Black Cat wins Governor’s Cup 2015

Black Cat takes overall Governor's Cup 2015 win.

Black Cat takes overall Governor’s Cup 2015 win.

Dave Immelman and his team on Black Cat (Dudley Dix 38) have won the Governor’s Cup 2015 after their nearest rival – Avanti – who finished ahead in the early hours this morning – declared they had switched on their engine for 95 miles and moved into the Cruising division.

Team Black Cat who thought they needed to beat Avanti on the water to be in with a chance of an overall win, crossed the finish line at 09.14.01 to a massive surprise when they discovered they were the overall winners.

As he stepped ashore after completing the 1,750-nautical mile race this morning, Dave Immelman (44) the skipper and his four crew, were still digesting the good news: “We are absolutely delighted. It was such a surprise and we are over the moon. The owner Adrian Pearson is ecstatic because it is his first win ever in this boat. He spent a lot of money bringing the boat up to scratch last year and he has now realized spending the money has really paid off. Also we started the race in 2012 but had to retire with gear failure, so to actually finish and win overall is a dream come true.”

After a windy start to the race from Simon’s Town, South Africa on 27 December the fleet rounded Cape Point and settled in to a downwind blast off the African coast. This lasted several days before the St Helena High started to take effect and flit around unpredictably. Those who took the decision to sail north of the rhumb line, such as Banjo (Farrier F9AX) that took line honours and broke the race speed record on 6 January, generally benefited from a more consistent breeze.

Chatting about the conditions, Immelman said: “The general consensus from those we spoke to before we set off, was to stay on the rhumb line because that was the winning course but this particular year it wasn’t. It was obscure. Because the St Helena High was jumping around all over the place it was difficult to read. Naturally everyone suffered in a similar way – sailing around the high pressure zone only to sail into another one, which wasn’t on the grib files – so it was all about predicting the unpredictable. At one stage we gybed and went north about 30-40 miles because there was generally more wind there but had to come back in to keep cover over our competitors. As it happened we gybed straight back into another high.”

Like most who reflect on the highlights of the race, Immelmann says for sure it was during the first night when winds gusted up to 40kts. “Without doubt it was doing 21.6 knts in a 20 year old boat. Just as we’d completed the job of putting in a reef in for the night a big gust funnelled through and we just took off. We had a rooster coming out the stern and it was quite unbelievable. The most interesting thing was that it wasn’t scary at all. She held stable and proved just how well built she is.”

While those who have finished are now settled into St Helena Yacht Club enjoying the warm St Helena hospitality, the remainder of the fleet continues to battle with the St Helena High. The final two in the Racing division – lechyd Da (Miura) and Spirit of Africa (Lavraonos 36) – still have 500 miles to go. They have until 1200 on Tuesday 13 January to make the extended deadline cut-off time.

Banjo breaks South African Governor’s Cup race record

Banjo crosses finish line in St Helena.

Banjo crosses finish line in St Helena.

Kevin Webb, Sarel van der Merwe, and Brad Stemmett sailing Banjo, a Farrier F9AX trimaran, have broken the 1,750-mile Governor’s Cup Race record from Simon’s Town to St Helena with a time of 9 days 13 hours and 36 seconds.

Webb, van der Merwe and Stemmett arrived in Jamestown, St Helena at 01.53.36 today in just enough time to shave off five hours from Banjo’s previous race record of 9 day,18 hours and 59 minutes set by Frans Loots in 2010.

Webb commenting as he crossed the line last early this morning said: “We are thrilled and excited to have again won line honours in the Governor’s Cup race and, as a team, finally break the record. We also significantly improved on our own time of 10 days and seven hours set in 2012. My crew (the same as 2012) were outstanding and we worked well as a team which saw us safely through some pretty rough conditions for a 31ft  trimaran.”

After an exceptionally lively start from False Bay Yacht Club, Simon’s Town on 27 December, when winds gusted up to 40kts, the race developed into a game of tactics with those opting for the more northern route towards St Helena generally benefiting from stronger, more consistent winds.

Webb, van der Merwe and Stemmett weaved their way to an early on-the-water lead soon after the start and were first round Cape Point later that afternoon, which enabled them to slot into a downwind roller coaster ride in the relentless wind that lasted for several days.

