South African entrant Lion of Africa Vulcan has finished third in the 2017 Cape2Rio presented by Maserati. Vulcan completed the Atlantic crossing on 16 January, and is the first South African boat to complete the 2017 edition of the prestigious and iconic event. The Cape Town-based yacht, co-owned and co-skippered by Hylton Hale, finished seven hours after second yacht over the line, Black Pearl.
“We are elated to see our local friends and heroes finishing third at the Cape2Rio,” said Vitor Medina, Commodore of the Royal Cape Yacht Club, hosts of the Cape2Rio and home base to the Lion of Africa Vulcan yacht. “Hylton and his crew have sailed impressively and we can’t wait to share in their triumph once they are back in Cape Town.”
Lion of Africa Vulcan’s result is particularly impressive when you consider that the yacht is not designed for ocean crossings. Leading up to the Cape2Rio the yacht had to be fitted with numerous components to ensure its safety on the open ocean; these changes included new safety equipment, the installation of water makers and waterproofing the boat more extensively. That made the challenge of competing in the Cape2Rio all the more thrilling.
“It was a great race,” said co-skipper, Francois Kuttel. “It was an epic sail from start to finish; better than some of the other Cape2Rio’s I have participated in. This year was 15 days of great sailing and great fun.”
Lion of Africa Vulcan’s meteorologist Shaun Pammenter – a former team member on South Africa’s America’s Cup yacht, Shosholoza – says that the key to their Cape2Rio success was working to the strengths of the yacht.
“We have a very quick downwind yacht, so right from the start we wanted to get into downwind conditions as quickly as possible,” said Pammenter. To achieve that, Lion of Africa Vulcan set out on a northerly course from Cape Town.
“Doing that got us into the best conditions; I think as a strategy it worked out really well. All in all, I think we did well to finish seven hours behind a very good boat in Black Pearl, one that is also sailed by a highly experienced crew. We are happy with the result and to be the first South African boat home.”
A make or break moment for the South African yacht came about 10 days into the race, when they hit a patch of light wind. “We slowed down quite a bit,” said co-owner Hylton Hale. “We didn’t really expect it; I think at one stage we were hitting 12 knots, maximum. This was where we fell off the back of the leading bunch.”
Because of the yacht’s design, the crew had to deal with a lot of water on board, but a bigger crisis came when crew names started washing off coffee cups. “It was tough,” said bowman, Sarah Niedzwiecki-Mecoy, “we couldn’t tell which cup belonged to who! Other than that, the experience was brilliant. Everyone worked well together. But then it’s easy to do well when you are all working towards the same goal.”
Co-skipper Hale echoed Niedzwiecki-Mecoy’s sentiments. “The crew work and team work was brilliant. There were no fights and everyone pulled together brilliantly to make the race a success.”
Earlier, the yacht’s progress in the race was slowed when Pammenter spotted a yellowish object falling quickly and directly down towards to sea on 5 January.
After reporting the incident to Falmouth Search and Rescue, Lion of Africa Vulcan was requested to complete a search of the area. The crew duly stopped racing and conducted a search, finding nothing, but losing 1 hour, 10 minutes and 4 seconds of race time in the process. The yacht has filed a report and request for redress, which has been granted by the race committee.
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Picture credit: 2017 Cape2Rio Vulcan – Alec Smith