With the entry deadline now closed, this year’s Governor’s Cup race from Simon’s Town in South Africa to Jamestown on St Helena, South Atlantic, starting on 22nd December, sees 19 boats entered with over 90 crew and supporters taking part in this unusual race to one of the world’s most remote and extraordinary islands.
With one of the largest entry lists since the race began in 1996, this one-way handicap race has attracted a range of yachts from IRC ocean racers, to downwind multihull and monohull cruisers.
The Governor’s Cup race is recognised as being different from other yacht races. While the accent is on fun and camaraderie, the 1700 miles of downwind racing takes the boats past Cape Point and to one of the most remote and extraordinary islands in the world, St Helena. Once at their destination, the crews enjoy traditionally welcoming St Helena hospitality and enjoy the wonders of this remote and historic island. The next challenge is leaving; the only way off the island is by sea – either on the last operating Royal Mail Ship, returning on an upwind sail to South Africa, or cruising onwards across the Atlantic.
The diversity of the race, which is renowned for being on many sailors’ ‘bucket list’, is also reflected in the race participants. The 2012 entries include experienced single handed racer Roger McCormick on board the smallest entered yacht, the 20 foot ti Duick, through to the boat with the most crew, JML Rotary Scout. This Tosca 39 is owned by the South African Scout Association and is skippered by experienced racers and scout leaders Peter Bosch and Stephen Jennings. The crew is made up of six teenage scouts including two youngsters from St Helena.
Voyage of Bryana is an entry which sees the Fisher family realising their dreams. This 38 foot steel construction yacht is being sailed by the family of four including 14 year old son Todd and 13 year old daughter Amy embarking on their “adventure of a lifetime”.
Patches is the St Helena Yacht Club entry. This 30 foot Miura yacht is sponsored by Andrew Weir
Shipping, Basil Read Ltd, the St Helena airport contractors, Solomons Ltd, Cable & Wireless and the Tourism Department of Enterprise St Helena. Skippered by Chris (Hedge) Shuter, Patches’ crew all live and work on St Helena. Amongst those on board is James McCabe, who will be arriving back on the island, where he spent some of his childhood, after completing his education in the UK before starting at university. Sandi Francis, a true Saint girl born on the island, is fulfilling a lifelong ambition to complete the race.
Other international competitors taking part include Kevin Ward, a British businessman who now works in South Africa. Having learnt to sail with his family on the English South Coast, crossing the Channel to France, he will now be racing on board his Elan 434 Canace across the Atlantic against a team from the Netherlands, Neils and Margret Hendricks and their crew Regina and Arnold on board their 45 foot (14.94m) Dutch registered performance aluminium cruiser SY Unwind. This boat will be continuing on from St Helena making its way back to Europe for summer 2013.
Amongst those vying for line honours are PERI African Renaissance, a Farr 40, which is being sailed double handed by Wayne Badenhorst and Kathy Edmeades. This exceptionally fast and lightweight sloop will be competing against Ray of Light, a Beneteau 44.7 owned and crewed by Michael and Heidi Kavanagh, whose four year old son Sean will be joining four other adult crew members.
Other boats battling to get across the line first after the 1700 mile race will be Banjo, an Ian Farrier-designed F9AX trimaran. This fast and lightweight yacht is designed to be folded and trailed, and won line honours in the 2010 Governor’s Cup race. This year sees her sporting a new gaff rig, designed to deliver exceptional downwind speed. The dark horse amongst this year’s entries is Sandpiper 2. Owned and built by Abri Erasmus, this 40 foot Scape design was only launched in June 2011, and her sleek light displacement design, combined with her experienced crew, will make her exceptionally fast downwind. One of the other main contenders for line and handicap honours will be Reaction, a Royal Cape One Design. This ‘over-sized dinghy’ with its narrow beam, low centre of gravity and high coach roof has proved herself to have excellent stability making her safe, seaworthy and again, very quick downwind. In the 2010 race she suffered rudder damage which resulted in her putting ashore for repairs but this year her skipper Thinus Groenewald and his crew are looking for victory.
The Governor’s Cup Yacht Race is organised jointly by the St Helena Yacht Club and False Bay Yacht Club and starts from Simon’s Town on Saturday 22 December. The boats are overtaken on route by the Royal Mail Ship St Helena, which carries friends, relatives and the race management team. On arrival at St Helena, the boats will be amongst the first to make use of 25 brand new moorings, commissioned by the St Helena Government. These moorings have been professionally designed and specified by marine engineers and were installed in October 2012. This marks the development of the island as a base for travelling yachts as well as a yachting destination with the opening of the island’s only airport due to take place in 2015.
Currently the majority of yachts taking part in the 2012 Governor’s Cup race have elected to return their yachts and crews to South Africa on board the RMS St Helena. Managed by race supporter Andrew Weir Yacht Management, which has offices in both London and Cape Town, Daniel Taylor of Andrew Weir Yacht Management says, “Some yachts choose to continue their cruise to other destinations but the beauty of this race is that the rest of the sailors have a choice either to sail back to the Cape or return reclining in the comfort of a deckchair sipping cocktails on board the affordable yet luxurious 7000 ton passenger/cargo ship, the RMS St. Helena.”
Billy Leisegang, Principal Race Officer and also experienced competitor in the race says, “While the race could be compared to the Newport to Bermuda downwind dash, or the Sydney to Hobart race, it is truly unique in that it is an event with ‘three holidays in one’.
“There’s the downwind dash from Simon’s Town to St Helena with all the excitement of surfing down the huge Atlantic rollers, with loved ones sailing on the RMS and being on the Island to welcome you at the finish line with champagne and cold beers! Then there’s the holiday in paradise on St Helena with the welcome and inclusion in Islander life; as well as beautiful hikes, great pubs with great and varied atmosphere and parties galore. And finally there’s the five star return voyage on the RMS St Helena. That’s five nights of fun and laughter, the best of food and days filled with traditional mail ship deck games.”
The opening of the airport on St Helena in 2015 will see the island opening up to inward investment and an increasing number of yachts using the island as a stopover or destination resort.
For more information, please visit www.governorscup.co.za or visit the Governor’s Cup Facebook page www.facebook.com/Governorscup2012