Cape to Rio yacht race – 1971

Sea scouts cape to rio yacht race – 1971.

The 1971 Cape to Rio was the first ever participation by the Scout Movement in an inter-continental Ocean Yacht Race.

The 50-foot Bermuden cutter "Active" was one of the 59 yachts which sailed from Cape Town at 4.30 p.m. on Saturday, the 16th January 1971.

The yacht covered the distance of more than 3,500 nautical miles to Rio de Janeiro in a time of 32 days 2 hours 43 minutes and 11 seconds, to be placed 37th against the "world's best yachtsmen."

The skipper of the "Active", Mr. Eric Porzig, and the Navigator, Mr. Dave Powell were both Sea Scout Commissioners, and the remainder of the crew, comprised 6 sea scouts, namely Hein and Paul van Gysen, Alan Cocke, John Ravenscroft, Martin Slabber and the Skipper's son, Jeremy Porzig.

Fifty souvenir covers signed by the Skipper and crew were date-stamped at the General Post Office, Cape Town on the date of departure, and at the Post Office at Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro on arrival. These souvenir covers were carried aboard the yacht "Active" during this epic race, and only 30 of these were available to the general public and were disposed of on behalf of the Boy Scout Movement.

The Training

cape to rio yacht race 1971

In June of 1970 it was decided that a Sea Scout crew would take part in the Rio-Race on board Mr Porzig's 50-foot cutter "Active".

Ten Scouts started training, which for the first three months consisted mainly of hard work in the form of a complete refit of the vessel. Of the original 10 Scouts five were chosen, namely John Ravenscroft of 1st Clifton, Alan Cook of 9th Cape Town, Martin Slabber of 2nd Plumstead and Hein and Paul van Gysen of 1st Muizenberg. Brian Coxon of 1st Fish Hoek was reserve in case any mishap befell one of the other crew members.

Just before the race two training cruises - one to Saldanha Bay and one to Dassen Island - gave the boys some night sailing experience. The Dassen Island crayfish provided the Scouts with an experience of a different order.

The State President, Mr. J. J. Fouche met with the skipper and crew of the Active at Government House and wished them well and Mr. Irving presented him with the first of the fifty first-day covers of the Cape to Rio race for his stamp collection.

Two days before the start of the race a Cocktail Party was held at Unitie, where the Mayor of Cape Town gave a letter of goodwill to be handed over to the Governor of the State of Guanabara. At the same evening the Skipper, Mr E. Porzig, and the Navigator, Capt. D. Powell, received their Warrants as Hon. Commissioners from the Divisional Commissioner Colin Inglis . The following evening, they were honoured by the presence of the Chief Scout Carveth Geach who flew down from Johannesburg to attend the Blue Peter farewell dinner for all competitors in the race. The Chief Scout came aboard Active to present them with a kudu horn which they were to present to the Scouts of Brazil on behalf of the Scouts of South Africa. During the race this horn gave off such an unearthly smell that life below decks became well-nigh unbearable.

A voyage to remember

cape to rio yacht race 1971

After the hectic preparations it was quite a relief to leave moorings. Following the chaotic start, we were divided up in watches which we would keep for the rest of the race. The three watch-keepers were Capt. Powell, Jeremy Porzig and Hein van Gysen. The first evening we were still in sight of other yachts as we raced neck-and-neck with Pen Duick, who overtook us after a few hours. For the first seven days we made good progress owing to a hard South-Easter, and only had one day's run out of these seven under 150 miles. In this period, we were occupied by sewing sails which were torn soon after the start.

Practically the whole of the rest of the race was hampered by lack of wind, and although we were busy enough, we often had to find relief from the heat by jumping over the side while one crew member kept watch with a revolver in case of sharks. We saw quite a few whales on the way and on the second last day one gave us an anxious time by crossing repeatedly underneath the boat. On night watches we were entertained by whistling noises of the dolphins. Once we had an opportunity to swim among them.

We sighted many flying fish. After many unsuccessful attempts to catch bonito, we managed to catch a few dorado for the frying pan. On the whole our food lasted quite well - onions, squash, carrots, tomatoes, oranges, apples and eggs. The bread developed psychedelic spots, which had to be removed. Most of the cheese had to be thrown overboard.

Rio a welcome sight

cape to rio yacht race 1971

We crossed the finishing line at a snail's pace. The sound of the engine was like sweet music. We were welcomed at the jetty in Rio by a reporter of the Burger who stood us a beer. He also told us how to order beer in Portuguese. The three days in Rio were spent in hectic sight-seeing, visiting one of the Sea Scout troops, relaxing at the Yacht Club swimming pool, and drinking coconut-milk. The climate was warm and humid; worse than Durban in summer.

Immediately after the start of the Carnival we had to leave for Buenos Aires - a distance of 1200 miles which we did in 8 days. During this period, we ran into a pampero and a South East storm and we had some magnificent sailing. Buenos Aires only saw us for 36 hours; in which time we had to dismast and load the yacht on board Tafelberg.

SAS Tafelberg was a replenishment ship of the South African Navy and acted as official guardship for the race. Because of politics the ship could not enter Rio de Janeiro and instead travelled up the River Plate to Buenos Aires.

Once on board the Tafelberg our troubles were not yet over because we served as Quartermasters and had to stand watches. Our appetite was a source of wonder to the South African Navy to such an extent that one of the Scouts was given the nickname of 'tapeworm'.

On Monday, 15th March, we arrived back in Table Bay and we were honoured that our Navigator, Capt. Powell could pilot the ship into the harbour himself. After two days of unloading Active and restepping the mast, we were back on the school benches.

