08 Feb 2011

Aside from beautiful weather, what better reason to take a short trip out to sea off Cape Town, than the start of the iconic Cape to Rio yacht race?

The Boating World team comprising Derrick, Suzanne and Greg together with Anina Malherbe from Vivid Luxury and Dr Michael Lan did not need any persuading to take the luxurious Fairline Targa 38 for a spin to celebrate the start of this exciting event on 15 January. (40 years to the day since the first yachts set off from Table Bay in 1971!)

And what better boat for a quick jaunt than this stylishly elegant 12.13m sport cruiser? Powered by a Volvo Penta D6-370 EVC diesel with all the “vooma” to reach the ideal vantage points and boasting an open-plan cockpit with luxurious wrap-around seating - she provided a spectacular view of the proceedings and the perfect setting for lunch afterwards.

The excited party were thrilled to be on-the-water while hundreds of landlocked enthusiasts fought for good spots along the seafront. Especially popular was the area next to the CPUT Hotel School - where the boats came in close to shore and others jostled for a panoramic viewing spot on Signal Hill.

And what a spectacular sight it was to see all the yachts gathered at 11am just off the end of the breakwater at the V&A Waterfront. Adding pomp and ceremony to the occasion was a splendid navy gunboat which was to fire the guns heralding the grand send off. Even though there wasn’t a breath of wind that morning the air bristled with anticipation.

Finally the excited sailors were off and making their way round a mark in Granger Bay and then along the coast to a second buoy off Mouille Point. After that it was out into the great beyond for the next 5343kms – destination Brazil.

This epic race, which attracts both local and international sailors, has become the top trans-Atlantic race on the ocean racing calendar. Most South Africans can identify yachts such as Voortrekker, Ocean Spirit, Albatross 11, Ondine, Morning Glory, Windsong and others among the many other well-known participants in this highly competitive and tactical race.

In just under 16 days Durban yachtsman Chris Frost and his team finally took line honours in the 54-footer Prodigy - easily breaking the record set by Robin Knox-Johnston’s Ocean Spirit 40 years ago.

Their exciting race included an exceptional 24-hour run of 241 nautical miles on the Saturday but they ran into calm about 30nm from Rio, which stalled her progress. Trimmer Craig Schweitzer said it took a frustrating seven hours to complete the last 500 metres of the race. Prodigy eventually crossed the finish line near the Fortress of Copacabana in a lifting fog and in only two knots of breeze – where the relieved but excited crew was finally able to really celebrate their victory.

The event culminates in the grand prize-giving, including the awarding of the much-sought-after South Atlantic Trophy, on March 3 just before the start of the Rio Carnival 2011.