Webb continued: “The highlight of the race was rounding the Point in first place after a taxing beat in very strong conditions. Banjo is fast downwind and we never looked back from there. We had a fairly tough night when our three-metre long bow pole snapped off after we ploughed into the back of a steep wave. We had to secure the pole to stop it from damaging the hull, which was quite difficult in the five-metre swell and 30knot wind in a pitch-black night. However, Brad and Sarel got it sorted and we went on our way again. We later rigged a makeshift bow pole so we were able to fly our spinnaker.”

Although Dave Immelman and his team on Black Cat (Dudley Dix 38) sailed well and threatened Banjo’s lead, they were ultimately unable to match the speed of the Farrier trimaran in the closing stages of the race. According to Webb Banjo sat in no wind for eight hours on Sunday. “We had a bit of stressful time but once the wind arrived it was from a good angle which allowed us to make 12-13kts of boat speed in about 15kts of breeze.

Reporting on a similar scenario yesterday, aboard Black Cat, Immelman said: “After managing to skirt around a high two days ago we could not get another weather report in, and to our dismay there was a second area of high pressure which we sailed straight into. We have finally managed to get our nose into some wind… we will just have to sail like mad for the finish.”

Further down the racecourse the conditions are less favourable with many competitors struggling with boat speed in the light airs. With just five days until the cut-off time, the situation looks bleak, particularly for those still with over 700-nautical miles to go.

According the Bram Weller – the Race Officer at the finish line in St Helena – there is a good chance some boats won’t make the race deadline. “It is very concerning the wind has dropped so much, and the outlook doesn’t look promising either. As it stands at the moment half the fleet is not going to finish the race within the time limit which is 1200 GMT on Saturday 10 January, unless the race committee extend the deadline. At this stage there are just seven boats – Banjo, Black Cat, Avanti, Strumpet, Vulcan 44, Canace, and Revelation, who’ll make it, while Carel Jacobs and team of the Baltic 42 Cool Runnings looks like they might miss the cut off by seven hours.”

Given the conditions, the overall winner of the Governor’s Cup 2014/15 is still uncertain although it is looking more and more certain that it could go to Klaus Wiswedel and team on Avanti (Vikers 41) in Racing division.

Team Avanti from Royal Cape Yacht Club have sailed a tactically good race, keeping well north of the rhumb line, and have managed to keep up the momentum. In the last couple of days they have recorded the biggest distance sailed in 24 hours – 138 miles as opposed to Cool Runnings (also in Racing division) that recorded 41 miles on Sunday.

Stephen Wilson and team on Vulcan 44 (Humphries 44) made a decision to switch on the engine on Sunday and opt out the Racing division. They are leading Cruising division with Kevin Ward and team on Canace (Elan 435) in second. Wilson chatting from the racecourse last night said: “It is still early days so we’re not getting too excited at the moment. We are currently heading north in hope of picking up a slightly stronger south-easterly breeze that will put us on course for the Island. There has, however, been plenty of time to reflect on the highlights of the race so far including the strong winds round Cape Point, our New Year’s Eve party where we opened little gifts from our home club – False Bay Yacht Club – and the steak dinners, fine wine and entertaining discussions. Us old seadogs continue to have fun.”

Banjo still on target to break Governor’s Cup record

Cool Runnings.

Cool Runnings.

Having enjoyed nearly a week of good, consistent winds, crews in the Governor’s Cup fleet are currently suffering from lack of speed as their yachts wallow in light airs 100 or so miles off the African coast.

The conditions look set to remain for the next few hours, which means the second half of the 1,700 nautical mile race to the remote Atlantic island of St Helena will become a game of tactics as crews work hard to seek out wind while remaining in the best of the north-flowing Benguela Current.

Banjo, the Farrier F9AX, continues to set the pace at the head of the fleet, and lead the Multihull division. Although, like the rest of the fleet, they suffered with lack of wind over the last 24 hours, it looks as though Kevin Webb and his team could still be on target to beat their previous 10-day line honours record, if the wind returns as predicted. They are currently 530 nautical miles from the finish line making nearly six knots.

Dave Immelman and team on Adrian Pearson’s Dudley Dix 38 Black Cat are still leading the Racing division ahead of Lechyd Da (Miura).

Further down the fleet Carel Jacobs and team of the Baltic 42 Cool Runnings in the Racing division are struggling with slow progress and say they are considering switching on the engine so they get to the Island in a reasonable time.

“If we do that, of course, we’ll have to go into the Cruising division. Shame really, it was looking good at one stage because we decided to track over to the east before the wind died, and it seemed to work, but now the wind is gone completely. It is now about 3kts max.

