Banjo

Banjo crosses halfway mark on course to St Helena.

After a hectic start from Simon’s Town on Saturday (27 January) when winds gusted over 30kts the 17-strong Governor’s Cup fleet has settled into a downwind sleigh ride on its 1,700 nautical mile course towards St Helena.

The roller coaster ride from the start made for a speedy rounding of Cape Point before the fleet headed north for its first lively night off the coast of Africa.

Kevin Webb and his team on Banjo, the Farrier F9AX, that took line honours in Governor’s Cup 2012/13, is looking set to repeat her performance. This super fast trimaran led off the start and this morning crossed the halfway mark of the race, 78 nautical miles ahead of Dave Immelman and team on Adrian Pearson’s Dudley Dix 38 Black Cat. If the wind holds, Banjo could cross the finish line in four days and win the Multihull division. She could also beat her previous time of just over 10 days.

The wind, from the south-south-east has dropped slightly however, which means serious tactics are now in play as the fleet heads north 100 miles or so offshore along the coast of Africa. The idea is to stay in the strongest wind band and the north-flowing Benguela Current.

One of the biggest gains in the last 24 hours was made by Tallulah (Tosca 36) and has jumped into the lead of Cruising division ahead of the schooner Windjammer who is on a course to the west of the fleet. John Seager, skipper of Tallulah, commenting from the racecourse this morning said: “We are sticking to our game plan and it seems to be paying off and we are now on a direct course for the island.

The highlight of the day for Team Tullulah, yesterday, was overtaking another boat. Seager continued: “It was amazing, we saw another yacht on the horizon and as we got closer, and overtook, we realised it was Revelation 1 (Simonis 50), one of the big catamarans. We were so excited because we thought she’d be near the finish by now.”

Chatting about the conditions, Seager added: “The wind has rarely been below 25kts but today, for the first time, it is down to 15kts. We are really settling into the race and managing to maintain an average speed of about 6.5 knots on a comfortable broad reach. Although we still have a partially reefed genoa, we have full main and seem to be going well which is quite surprising considering we have no idea where anyone else is. Unfortunately for us we are sailing blind because we don’t have our email facility operating. The worst part is not having an up-to-date forecast. We are relying on a forecast that is nearly a week old from when we left Cape Town, so we are basically working on what we can see around us.”

The Governor’s Cup, which traditionally takes place over the Christmas/New Year holiday period, mostly attracts family and friend teams from local clubs, as well as out and out race teams from around the world. It is real test of endurance with many young sailors cutting their ‘ocean racing’ teeth in this race.

Natalie Seager (20) who is racing on Tallulah with her father and younger sister, and who is celebrating her 21st birthday on the return trip to Cape Town, says she is hooked. “I’ve sailed a bit with my dad before, but nothing like this so it’s a real baptism of fire for me. I was feeling rough for the first day or so but now I am fine and really excited at how well we seem to be doing overall. Also looking forward to celebrating New Year on the ocean waves.”

Justin Spreckley and his five-strong team from Royal Cape Yacht Club on Strumpet (Fast 42) who led off the start line on Saturday, are gradually making gains once again sailing at just over 8kts,and hope to improve on their fourth place in Racing division over the next 24 hours.

John Leslie, from race committee, says he is amazed that given the windy conditions at the start there’s been no drama reported: “In fact, so far they have had four days of perfect conditions with the wind from the south-south east, and 23 degrees. All teams seem happy and are naturally looking forward to arriving in St Helena.”

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