Many thanks are due to our Assistant Divisional Commissioner Mr. P. Irving (Rocky), whose background work made this trip possible for Sea Scouts.

Ack: Rein van Gysen and The Cape Western Scouter May 1971

cape to rio yacht race 1971

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The first Cape to Rio yacht race takes place

Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau. N.B This source is from the archive.|Andre Wessel, (2013),  Flag showing cruises by South African Warships , from SA Navy,  25 November [online], Available at  navy.mil.za  [Accessed: 8 January 2009]|Morgani, B. (2008),  Sailing legend Dalling passes away , from SouthAfrica.info,  9 July [online], Available at  www.southafrica.info  [Accessed: 7 January 2008]

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South African Ocean Racing Trust

Established in 1971

cape to rio yacht race 1971

THE FIRST CAPE TO RIO RACE IN 1971 was initiated and organised by SAORT.  This ocean race placed South African yachtsmen firmly on the international trans-ocean yacht racing map to become the talking point in many of the world’s yacht clubs.

This Trust originated as a result of Bruce Dalling’s success in sailing the 50ft custom designed, locally built, “Voortrekker” into second place in the 1968 OSTAR Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race. A group of RCYC yachtsmen formed a special committee to focus on entering SA yachtsmen into international racing events to promote awareness of our deep-sea yacht racing skills.

A long-distance race across the Atlantic between two of the world’s most beautiful cities, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro, was proposed and well supported by the RCYC, the SA Navy and our local clubs and sailors. The Iate Club de Rio de Janeiro gave their enthusiastic support to the hosting of the race fleet at the finish and, with this support, the Cape to Rio Race was officially launched. Fifty-nine yachts, both local and international, started from Table Bay on 2 January 1971!

To arouse interest and awareness of the significance of this new Trans-Atlantic Sailing event throughout the country, a “Merbok” logo was designed, to be the marine equivalent of the “Springbok” sports logo.  A brochure was printed, ties and badges with the Merbok logo were produced. This race was given tremendous coverage from the local press, the public were invited to become “patriots” and to buy ties and badges to give support to this first ever South African Ocean Yacht Race. The response from our citizens throughout the country was overwhelming. The Chamber of Mines designed the South Atlantic Race Trophy and presented it to SAORT. However, with the race sponsor funds and additional money being contributed by the public, the race chairman, Justice Louis van Winsen (also president of RCYC) decided to open a special trust to monitor and control the monies being received. It was named The South African Ocean Racing Trust   which became known as S A O R T .

For several of the following Cape to Rio Races, the newly formed SAORT, provided seeding finance to enable the subsequent Cape to Rio races to take place.

The Trustees, realising that they were not an elective body, called upon the then Cruising Association of South Africa (CASA) to manage the races on their behalf and viewed that the ownership and intellectual property of the South Atlantic Ocean Race belonged to SAORT. They also stated that the sole mission of SAORT was not to interfere with the running of the sport, but to use their funds to further the future interests of South African Ocean Yachting in memory of those sailors and RCYC members who made such an effort to put international deep-sea racing on the map in this country.

To stimulate an Ocean Racing culture by initiating and supporting Offshore and Ocean Races in South Africa

Focus on sailing as a whole with specific interest in Ocean/Offshore – where the efforts can make a LONG TERM SUSTAINABLE DIFFERENCE

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Royal Cape Yacht Club

SUNK BY A WHALE

Sunk by a whale – Life in a life raft (Part 2), b y Gordon Webb.

This is the story of Pionier, an entrant in the inaugural Cape To Rio Race in 1971, as told by her skipper Gordon Webb. Fifty years ago on the 27 th of January, Pionier and her crew of five were almost halfway to Rio when the yacht hit a whale around midnight and sunk. Her crew of five just made it onto her life raft.

We must have all been in a state of shock – how long had all of this taken? Our combined estimates of the time from impact to sinking was fifteen minutes.

What a change in our accommodations! One moment a well-ordered modern yacht with all the facilities and the next a dimly-lit, grossly overloaded, sodden rubber igloo somewhat overpopulated. The shambles inside our 6’x 5’ home was incredible. Officially a six man raft, we had six, 50-pound polyethylene cans of water, five bodies, a heap of sodden clothing, a jumbled mess of food and an odd assortment of articles from a kettle to a sextant.

It was Willie who first came to his sense and realised that we were overloaded. Were we glad we had not filled our water tanks from the plastic containers! We had 30 gallons of water – a lifesaving commodity, but we could not carry it in the raft. One can had got holed and was leaking. It had to be nursed by someone constantly keeping the hole uppermost.

Willie suggested we tow the water cans. I was reluctant to lose contact with the water, but after a brief discussion we decided to tow all but the one with the hole in it. There was a knife in the raft plus we had brought one with us and I cut the luff rope and taping from the small red sail we had taken with us and used it as a lashing.

Over the side went our four white containers – bobbing happily astern in our wake as we drifted down with the wind. We settled down as best we could, wet through, in pools of water, with little or no clothing. The tangle of ten legs was the major concern. Willie had wrenched his knee and was in considerable pain but had no space to stretch his leg out. The problems of living in a life raft had to be sorted out urgently.

Jennifer led the field and tried out the “ablution block”. How does one go to the toilet on a rubber raft? Everyone wants to know this, but let me assure you, this was a rough way to find out.  The homely toilet paper was a luxury beyond our wildest dreams.  We solved this one and after all the Arabs have got along pretty well without it for centuries. There was certainly no shortage of water. The mechanics of getting into the operational position without disappearing over the edge was a major problem, however. The raft manufacturers had probably considered this aspect and strategically placed hanging straps inside and outside the raft.