Despite that, everyone is in good spirits and having fun and it’s better than work. Franz von Molgje, one of our crew members is celebrating his 53rd wedding anniversary today and we are looking forward to steak for dinner tonight. We can also report that Pieter Jacobs, who had a nasty swelling on his eye a few days ago and we had to get medical advice on, is fine now and it all seems to be clearing up.

“It is hot out here and we went swimming yesterday. Thankfully there are no sharks here just a few Flying Fish. We did see sharks at the start off Cape Point, which is not particularly unusual in that area.”

Stephen Wilson, who originates from Liverpool (UK) is racing Vulcan 44 (Humphries 44) and is currently mid fleet with 830 miles to go. Having recently completed the Cape to Rio Race, he says the conditions are what were expected: “We had the same conditions in January, so we are fairly used to it by now. We currently have 3.5 kts from the north-east, and have the Code Zero up. Our plan is to chase the wind slot into the 6-8kt wind band when it arrives.”

Wilson says one member of his team is very excited about arriving in St Helena. “We have one guy from St Helena on board who we’ve named the ‘Saint’. Part of the tradition of the race to give St Helena people life experiences, so I agreed to take one on board. Little did he know what he was in for because he’d never sailed before. The start in 30kts plus was a real baptism of fire but he seems to be enjoying it, although I think he is looking forward to get his feet back on ground in St Helena.”

John Seager and his team on Tallulah (Tosca 36) continue to lead Cruising division. In the light winds they made 89 miles in the last 24 hours, which is an impressive performance with no real-time wind communications on board and are now 950 miles from the finish.

Seager said: “We have no idea where anyone else is on the course nor have any form of weather forecast, so we continue to sail blind. We are hoping to seek out a bit of breeze soon once we hoist the gennaker and get onto a reach. We flew the spinnaker all day yesterday but the wind was so variable we dropped it overnight and poled out the genoa to keep the boat more stable.”

Ashley Kerr and his team on the Peter Culler 65 schooner Windjammer lost out in the last 24 hours and are now in third place in the Cruising division behind Aurora (Atlantic 49), skippered by Andre Greeff.

John Leslie, from race committee commenting on the race so far said: “Although the fleet has hit a soft spot and are struggling at the moment, the current wind predictions show more wind is on its way in the next few hours. This being the case, there is still a chance Banjo will break her 10-day record to St Helena. Her current ETA to the finish line is Sunday afternoon, which means she could potentially complete the course in eight and a half days.”

Governor’s Cup update – Fleet settles in to downwind sleigh ride to St Helena


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.”

South African Governor’s Cup underway – Big winds make for exciting start from Simon’s Town

do-do_startLively conditions with winds reaching over 30kts made for an exciting start for the 2014/15 Governor’s Cup. This 1700-nautical mile race from False Bay Yacht Club, Simon’s Town, South Africa, to the remote Atlantic island of St Helena, got underway at 1400 local time today.

The strong 25kt south-easterly did nothing however, to deter the masses of spectators and well-wishers who ventured on the water, and those who headed to mountain viewpoints all the way to Cape Point to watch the 17-strong fleet battle against huge waves as it headed out to sea.

After sailing a mile across Simon Bay to Castor mark  – the first turning mark just off the lighthouse – the fleet set off on a southerly course towards Cape Point – the first significant way point, and one of the biggest challenges the competitors face in the early part of the race.

Justin Spreckley and his five-strong team from Royal Cape Yacht Club on Strumpet (Fast 42) sailed impressively in the strong breeze and led off the start line. Although they were unable to hold off Kevin Webb and his team aboard the super-fast trimaran Banjo (Farrier F9AX), they are looking likely to be an early top contender in the Racing Monohull fleet.

Team Banjo, that took line honours in Governor’s Cup 2012/13, is currently leading the fleet as it heads towards Cape Point. According to John Leslie from the Governor’s Cup race committee, it should take the fleet about two to three hours to round Cape Point, which means they should all be round by nightfall.

The issues the fleet will face in the next few hours is the residual 4-6m swell from a front that came through on Christmas Day. This will make it a fairly lively first night, but once they are round the Point, the wind will be from behind which means they will be able to settle into the race and concentrate on tactics.

Leslie, commenting on the start, said: ”I was very impressed with the fleet as it set of this afternoon. Considering it’s a 1700-mile race, and considering the seriously windy conditions everyone was on top form, and there was certainly no sign of anyone holding back. It will be rough as they head towards Cape Point, and I doubt there’ll be too many spinnakers hoisted in the dark, but they, particularly those who’ve done the race before, all know what’s ahead.”

