The lead yachts in the Governor’s Cup yacht race have passed the half-way mark in their voyage from South Africa to St Helena.
With a strong lead, the racing multihull Banjo looks set to be the first across the line for the second time in a row.
But light winds that have plagued the fleet meant the yacht was unlikely to match its 2010 finish time of 9 days, 18 hours and 59 seconds.
On that occasion it was sailed by just two crew with a borrowed spinnaker and few comforts aboard. The yacht now has a new owner, Kevin Webb, who has fitted out the yacht at its base in South Africa’s St Helena Bay.
Kevin has 40 years of racing experience, but the Governor’s Cup is his first “true” off-shore event, according to the race website. His two crew include his son, Miles, a yacht delivery skipper and a national racing champion.
Patches, with a St Helena crew under skipper Hedge Shuter, lay well behind the bulk of the fleet at the end of Day 7 (28 December 2012), but JML Rotary Scout, with two island scouts aboard, was one of a group of yachts all with just under 1,000 miles still to sail.
Read the half-way stage report by official race journalist Sue Pelling 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.
Twenty yachts set sail in the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race on Saturday, 22 December 2012, including two late entries.
The first days’ satellite positioning update showed the St Helena crew apparently well behind most of the fleet, but skipper Hedge Shuter had reported trouble with the yacht’s tracker device. JML Rotary Scout, which has two island scouts in its crew, was well up the field.
St Helena Online will carry news stories when possible, but readers can keep up to date via the links at the top of the right-hand column of this site.
Yachting journalist Sue Pelling has described glorious conditions for the start of the “sleigh ride” to St Helena, with thousands of people watching from vantage points ashore. Read her report here.
The 19 crews confirmed for December’s yacht race to St Helena will need courage and skill, according to island governor Mark Capes.
He has spoken of growing excitement on the island about the eighth Governor’s Cup Yacht Race from South Africa.
In a short speech at the False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town, he promised a warm welcome for the 90 sailors and supporters expected on the island in early January 2013.
Governor Capes spoke just before being handed the cut-glass race trophy by club manager and 2010 winner Billy Leisegang.
He said: “I’m very grateful to the commodore and Billy and his team at the FBYC for their tremendous efforts to prepare for the race to St Helena and the great spirit of friendship they bring to all their dealings with their counterparts in St Helena.
“The Governor’s Cup Yacht Race is a demanding and exciting international sporting event, calling for excellent seamanship skills and not a small amount of courage to tackle over 1700 miles of often-unpredicable weather and seas, with fast downhill sailing.
“For everyone taking part in this race it will be, I’m absolutely sure, a tremendous personal experience and achievement.
“I look forward to welcoming all the teams to Jamestown in January.
“But this is much more than just a yacht race. The Governor’s Cup represents the close, warm and long-established links between St Helena and South Africa.
“St Helena remains a welcoming and safe haven for mariners sailing to or from the Cape. Today, virtually all of our trade is with, or comes through, South Africa. Many Saints have been here training or working.
“As the Governor’s Cup approaches, excitement is mounting in St Helena. There is a real buzz about the place of anticipation of the 19 teams coming to visit in early January. All participants will get a very warm welcome, and I wish everyone participating in the race kind seas and safe sailing.”
The race starts from Simon’s Town on 22 December 2012.
An appeal has gone out in South Africa for acommodation for St Helena’s crew in the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race in December.
Hedge Shuter and three other islanders will make up the crew for the only all-island entry in the race from Simonstown to St Helena.
Organiser Billy Leisegang, of the False Bay Yacht Club in Simonstown, says: “They are not flush with funds, so are appealing to anyone with vacant living space available close to FBYC to please come forward. They would be able to accommodate a small fee if required.
“Dianne and I have had Saints stay with us prior to three Governor’s Cups and I assure you that they are an absolute pleasure to have as guests. They settle in easily, are excellent company and WOW can they cook!
In fact, the island yacht is expected to have a combined Saint and expat crew – that’s not to say the cooking will be any less good.
Twenty five yachts are lined up to form the biggest-ever fleet in the race, which has taken place every two years since 1997. Two have pulled out but another two look set to replace them.
Secure moorings for the entire fleet are expected to be in place in time for the race.
The yacht race newsletter says: “Excellent breaking news is that the island has commissioned a professional engineering design and specification for their moorings and it is anticipated that 25 moorings, more than adequate to securely berth our fleet, will be installed and commissioned well in time for our arrival.”
A record 26 yachts have been signed up to take part in the 2012 Governor’s Cup race from South Africa to St Helena.
Skippers are being warned that some will have to anchor off the island, despite efforts to install safe moorings in time for the race following the sinking of the yacht Queequeg, which broke loose and drifted on to rocks.
The race newsletter says: “The island has not yet advised exactly what is happening and where they are with their swing moorings, but some of the yachts, most likely the larger ones which are well prepared for this anyway, will have to anchor.”
A shipping container has been donated to enable crews to send equipment to the island, such as heavy anchors or equipment needed for onward sailing.
A get-together is planned at the False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town on 28 July 2012 to give owners, skippers, crews and supports an idea of what awaits on the island.
“We have two Saints in town and they will be invited to the function, so you will be able to mingle and get a taste of what is to come,” says the newsletter. “They are being hosted by Robin Castell, who is the owner of one of the finest properties on the island, Prince’s Lodge.”
The race starts just before Christmas and the first boats are expected to arrive before New Year’s Eve. As usual, many yachts will be craned aboard the RMS St Helena for the return journey to Cape Town, departing on 10 and 30 January 2012.
The newsletter says: “The Committee is hard at work with all that needs to be done and our friends on the island are also very busy and are planning a bumper event.”
The biggest fleet in the race to date was seen in the second Governor’s Cup race in 1998, with Saints among the crews for the first time. The 2006 race attracted the smallest field, of just ten boats.
“Maybe we should ask Basil Read to organise the yacht moorings.”