Jennifer had decided to remain where she was, sitting on the edge of the life raft.  She takes up the narrative: “It was a balmy night with the friendly stars twinkling overhead. I decided to stay where I was sitting at our “front door”, keep watch and try to rationalise my racing thoughts. Willie, Gordon, Tony and Peter were settling down to try and sleep in the wet sticky mess below. I was very awake, and sleep was an impossible consideration. I scanned the horizon – it was ringed with the usual low clouds, but what I was looking for was a red and green light….

“Somehow, deep down, I knew that the Mayday had not been received and instinctively I knew Peter realized the same. I questioned him on his broadcast. Did he think the people he’d heard talking, had heard him? Did he have the volume on full? There had been voices that he had not heard again after his message and they were speaking English. What use were these questions though, I asked myself as the ghastly reality of our situation slowly crept over me.

“I thought of our two little girls. Both of us were here. Then I realized that no matter what happened, I had to force myself to fight the grim new challenge ahead, to get out of this and get back to them. I searched my mind trying to remember all the things I had read about castaways and how to handle the situation.

I carefully considered the food we had salvaged – we actually had a fair amount and properly controlled it would sustain us for a while. Water was no problem, and this was our greatest hope. How would we react mentally? As I sat up there scantily clad in my half bikini and my loose shirt, my stomach turned and churned with the shock of the sudden and dramatic change in our circumstances. The inescapable fact was that the whole balance had changed – instead of fighting life we were just beginning to fight death.”

Gordon takes over the story: We stirred from our fitful sleep with the first rays of the sun, from a cold clammy night. Pools of water collected at all points of pressure on the thin flexible rubber floor of the raft. What a sight! Broken eggs, sodden clothes, raisins and oat cereal that had burst its package, four mugs, a kettle, sundry food cans, a bed sheet, a sleeping bag, remains of a Christmas cake in tin foil, but obviously slept on, flares, one smoke signal, two bags of emergency equipment stored in the raft and that damned sextant, which in its hard wooden box got in everyone’s way, a nautical almanac and our only reading material – a book on Meteorology – plus five sodden bodies and a bottle of whiskey!

Willie dug in the emergency packs, all beautifully wrapped and out came an instruction card for survival. He read to us which types of icebergs we may use for drinking, but this hardly applied to us. However, this was not a pleasant study of the safety instructions in the comfort of ones home. This was the real thing and Willie had a rapt audience.

We sat one on watch while the rest started cleaning up our tiny flexible world. The wet clothing was draped over the canopy to dry, but every movement in the raft caused something to drop overboard. The whole contraption was incredibly flexible, and every movement cause alarming convolutions. As the day wore on, it became very hot in the raft and apart from changing watches, we lay still to conserve energy. How long would this last?

I was also sure our brief Mayday calls on the low-powered radio had not been picked up. I felt sure we would eventually be found, but it would be a long time.  We had plentiful water, but of food there was little. In this cramped little space we sat with our legs crisscrossed over each other, constantly wet under our bodies and I wondered how long before we physically showed signs of deterioration. I was quietly taking stock of my companions and weighing up their ability to cope with the situation mentally.

While safe on Pionier Peter had told us of a fascinating book he had recently read, where a group of people were cast away on a life raft and eventually were driven in desperation to kill one of their members so that the others had food to sustain them.  We jokingly debated who among us would be the best kill. I was a favourite as I had the most volume, but Jennifer was considered as the most tender. Once in our life raft, this did not seem so funny and no one referred to it.

Willie estimated that it would be three weeks, at least, before it would dawn on the race officials that we were in trouble and another week before a search was mounted. I suspected it would only be a token search, as finding a speck in this enormous ocean was a feat requiring a Naval Task Force and not one slow supply ship. Tony took the watch. He had earned a reputation on Pionier for his ability to find wind whenever he took the wheel and now our hopes were pinned on him. It seemed a hopeless job.

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when Tony said, very quietly, “I think I can see a ship, Gordon will you come and have a look?” I did not think he could have been right, but a moment’s glance showed me he was right. How was this possible? No ships came this way and I could not believe my eyes. With masterly control the other lay quietly in the raft saying nothing and keeping quite still.

Willie had grabbed the one smoke signal on his way off Pionier and this we must use, but we had only one. It must not misfire, and we must not let it go off too soon. I carefully watched the ship, read and re-read the instructions to make sure I made no mistakes. None of us had seen one of these work before and we did not know what to expect. We had two parachute flares for night use, but Willie had one ready should the ship not see our smoke.

The ship made a slight alteration of course towards us – could they have sighted this small orange dot? “She is changing course towards us” I cried incredulously. When I judged the time right, I ripped off the flare cover, pulled the trigger and flung it thirty feet away from us.  A thick orange smoke arose but it scudded across the water on a wide front and to my dismay, only about two feet above the water. I was sure I had thrown it too soon. The ship seemed to be taking an age to reach us, but suddenly we heard about five or six blasts from her whistle. Now we knew – we were all but saved. There was a cheer from the five drowned rats and more than one had moist eyes.

She came up to windward of us and stopped – the SS Potomac, a name that will live with us for the remainder of our lives. We had been only a mere nineteen hours in the raft and here was a ship – an American one, old and somewhat rusty, that perhaps you wouldn’t spare a second glance for in any harbour, but for five desperate people the most beautiful looking ship we had ever seen. Soon after climbing aboard, the Captain came and introduced himself. We had a terrific meal and were given clothing, razors, toothbrushes, shoes and even Chanel No. 5 for Jennifer.

cape to rio yacht race 1971

We owe our rescue to a quirk of Captain Hansen’s in taking his ship off the normal tracks to avoid the ocean currents against him, and the sharp eyes of Mr Newkirk, the 3 rd mate, who with a lifetime of experience behind him spotted this orange dot on the horizon between swells and alerted the Captain. After he spotted our smoke flare, he pressed the alarm button and blew the whistle – the first time he had done this since 1941.

