‘Pirates of Table Bay’ to take over V&A Waterfront this Saturday during the Royal Cape Yacht Club’s Opening Cruise, which promises to be a jolly affair
Fans of boats and festive occasions are invited to witness the traditional opening of the 2017/2018 sailing season from the V&A Waterfront this Saturday, 7 October, from 13:00 to 14:00. The opening cruise festivities will kick off at the yacht club, with members and guests mounting their vessels and forming a fleet to salute the club’s Commodore. The yachts will muster at Granger Bay before entering the Waterfront just after 13:00. The historic Chavonne’s Battery will be firing a special salute for the occasion, which is scheduled to take place at 14:00.
Sailing and Cape Town go hand in hand, and the history of Sailing and the Cape of Good Hope – and essentially South Africa – are so intimately intertwined that the one cannot possibly be fully understood without the other. It is through sailing that so many different cultures encountered one another, sometimes more, sometimes less peacefully, at the Southern tip of Africa and the Rainbow Nation was formed.
The Royal Cape Yacht Club has become synonymous with sailing in Table Bay. Aiming to unite cultures by making the sport accessible to all, the club endeavours to encourage everyone, regardless of their background, to participate through various projects and events, thereby actively counteracting the colonialist stigma that sailing is reserved for the rich. The club has a healthy membership of eager sailors, including an excellent sailing academy with students from various cultures, who regularly take to the open seas – mainly, of course, for racing against each other; but also for leisurely sailing, known as ‘cruising’. The annual Opening Cruise celebrates the beginning of the sailing season, which officially starts in spring and ‘ends’ just before winter all around the world.
The event, held since the beginning of the yacht club’s history, which sees crews and boats contend for ‘best dressed’ prizes, begins with formalities at the RCYC. Traditionally, a guest of honour is invited to address members and guests of the yacht club before the commencement of the cruise. RCYC President Paul Maré, who was the club’s Commodore in 1995, remembers a very special guest speaker: Ahmed Kathrada. ‘Uncle Kathy’ addressed the crowd, recounting his experience of Robben Island – something that could have become an awkward situation, as the RCYC had, with the help of prison labourers, erected a small satellite harbour on the island with the aim of providing a storm haven for vessels caught in adverse North Easterly weather. Maré recalls, ‘I was delegated to visit Mr Kathrada at his office in Tuinhuys that year. He had requested the meeting to discuss his attendance as our guest of honour. After we concluded the meeting, he thanked me and asked if I could wait for five minutes, while he excused himself. To my great surprise, he returned a short while later with Nelson Mandela. Madiba was most cordial and, with the famous glint in his eye, made a few comments referring to Robben Eiland, his and Mr Kathrada’s ‘home for so many years’.’
This year, the formal schedule will be including a speech by guest speaker Hlamalani Phephenyane, planning and development manager at Transnet, as well as the firing of the ceremonial seven-pounder cannons by the Cannon Society of Cape Town, which will herald the official start of the season. After the formalities, the fleet will sail from the club marina into the bay, and a signal from the Vice Commodore will indicate the start of the procession to sail past and salute Commodore Vitor Medina, who will be positioning himself near the Chavonne’s Battery Museum, situated at the Clock Tower side of the Waterfront. From here, the museum’s historic cannons are set to fire some festive salutes.
True to their reputation, sailor activities, though loaded with instructions and traditions, are to be taken with a pinch of salt (perhaps even rum!) – and this year’s ‘Pirates of Table Bay’-themed opening cruise will be no exception. The ‘sail past’ and salute will be carried out with a lot of humour by the crews.
The public is welcome to watch the spectacle from the V&A Waterfront, where the best vantage points will be in the surrounding areas of the Clock Tower and Chavonne’s Battery Museum. According to the schedule, the ‘sail past’ is to happen around 13:30.