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Airport could transform St Helena race, Billy tells yachting mag

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Patches, the island-crewed entry in the Governor's Cup, makes a double-page spread in Yachting World
Patches, the island-crewed entry in the Governor’s Cup, makes a double-page spread in Yachting World

The opening of St Helena’s airport could triple the number of entries in the island’s biennial race from South Africa, according to a seven-page spread in Yachting World magazine.

Click the pic for a race gallery
Click the pic for a race gallery

Its article, headlined The Greatest Ocean Race You’ve Never Heard Of, enthuses about the attraction of sailing out to one of the world’s most remote islands, and then hitching a lift back to South Africa, yacht and all, on the RMS St Helena.

Writer James Stewart speculates that when the RMS is withdrawn from service in 2015 or 16, it could spell the end of the Governor’s Cup race after nearly 20 years of deep ocean crossings.

But race organiser Billy Liesegang says it could actually make the race fleet much bigger.

The island will still have a supply ship capable of carrying the yachts home to avoid a bumpy voyage under sail, he tells the magazine. And crews would have the possibility of a quick flight home.

Conditions were cramped aboard Reaction
Conditions were cramped aboard Reaction

“With the airport you could sail the race, be back to work on the next flight, and know your yacht is in safe hands until you collect it in Cape Town,” he says.

That would open the race up to people who cannot spend several weeks away from their jobs to take part. “We could end up with 60 yachts,” he says.

Stewart’s lengthy article brings out fresh insights and yarns from the race – like the fact that one crew, all aged over 60, thought it wise to include a defibrillator and oxygen in their first-aid kit.

And the cockpit aboard Reaction – the overall winner – was so small that it had room for only two of the four crew at any time, with others waiting below decks for their turn on duty as the yacht surfed noisily down the big waves, shredding nerves.

Without an autopilot, the helmsman had to keep a hand on the tiller at all times, so if any adjustments had to be made to the sails, “other on-watch crew were called up for trim changes by a tug on a rope tail tied to their ankles.”

Picture special: the Governor’s Cup yacht race
Governor’s Cup stories

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