Next time we conclude this incredible story with an interview with Jennifer.  She shares her thoughts and suggestions on life rafts and the do’s and don’ts on staying alive at sea.

To read Part 1 of the story, click here.

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This is a commemorative cover that was carried aboard the Boy Scouts entry "SA-29 Active" in the South Africa 1971 Cape to Rio Ocean Yacht Race.  It is understood this was the first ever participation by the Scout Movement in an international ocean yacht race.  The cover was signed by all members of the Sea Scout crew.  Only 50 covers were prepared of which half were offered to the public and another five auctioned for Scout funds.

Commemorative Yacht Race Cover

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Home » Media Room » The South Atlantic Yacht Race

The South Atlantic Yacht Race

The South Atlantic Yacht Race, originally known as the Cape to Rio, is the longest continent-to-continent yacht race in the southern hemisphere.

While Cape Town has always been the starting point, there have been three finishing venues in the 12 editions of the race since its inception in 1971, namely: Rio de Janeiro, Argentina; Punte del Este, Uruguay; and Salvador, Brazil.

The use of different ports for the finish has seen the race distance vary between 3 400 and 4 500 nautical miles.

Origin of the race

The idea for the holding of a continent-to-continent ocean race – from South Africa to either Australia or South America – was borne out of the success of South African sailor Bruce Dalling in the 1968 South Atlantic Single-handed Yacht Race.

Competing in Voortrekker, a yacht purpose-built for the event, Dalling was second across the finishing line and first on handicap. His success turned him into a national hero, and provided sailing in South Africa with a massive boost.

The Springbok Ocean Racing Trust, together with Clube de Rio de Janeiro and in conjunction with the Cruising Association of South Africa, organised the first Cape to Rio Yacht Race. It took place in 1971.

Sailing fever

A fleet of 10 to 15 yachts was expected, but sailing fever took hold of South Africa and extended beyond its borders too. A total of 69 entries were received, many of them from abroad, and a good number from South Africans living inland. Ultimately, 59 yachts were on the starting line.

Bruce Dalling was chosen to lead the South African challenge in Jakaranda, which was built especially for the Cape to Rio. She was a hugely expensive yacht for the time; she cost US$12 000 to design and R135 000 to build.

The British Royal Naval Association entered the race with Ocean Spirit, co-skippered by two high-profile men in the world of sailing: Robin Knox-Johnstone, who had become the first man to circumnavigate the globe single-handed in 1968 and 1969, for which he was awarded the CBE, and Leslie Williams, who had finished fourth in the 1968 Atlantic single-handed race. They had teamed up to win the 1970 Round Britain race in Ocean Spirit.

History-making all-women crew

Sprinter was an entry that drew a lot of interest. She had an all-women crew of five; it was the first time that an all-women crew would compete in an ocean race between two continents.

The boats set sail on 16 January from Table Bay, with an estimated crowd of 100 000 in attendance. The fleet and the numerous craft surrounding it made for a breathtaking sight on a sunny day.

Voortrekker, which was already the most famous name in South African sailing, led the fleet on both handicap and distance after the first day’s racing. Jakaranda, meanwhile, had her title challenge ended by a broken rudder.

Ocean Spirit and the big Canadian entry from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Graybeard, had moved up to dice for the lead. They continued to push one another but, by the ninth day, Albatros II had taken over the lead on handicap.

Striana then moved into the overall lead, while Albatros II remained at the top of the board on handicap. A week later, Albatros II, after opting for a southerly course, was reduced to a virtual standstill while those boats that had chosen a course further north made good ground.

First winner

Ocean Spirit finally opened a small lead over Stormy and went on to reach Rio de Janeiro on 8 February, after 23 days and 42 minutes. Graybeard was second across the line, almost a day later.

Fortuna finished less than two hours behind the Canadian entry, with Pen Duick III, the winner of the 1967 Sydney to Hobart yacht race, skippered by Legion d’Honeur holder Lieutenant Eric Tabarly finishing fourth.

Albatros II was the eighth boat into port, but on corrected time she narrowly pipped Striana for handicap honours.

Sprinter, with her all-women crew, was 44th across the line, and greeted with a special three-gun salute to mark the historic moment.

The second Cape to Rio race took place in 1973. Included in the field was 73-year-old Kees Bruynzeel, who had suffered three heart attacks in the year leading up to the race. So determined was he to take part, he took along a nurse specially trained in heart emergencies as a member of his crew on Stormy.

The race favourite was Ondine, skippered by American Huey Long, while Voortrekker had been re-rigged for the race.

Ondine gambled by sticking close to the rhumb line – the most direct route – while Stormy skirted the South Atlantic high, with Voortrekker electing to race a little north of her.

After a week, Ondine ran into trouble and her daily mileage dropped dramatically. Stormy, meanwhile, was fairly consistent.

By day 21, Huey Long had had enough and he made the decision to retire Ondine from the race so that she could keep her other appointments on the racing calendar.

Stormy took victory in a record time of 21 days, 15 minutes and 31 seconds. On corrected time, she clocked 19 days, 18 hours, 20 minutes and 18 seconds. Jakaranda was second across the line, followed by Omuramba more than three days later.

The 1976 race drew a record entry of 128 yachts, including Huey Long, who returned in his maxi Ondine to have another crack at the title. This time around, Long opted for a more conservative approach.

