Left Johannesburg in a hurry for Durban and the Race start the next day. Jumping from work straight into race mode is really moving from one extreme to the other. Charlotte picked me up from work and we went through to Sandton Gautrain station to both go to the airport where she would bid me farewell for 10 days. At the airport things turned into a rush, we had a quick Sushi together and I barely made it through Check-in in time. Looking around and seeing my teary wife trying to be brave does hit a string in you heart that resonates into sadness. I am neither going to see her nor my son for a long time, yeah, that part of the adventure isn’t great.
In Durban, Uber did its magic and delivered me safely to the yacht club. One is always going to be a little apprehensive about the crew you are going to be with and finding a comfortable sleeping space. Space is limited and some bunks are really short. If a tall person ends up sleeping on one of those you find your toes dangling in the galley. I spotted the boat where no sole was to be seen. There were a bag or two bunks but that was it. Chucked my stuff down and went along to seek out a restaurant serving a good curry. Durban and curry goes together like nuts and bolts. A thought walk down the beachfront road sent out a few warning signals and I thought it better to turn back to the yacht club. The point yacht club did not serve curry that night but the Royal Natal Yacht club did. I settled outside and enjoyed a good meal. Thinking back about the Durban beachfront, man the place went down! This use to be a place where tourists and holiday makers deployed onto the streets in hordes, walking up and down filling hotels, holiday apartments and restaurants all night long. The previously vibrant beachfront now speaks of decay, buildings seem to be illegally occupied, windows are broken and it is clear that the high end income is no longer generated hear. I miss the old Durban.
The skipper and Rory, a Scouter and regular crew member on the yacht, arrived after my return to the boat. We chatted and a bit and I learnt that this boat had done the Governors Cup and Cape to Rio Race. Please don’t misinterpret its racing history. This is not a racing boat; it is used for the development of Sea Scouts, young children and the like. The older guys, like us, are invited along for safety and security. There is always a risk that younger ones may not be able to cope with the conditions or fall asleep on a beat or cannot manage cooking and so on.
Later the youngest crew member arrived and it do prove wise to have an older crew present. Already we were 4 expecting another 3. The 5th crew member arrived late, the cold front from Cape Town was severe and flights were delayed. The harshest wind recoded for long, that also being the whether reaching us the following morning. Vincent was from Belgiam, so far, all good guys.
The next morning started off with boat duties, a few repairs and some last minute modifications but not before we had our complementary breakfast. Coco, a Congolese Scouter from Durban, and Reinder joined us to complete the crew. Great crew and all was good.
The wind had built up and there were certainly not going to be a shortage of it at the start. Spinakers flew, a boat broached and were left behind the sea was awash and we rocked. Not the rock ‘n roll type but the shaking, heaving and healing type. I did not take long before the troops fell, me included. Stayed sick till after dark, recovered and did a longer beat to help out with the brave who did not suffer from illness but held the helm until exhaustion. We were beating against the wind and tacked until 22:00 when we decided to make use of the motor, we were permitted 6 hours per 24 hours, which allowed better headway. Somewhere along the line the high pressure from the north affected a change in wind direction and we were suddenly running. In the high swells the wing on wing sail set were technical but the preventer help to keep things safe.
On the morning of the 25th we started tacking again, hugging the coast past East London when we motored again for our permissible stint. We approached Port Elizabeth on a beautiful close hall and crossed the finish line just before 02:00 Wednesday the 27th. Along the way we were in a constant dual with SV Itacha who had a 6 hour handicap over us. Their motor was just too much for us. We brought in Tuna feeding the crew nicely. A great spirit on the boat and some good friends made. We finished class second and sports a medal each for the Crew. This link had much to say about the race and difficulties it presented, https://www.facebook.com/VascodaGama2015/?fref=ts. We could also be tracked on the YB Race app. Felt like the Volvo Ocean race!
I suppose this facebook entry by the race organisers sums it up:
The Rally Class results are almost sewn up as both Ithaca and Rotary Scout finished closely together with just 10 minutes separating them.
Both have had long and tiring races, but the crews of these ‘warriors of the sea’ deserve special mention as they have competed in the toughest ocean race this country has to offer in cruising boats which are not known for their speed and agility – yet they soldiered on and completed the course.
Respect to both crews and for joining the ‘Vasco’ fraternity.
The pic of the Ithaca crew will be posted soon.
pic by Richard Crockett
Below our rival Itacha.