Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cape to Rio 2014

Four days after the start, this most recent Cape to Rio 2014 is already being talked about on the same terms as the Fastnet race of 1979, the Sydney Hobart of 1998 and the Vasco da Gama Race of 1984. To be fair, the weather wasn't quite as extreme, but conditions did result in sustained Force 8 Winds and 6m seas, resulting in a quarter of competitors (9/36) retiring in the first few days. Widespread damage was reported across the fleet. One crewman tragically died onboard SV Bille (Bavaria 54) during their dismasting. Rescues were mounted by naval frigate SA Islandwana, Tug Miriam Makeba, NSRI Station 3, and several fellow competitors.

Start of Cape to Rio 2014
Picture credited to my friend Louis Louw

Notable casualties included:

Black Cat: Suffered a major capsize in heavy seas, loss of rudder, followed by a subsequent complete roll in a giant wave that collapsed on them, and fair mayhem in the boat. Despite a remarkable recovery from the experienced crew they were unable to continue and started making their way to Saldanha slowly. NSRI 3 later assisted with a tow back to Cape Town. Besides sprains and bruises, they are all ok, and the boat is easily repairable. Watch this one in subsequent races as she was looking extremely quick until the crash. See Dudley Dix's account on his blog (skipper, designer, original builder of the vessel). The official race report said "BLACK CAT has reported a broken rudder and is proceeding back to Cape Town, one crew has a sprained ankle and all are well." Can't accuse them of being verbose I suppose!!

See Black cat tell their story courtesy of Steve Searle's video. This is a must see!

Bille:  Bille is a 54' Bavaria with Angolan Crew and flag (along with Mussulo III, she was one two Angolan Bavaria 54's in the race). Sadly she seems to have suffered the worst damage with a dismasting and loss of a crew member, plus a M.O.B. situation. All remaining crew (including the deceased) were evacuated by the Frigate SA Isandlwana, and are now safe.

Ava: A Miura 31 sailed by father and daughter team Colin and Belinda Horton, suffered damage and flooding (details unclear to me at this stage). They lost electrical power and all comms for a day or two, causing widespread concern, especially after an EPIRB signal was received from them. Their track log looked equally curious during this time and the worst was feared. Competitor yacht SV DODO (Fortuna 37) diverted to look for them. They were eventually spotted by the Frigate who found them in good shape, besides the lack of systems. AVA made it back into Saldanha Bay unassisted a day or so later, I was able to hear their comms and Channel 16 from the South of Cape Town 100 kms away, so I guess they managed to regain at least the main VHF. Well done Ava, and viva la Miura!

Peekay: A Beneteau 51, suffered a variety of sail problems (probably more detail we don't yet have) and limped back to Saldanha Bay. The skipper has decided to leave the boat and is looking for a replacement, according to some reports.

Isla: A large Wilderness Cat, lost both engines and had some flooding in one engine compartment. Container vessel "Bosun" standing by for them, followed by tug Smit Madura, which may tow them home to Cape Town. I am not clear what eventually transpired , but Isla tracker shows her back in Cape Town at time of writing. (Update: she was towed in, the last bit by NSRI). A PAN-PAN was issued by Isla at some stage and received by Peekay. I see two of my HBYC clubmates were aboard, Rian Turner and Dave Mills.

Avocet: A Beneteau 45, disappeared from the track log for a while, she appears to also have lost comms for a day or so. She did however make it back to Cape Town somehow without serious injury, as far as I can tell at this stage.

Indaba: Stadt 34, skippered by the very experienced John Levin, and with Angelo Lavranos aboard, has had to return to Saldanha bay with an injured crewman. They arrived safely last night sometime.

EXPLORA: An Open 60, reported engine flooding but were able to continue and are doing very well in the continuing race.

Dodo: Fortuna 37, despite standing by for AVA, also suffered loss of steering and engine. They have made it back to Saldanha Bay unassisted, and appear to be tied up at Club Mykonos according to the tracker, no doubt swopping tales with Indaba.

FTI Flyer: A Charger 33, well known campaigner in our local club races and veteran of the Rio Race, adopted a unique and very northerly route for reasons I am not clear on (possibly to avoid worst weather and be close to shore). They headed back after two days and made it safely into Cape Town unassisted. I hope to get the story from skipper Keith Mattison at some stage.

Avanti: A Vickers 41, also returned to Saldanha Bay, and is tied up at Club Mykonos, after apparently spending some time at Kraal Bay if the tracker is to be believed? Avanti's story still unknown to me at this stage, but bots like this don't give up this kind of race without extremely good reasons...

Anecdotally, services from the SA Navyand the NSRI have been very commendable, as has the seamanship of fellow competitors and even passing commercial traffic.

The satellite weather image of Sunday 6 Jan 2014


I would be grateful for all and any further info, or race accounts, or corrections for inclusion here. Please email me here. Contributions and accounts from competitors especially will be appreciated. Many thanks!

The outcome of this storm could have been significantly worse. It is a huge credit to the crews and vessels that nearly all boats survived or were able to get back unassisted, despite loss of sails, rudders, engines and electronics. It should be noted that these vessels are all very seaworthy and well scrutineered for a race of this nature. Many of these vessels are well accustomed to the very challenging conditions of the Cape waters. Many of the crew are veterans of ocean racing and several have done this race multiple times. Normally, the Cape to Rio race is thought of as a Trade Wind "milk run", but long races always bring suprises, and Cape Waters bring them all too frequently. These boats and crews have shown extreme seamanship, and there will not be need for any kind of review into "what went wrong". This was all well done. That's what ocean racing is all about.....

I will add detail and stories as they become available.