The winds were never strong enough for the bigger entries, like Ondine, to enjoy any runs at maximum speed, which allowed the smaller boats to compete with them. However, Long took the line honours in 17 days, five hours, 35 minutes and 20 seconds to lop more than four days off the record set by Stormy in 1973.

The handicap honours went to Guia III, while South African yachts filled six of the top 10 positions on corrected time.

In 1979, the finish of the race moved to Punta del Este in Uruguay. The new destination increased the distance of the race considerably, from 3 600 miles to 4 500 miles. A winning time of about 30 days was expected.

Because an extra 10 days was calculated for the finishing time, the number of entries dropped drastically from 128 to only 36.

Spar led the race for the first 13 days before she was passed by Kwa Heri. Voortrekker was not far behind, and the race became a three-boat dice.

It was eventually won by Kwa Heri, who reached Punta del Este in a faster-than-expected 24 days. She was followed into port by Spar and Voortrekker.

Entries for the 1982 race, again to Punta del Este, increased from 36 to 48. The international sporting boycott of South Africa, in protest against its apartheid policies of the time, saw to it that there were only two foreign entries in the fleet.

The race developed into a duel between the South African Navy entry Voortrekker II, skippered by Bertie Reed, and Rampant II, skippered by Alan Tucker.

In light winds, the two yachts, both designed by Angelo Lavranos, fought it out for the lead, but the light winds saw them being passed by smaller boats at times.

Just after rounding Ilha de Trinidade, the race swung in favour of Rampant II, who benefited from running into a number of rain squalls. She reached Punta del Este a day before Voortrekker II, but the Navy entry had the satisfaction of finishing two-and-a-half hours ahead of Rampant II on corrected time.

Suidoos took victory in a tightly-contested battle for handicap honours.

The 1985 edition of the race proved to be a real test of fortitude because of unfavourable light winds, which made for an extremely slow 4 500-mile journey. It meant many crews had to deal with depleted water and food supplies. Many of the entrants had to ask for their leave from work to be extended.

The 35-boat fleet generally made good time to Ilha de Trinidade, the point at which they would turn down the South American coast, but once there they struggled.

Apple Macintosh, Momentum Life and 3CR12 were the yachts in contention for line honours, but they didn’t threaten the record for the route, despite making it to Ilha de Trinidade ahead of the pace Rampant II had set three years earlier.

3CR12 fell out of contention by heading too far west early on, and then heading too far north after that, admitted her skipper Alan Tucker.

It was left to Apple Macintosh and Momentum Life to fight it out for line honours, and their battle became extremely close. “It was like a cross-ocean match race, except that we were never really close enough to sail in the same wind,” said Momentum Life’s Ludde Ingvall.

Apple Macintosh went on to reach Punte del Este first, but only after a great challenge from Momentum Life. She made it into port a day and four hours ahead of her rival, but on corrected time her advantage was reduced to 16 hours.

Bertie Reed, the skipper of Interflora Retrans, echoed the thoughts of many when he said: “I really think the course should be re-examined, and we should try to get Rio back as the finishing point.”

Spirit of CIW III finished over a week later, but she edged out Apple by just three hours to take the handicap win.

With international sanctions against apartheid South Africa taking their toll, it was eight years before the South Atlantic Yacht Race returned. Although the sailors had enjoyed the hospitality of Punta del Este, the race was extremely taxing, and so the finish returned to Rio de Janeiro for the first time since 1976.

Entries surged from 35 to 90, including 13 foreign entries, in the year before South Africa’s first democratic election.

There were some eye-catching entries, including the maxi Parker Pen; Morning Glory – purpose-built for the event for skipper Doctor Hasso Plattner, the future owner of the Fancourt; and Broomstick, the South African Navy’s 70-foot entry.

Broomstick and Parker Pen started strongly, but Morning Glory ran into early problems with her spinnaker. Namsea Challenger, skippered by Padda Kuttell, who had taken line honours in the previous edition of the race, was also in the running.

The three front-runners chose different courses on day two, and Parker Pen benefited most by racking up 308 miles in a day.

When lighter conditions struck two days later, Broomstick began to move clear and opened up a lead of 200 miles before Parker Pen was able to start closing it down.

Broomstick, though, made it to Rio first. Her time of 15 days, three hours, and 10 minutes bettered Ondine’s race record by over two days.

Namsea Challenger, meanwhile, was second into port and took over the race lead on handicap. Two days later, however, Morning Glory made port and took the handicap lead by a mere four hours.

Doctor Hasso Plattner was determined to launch a big challenge for victory in 1996 with Fancourt Morning Glory – a completely new and imposing 80-footer, which was the biggest entry in the 54-boat fleet.

The winner of the 1995 Fastnet, Nicorette, was also in the running, but Fancourt Morning Glory was, no doubt, the favourite.

Daly’s Insurance, a 75-footer, made the early running by heading south, but she soon paid the price for her risky course.

Despite less than ideal conditions, Fancourt Morning Glory was on course to shatter Broomstick’s record, but near Ilha de Trinidade she was reduced to a crawl. Still, she had reached that point 380 miles ahead of Broomstick’s record pace.

Once she found wind again, Plattner’s yacht made good progress and reached Rio in 14 days, 14 hours and 52 minutes to better Broomstick’s record by 12 hours and 18 minutes.

Nicorette was second across the line in Rio, while Renfreight edged out Warrior for the handicap win.

The 2000 Cape to Rio race was the first major ocean event of the new millennium, and entries climbed to 72 boats.

Zephyrus IV, an American entry, skippered by Robert McNeil, was expected to challenge the race record established by Fancourt Morning Glory four years earlier. Sagamore, another American entry, would provide tough opposition.