Depending on the weather and sea conditions, the race can take anything between seven and 15 days to complete. The 2012/13 edition of the race took place in generally light to moderate winds. Banjo, who took line honours, completed the race in 10 days.

Governor’s Cup Roundup

Royal Cape One-Design beats Stadt 34 on corrected time

Friday January 4, 2013 – Thinus Groenewald’s Royal Cape One-Design – Reaction – has won the 2012 Governor’s Cup – the 1,750-mile bi-annual race from Simon’s Town, South Africa, to the Atlantic island of St Helena, which started on 22 December.

Thinus Groenewald and team aboard Reaction, celebrate their overall win of the 2012 Governor’s Cup - Photo SHBC

Groenewald, together with his three-strong crew, Corne and Ruan Groenewald, and Nicolaas Basson, all from Royal Cape Yacht Club, completed the race in just under 12 days (11d, 23h, 43m, 53s) which was just enough to beat Indaba – John Levin’s Stadt 34 – on corrected time.

Although the race for the Governor’s Cup was close right from the start within the Racing Monohull fleet, the battle for overall honours between these two intensified dramatically over the final few days. For Team Reaction it was all about unfinished business from the previous Governor’s Cup Race.

Thinus Groenewald commenting on his win said: ‘It certainly was all about unfinished business because last time when we were flying towards St Helena our rudder failed and we had to pull into Saldanha Bay to fit a new one. We then rejoined the fleet, found a new weather system and blasted our way all the way to St Helena. We were convinced we could have won that one had we not had gear failure. Therefore we are absolutely delighted with this result and really feel as though we have now achieved our goal. We had a great race, albeit a little light at the start, but once we found the breeze we enjoyed a fabulous sail all the way to the island.”

Elsewhere in the fleet excitement builds to establish an overall winner in the Rally monohull fleet where Ivan Flodgren and the Swedish team aboard their Hallberg Rassey Rasmus 35 – Kuheli – are desperately trying to beat Peter Bosch and Stephen Jennings’ Tosca 39 JML Rotary Scout. Although JML Rotary Scout, crewed by a group of Scouts from Cape Town and St Helena aged between 16-18 years old, finished the race last night, the Swedes are still in with a chance of taking the overall win if they cross the finish line by 11:22:50 on Saturday 5 January.

Compromise – the overall winner of the Rally Multihull fleet. - Photo - SHBC

The overall winner of the Rally Multihull fleet is Robert Newman’s Du Toit catamaran – Compromise – from False Bay Yacht Club. Although Kevin Webb and Sarel van der Merwe’s super-fast Farrier F9AX trimaran, Banjo, beat them on the water Team Compromise sailed consistently throughout their 12-day voyage and were able to maintain their favourable time on handicap to secure the overall win. In third place overall is Sandpiper 2 – Abri Erasmus/Paul Tanner’s Simonis Voogd 42ft catamaran, which completed the race in just over 11 days.

Billy Leisegang – Principal Race Officer commenting on the 2012 Governor’s Cup, said: “It has been a huge success all round, thanks particularly to the wonderful group of organisers both in South Africa and on St Helena who devoted their time through Christmas and New Year to make it happen. As for the actual racing, generally any yacht leaving Cape Town leaves in a screaming south-easter, so coping with the initial strong winds is often a problem. This time round however, it was unusually light. Although it probably did cause a bit of frustration among the competitors early on, they all managed to keep their spirits high throughout, and going by their reaction at the finish, all seem to have had the most fabulous sail, which is what it is all about.”



Notes to editors

The Governor’s Cup Race is a downwind 1,700 nautical mile ocean yacht race organised by False Bay Yacht Club,, and is now claimed to be an entry on many sailor’s ‘bucket list’. First held in 1996, the Governor’s Cup Race is a bi-annual event starting from False Bay Yacht Club in the quaint naval town of Simon’s Town, South Africa finishing in Jamestown, St Helena. For further details on the race including race documents, visit


This year the race is being supported for the first time by Enterprise St Helena, which promotes the growth of economy of St Helena through the development of existing businesses and the promotion of the island to new investors and developers. With the opening of the island’s airport due by late 2015, it is anticipated that tourism, and marine tourism in particular, will be a key economic driver for the island and its community. For further details visit


For further details on St Helena Island, visit


The Governor’s Cup race is proud to be supported by Andrew Weir Shipping SA (Pty) Ltd – and RMS St Helena –


For further media information please contact Sue Pelling: