roast, which somehow sneaked its way on board.
“Just before we were about to eat the roast pork we caught a lovely yellow tail (tuna) so we had that for starter. All that is missing is a bit of breeze.
“There is lots of sea life, dolphins, and jumping tuna all around, so even though we are stuck in no wind, we feel it is a privilege to be out here. Basically, if you were looking for a cruising and sun-tanning holiday, this would be it.”
Yacht pulls out: The crew aboard Unwind advised Cape Town Radio yesterday of their retirement due to rudder problems, writes Sue Pelling.
They arrived at Yachtport, Saldanha Bay, on Christmas Eve, but intended to resume their voyage to St Helena once the steering problem was fixed.
After a near-perfect start and a tricky and tactical first couple of days, the 19-strong fleet was beginning to settle into life at sea off the western coast of South Africa.
According to the race tracker, Canace was leading the fleet on Christmas Day, skippered by Kevin Ward and crewed by a team of six between the ages of 52 and 70.
However, she was stuck in an area of high pressure, which could affect her position if the likes of Rob Newman’s Du Toit catamaran Compromise – one of the early race leaders – maintained her consistent speed.
The race website was down on Christmas night, meaning it was not possible to publish the latest fleet positions.
Entry details for the 2012 Governor’s Cup yacht race have been flashed up on Facebook. The race starts on 22 December, which means many yachts will arrive in the New Year and competitors will spend Christmas at sea. It all sounds very exciting, but St Helena Online is confused by the image at the top of the race website, which shows a Thames Sailing Barge. These fine old craft were designed to carry cargo down the shallow, muddy creeks of England’s east coast, and don’t have keels. We wouldn’t want to undertake an ocean voyage in one.