Russell Chen co-skippered iti Windforce with Tony Read, and became the first paraplegic to skipper a yacht in a major ocean race.

The clash between the two American maxis effectively turned the event into a two-horse race and conditions helped the boats progress far faster than Fancourt Morning Glory had four years earlier.

With the conditions playing along, Zephyrus IV and Sagamore were able to sail the rhumb line to Rio. Inevitably, this led to a new race record.

Zephyrus IV was first to the finish in 12 days, 16 hours and 49 minutes, which lopped almost two days off the previous record. Sagamore finished only 10 hours later.

Doctor Hasso Plattner’s company, software giant SAP, took over the sponsorshop of the race in 2003. Plattner also returned to racing in Morning Glory. She was expected to fight it out for line honours with Nicator, a 60-foot trimaran, and Adrenalina Pura, a 65-foot catamaran.

Nicator started brilliantly, logging a sensational 481 miles in the first 24 hours. She was on course for a record until she gambled on the high breaking into two, and instead had to fight her way north.

She later notched up some excellent 24-hour distances, but the final 30 miles to Rio took her seven hours and she missed the record by seven hours, finishing in 12 days, 23 hours, 47 minutes and 54 seconds.

Adrenalina Pura took second, two days and eight hours behind the Swedish entry, while Morning Glory had to settle for third after becoming becalmed after rounding Ilha de Trinidade.

Baleka, an entry from Gauteng province, with an all-Gauteng crew, won on handicap.

The finish for the 2006 South Atlantic Yacht Race changed to Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia in Brazil. The race became known as the Cape to Bahia, with Heineken taking over as the sponsor. The distance to Salvador would be 3 380 nautical miles.

For the first time, single-handed and double-handed entries were accepted.

Included in the fleet were Federico and Crean. At six-and-a-half metres in length, they were the smallest boats in the history of the race.

Hi-Fidelity and Adrenalina Pura were the likeliest title challengers but, less than a day out of Cape Town, Hi-Fidelity’s challenge ended when she struck a whale.

Adrenalina Pura, meanwhile, successfully evaded a high that slowed most of the fleet by heading due west and sailing over the top of it. She reached her home port, Salvador, in an astonishing 10 days, eight hours, and one minute.

Both Federico and Crean finished the race, Crean only 18 hours in front of Federico.

The 2009 race brought together two of the fastest yachts in the world, Rambler and ICAP Leopard. But there was no stopping Leopard, rated by many as the fastest yacht in the world. She recorded an incredible 252 miles in the first 12 hours of the race to show what she was capable of.

Maintaining a course close to the rhumb line, Leopard stormed to victory in 10 days, five hours, 45 minutes and 35 seconds to break Adrenalina Pura’s record.

Rambler took an almost direct route to Salvador, sailing only 40 more miles than the direct distance of 3 440 miles. Still, she finished 21 hours behind Leopard.

Hi-Fidelity crossed the finishing line on the sixteenth day in third place, but still claimed the handicap win.

In 2011, the race returned to its roots and was contested between Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro.

Durban-based skipper Chris Frost guided Prodigy to line honours’ victory, reaching the Brazilian city in just under 16 days.

“Line honours was the goal that we set out to do and we achieved it, he said.

Overall victory, however, went to The City of Cape Town, skippered by 25-year-old Gerry Hegie.

“We were not favoured before the race because we didn’t have a track history, but we put a lot of work into the boat, particularly where it would improve its performance.

“We ran the numbers around the IRC to optimise the yacht for this downwind race and also studied weather systems, downloaded weather files each day and worked through optimum courses.

“We took the boat apart and then reassembled it so we had peace of mind that we could push the boat to the very limit,” he said after securing victory.

“Apart from not being able to take a shower this race was fantastic,” Hegie added.

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cape to rio yacht race 1971

A classic blue-water ocean dash across the South Atlantic, the Cape to Rio began nearly 49 years ago. The first race set off from Table Bay in 1971 and has always had a huge international interest, even from the start. It is a tactical race, demanding both seamanship and weather-savvy, being the longest continent-to-continent yacht race in the southern hemisphere. The use of different ports for the finish has seen the race distance vary between 3 400 and 4 500 nautical miles. After leaving Cape Town, participants head north-west towards the island of Ilha Trindade, and south-west from there towards South America. As they near the coast, skippers need to decide whether to take the longer route with stronger winds, or a more direct route with the chance for lighter winds. Even though it is best known as the Cape to Rio Race, the race has indeed headed mainly for Rio, but at times to other South American venues, including Punta del Este in Uruguay, and more recently Salvador, the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia. Cape Town has always been the starting point of the race since its inception.

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“talking sailing” from my archives. cape to rio yacht crews race against time.

cape to rio yacht race 1971

It’s very easy to forget just how excited yachties and the public were about the first Rio Race, and how owners and crew faced the “race against time syndrome” to make the start line in time.

Durban was no different as today’s report shows, and also reveals how slowly money was being collected by the Natal Ocean Racing Foundation (NORF) to pay for the ‘Mercury’, the yacht they had commissioned specially for the race. Theirs was not the only syndicate formed to acquire a yacht which faced a cash crisis.

I found the sidebar titled “Old Sea-dog Lends His Chronometer” interesting as Captain R. H. Houghton, a spritely, white-bearded old sea-dog, lent his valuable, hand-made chronometer to the yacht Mercury for the Cape to Rio race.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE:  1970 10 27 – Rio 1971 – S&A – Don Pfotenhauer Collection – stitched final_Redacted – OCR 2

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Cape2RioRace

1976 | CAPE TO RIO

Start Date: 10 January 1976

Finish:  Rio de Janerio

Number of Entries: 128

Mark:  Ilha da Trinadade

Race Distance:  3600nm

Handicap Results:

Winner:  Chica Tica Skipper/Owner: Carlo di Mottola Balestra Time: 21d 12h

Second Place:  Cloud Nine Skipper/Owner: Time: 

Third Place:  Verwoerdburg Skipper/Owner: Time:

Line Honours Results:

Winner:  Ondine Skipper/Owner: Huey Long Time: 17d 5h 35m 20s

Second Place: Skipper/Owner: Time: 

Third Place:  Skipper/Owner: Time:

In 1976, Rio fever once again took hold as the race formed one leg of the  Gauloises Triangle Race , the first leg being from St Malo, in France, to Cape Town, the second leg to Rio de Janeiro, and the third on to Portsmouth in the UK. As a result, the Cape to Rio race attracted a massive fleet of 128 boats from 19 different countries.

The race was also becoming faster. Compared to previous times, the 17 days and 5 hours taken by Huey Long’s maxi  Ondine  was slicing big chunks off the time, while the prized handicap trophy went to Carlo di Mottola Balestra of Costa Rica, whose 38-foot yacht  Chica Tica  took 21 days and 12 hours to complete the course. Once again, the iconic  Voortrekker  was in the fleet, skippered by navy man Bertie Reed, soon to become something of an icon himself when four years later he sailed  Voortrekker  to second place in the 1980 Observer Single-handed TransAtlantic Race.

This time around, Long opted for a more conservative approach and the winds were never strong enough for the bigger entries, like  Ondine , to enjoy any runs at maximum speed, which allowed the smaller boats to compete with them. However, Long took the line honours in 17 days, five hours, 35 minutes and 20 seconds to lop more than four days off the record set by  Stormy  in 1973.

The handicap honours went to  Guia III , while South African yachts filled six of the top 10 positions on corrected time.

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Cape2Rio 2011 | Cape To Rio start

cape to rio yacht race 1971

Cape2Rio 1976 | Video of the 1976 Cape To Rio start

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IMAGES

  1. First Cape to Rio Yacht Race South Atlantic Race 1971 Sailboat Postcard

    cape to rio yacht race 1971

  2. 1971

    cape to rio yacht race 1971

  3. 1971

    cape to rio yacht race 1971

  4. 1971

    cape to rio yacht race 1971

  5. The first Cape to Rio yacht race takes place

    cape to rio yacht race 1971

  6. 50th Anniversary Cape2Rio Race start

    cape to rio yacht race 1971

VIDEO

  1. 1978 Boat Race remembered 30 years later (Cambridge sinking)

  2. 1971 Miami Eastern Divisional Inboard Hydroplane Races

  3. Start of the 2011 Cape to Rio yacht race

  4. Cape 31

  5. 1978 Boat Race remembered 24 years later (Cambridge sinking)

  6. RIO DAYTONA 50 seen at SOFLO Boat Show 2023

COMMENTS

  1. 1971

    Bruce Dalling was chosen to lead the South African challenge in Jakaranda, 17-metre yawl which was built especially for the Cape to Rio. She was a hugely expensive yacht for the time; she cost US$12 000 to design and R135 000 to build. Unfortunately, she had her title challenge ended by a sheared rudder post during the race.

  2. "Albatros II"

    Albatros II having finished and won the 1971 Cape to Rio Race. pic by John Green. "Albatros II" was an E G van der Stadt design, owned by S B Thesen and skippered and navigated by John Goodwin. Her crew were: Arthur Holgate; John Allen; Hal Thesen; John Green and Brian Lello. Each award-winning yacht in 1971 won a gold medal, and those who ...

  3. South Atlantic Race

    The South Atlantic Race (formerly the Cape-to-Rio) is a yacht race from Cape Town to various destinations in South America. This has been primarily Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, although Punta del Este, ... However the race attracted a large amount of interest and 58 boats entered the 1971 race. Ocean Spirit won the first race on 8 February, ...

  4. Cape to Rio yacht race

    The 1971 Cape to Rio was the first ever participation by the Scout Movement in an inter-continental Ocean Yacht Race. The 50-foot Bermuden cutter "Active" was one of the 59 yachts which sailed from Cape Town at 4.30 p.m. on Saturday, the 16th January 1971. The yacht covered the distance of more than 3,500 nautical miles to Rio de Janeiro in a ...

  5. "Talking Sailing" from my archives. 1 day to 1971 Rio Race Start

    With the first Cape-to-Rio race just one day away, Cape Town's yacht basin is humming with activity as skippers and crews make last-minute preparations for tomorrow's mass start at 4.30 p.m. READ MORE HERE: 1971 01 16 - Rio 1971 - Dave Elcock Collection -000473 - OCR

  6. Home

    The South Atlantic Trophy. This is awarded to the winner of the Cape to Rio Race on corrected time. There are 32 oz. of 18ct gold in the stylised boat hull and the sails are sterling silver. The trophy was donated to the Royal Cape Yacht Club by the Chamber of Mines of South Africa for the inaugural race in 1971. Past winners.

  7. How it Started

    Cape Town has always been the starting point of the race since its inception. The first race set off from Table Bay in 1971 and from the start attracted huge international interest. It is a fascinating and tactical race, demanding both seamanship and weather-savvy, being the longest continent-to-continent yacht race in the southern hemisphere.

  8. "Talking Sailing" From My Archives. 5 Days to Go to the 1971 Rio Race

    READ MORE HERE: 1971 01 15 - Rio 1971 - Dave Elcock Collection -000349c - OCR "US Broker, 66, Skippers Rio Yacht". Veteran yachtsman 66-year-old New York stockbroker Mr E. Bates McKee, skipper-owner of Cape-to-Rio race yawl 'Xanadu II', hopes to carry on ocean racing for the next 20 years. READ MORE HERE: 1971 01 15 - Rio 1971 ...

  9. The first Cape to Rio yacht race takes place

    16 January 1971. The first Transatlantic yacht race between Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) took place on this day. SAS (South African Ships) Tafelberg served as guardship for the voyage which started from Table Bay in Cape Town. The race was called the Cape to Rio, but was renamed the South Atlantic race as the races destination has ...

  10. History

    THE FIRST CAPE TO RIO RACE IN 1971 was initiated and organised by SAORT. This ocean race placed South African yachtsmen firmly on the international trans-ocean yacht racing map to become the talking point in many of the world's yacht clubs. ... with this support, the Cape to Rio Race was officially launched. Fifty-nine yachts, both local and ...

  11. SUNK BY A WHALE

    Sunk by a whale - Life in a life raft (Part 2), by Gordon Webb. This is the story of Pionier, an entrant in the inaugural Cape To Rio Race in 1971, as told by her skipper Gordon Webb. Fifty years ago on the 27th of January, Pionier and her crew of five were almost halfway to Rio when the yacht hit a whale around ...

  12. JML Rotary Scout

    Cape to Rio 1971. The first race attracted an amazing international entry of 69 boats, whose skippers included Robin Knox-Johnston, Eric Tabarly, Kees Bruynzeel, and Lt.Cdr. Maximo Reveiro Kelly on the fleet that left Table Bay on January, 16, 1971. Line honours went to the British 21.6m ketch Ocean Spirit, co-skippered by Knox-Johnston and ...

  13. South Africa 1971 Cape to Rio Ocean Yacht Race

    This is a commemorative cover that was carried aboard the Boy Scouts entry "SA-29 Active" in the South Africa 1971 Cape to Rio Ocean Yacht Race. It is understood this was the first ever participation by the Scout Movement in an international ocean yacht race. The cover was signed by all members of the Sea Scout crew.

  14. PDF Cape to Rio-1971

    Commemorative Yacht Race Cover, 1971 Insert card This is a commemorative cover that was carried aboard the Boy Scouts entry "SA-29 Active" in the South Africa 1971 Cape to Rio Ocean Yacht Race. It is understood this was the first ever participation by the Scout Movement in an international ocean yacht race. The cover was signed

  15. PDF .CAPE• KAAP TO•NA RIO

    OFFICAL ENTRY LI ST CAPE TO RIO Start January 16, 1971, Table Bay, 4.30 p.m. The following are the official entries received up ... The computer positions of the race, to be published daily, will be based on "fleet numbers", not the sail ... possible before the race. These should then beentered against the yacht's name in the left-hand column ...

  16. The South Atlantic Yacht Race

    761. The South Atlantic Yacht Race, originally known as the Cape to Rio, is the longest continent-to-continent yacht race in the southern hemisphere. While Cape Town has always been the starting point, there have been three finishing venues in the 12 editions of the race since its inception in 1971, namely: Rio de Janeiro, Argentina; Punte del ...

  17. Cape 2 Rio Race

    A classic blue-water ocean dash across the South Atlantic, the Cape to Rio began nearly 49 years ago. The first race set off from Table Bay in 1971 and has always had a huge international interest, even from the start. It is a tactical race, demanding both seamanship and weather-savvy, being the longest continent-to-continent yacht race in the southern hemisphere. The use of different ports ...

  18. Race Winners

    Round Robben Island Race 2020; Cape Town to Port Elizabeth 2020; How it Started; Contact; Race Winners. Edition Destination Distance (Nm) Entries Winner - handicap Winner - time Fastest Crossing 1971: Rio de Janeiro: 3600: 59: Albatros II: Ocean Spirit: 23d 42m 1973: Rio de Janeiro: 3600: 40: Stormy: ... Royal Cape Yacht Club Table Bay Harbour ...

  19. THE CAPE TO RIO RACE

    The Cape to Rio race starts today. It's one of the world's iconic sailing events first raced back in 1971. Perhaps it's more iconic to me than other sailors because I grew up with the race. ... This is the second smallest fleet for the Rio race with the 2011 race attracting only 17 entries. Back in its heyday the race would routinely ...

  20. SYND 12 1 76 START OF CAPE TO RIO YACHT RACE

    (10 Jan 1976) Start of Cape Town to Rio yacht raceFind out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_Archive ...

  21. Cape2Rio2023

    The Cape-to-Rio Transatlantic Yacht Race celebrates 50 years since the start of the first race. Skip to content. Cape2RioRace Home; News; Official Noticeboard Menu Toggle. Notice of Race; ... Royal Cape Yacht Club Table Bay Harbour Cape Town, 8000 South Africa. [email protected] Telephone: +27 (0) 21 421 1354. Newsletter.

  22. "Talking Sailing" From My Archives. Cape to Rio Yacht Crews Race

    Cape to Rio Yacht Crews Race Against Time. Share. tweet; By Richard Crockett. It's very easy to forget just how excited yachties and the public were about the first Rio Race, and how owners and crew faced the "race against time syndrome" to make the start line in time. ... READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: 1970 10 27 - Rio 1971 - S&A - Don ...

  23. 1976

    As a result, the Cape to Rio race attracted a massive fleet of 128 boats from 19 different countries. The race was also becoming faster. Compared to previous times, the 17 days and 5 hours taken by Huey Long's maxi ... Royal Cape Yacht Club Table Bay Harbour Cape Town, 8000 South Africa. [email protected] Telephone: +27 (0) 21 421 1354 ...