by Dawn Jorgenesen
Ciao Bella – JM Busha 54 Sailing Team
It was calm and late into the evening when the much anticipated arrival into Rio de Janeiro of the Ciao Bella – JM Busha 54 Sailing Team was signaled.
The race committee headed out of Guanabara Bay to meet them, waiting just off shore in an ink black sea where the finish line spanned between Ilha Do Pai and Ilha de Mae. The wind had dropped completely and the last leg of the journey was slow for the sailors who could by now see the outline of the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain, and the reflection of Christ the Redeemer casting light across the city from its vantage point on Mount Corcovado.
Onboard, co-skippers and siblings Michaela and Ryan Robinson, on their third Rio race, were bringing in their weary crew-members Jono, Hearn, Tawanda and Emma, together having battled the messy and threatening swells of Cyclone Kurumi.
Emma wrote an emotional account of the battle they fought on the team’s blog, which offers insight into the harrowing experience and how they all rose to the occasion, working through the battering rain and 35 knot winds with bravery and determination. The post is well worth a read and documenting the details was no doubt cathartic for them all.
Ciao Bella with proudly raised sails, crossed the finish line at 01:14 local time to warm cheers and congratulations! Father of Michaela and Ryan, Michael Robinson, with family and friends were there in a chartered vessel to share in the proud occasion. A significant and well respected sailing family from Gauteng in South Africa, this young crew with the youngest ever skipper at the helm in Michaela, had fulfilled their dream.
Lovingly made sandwiches, bottles of chilled bubbly and ice-cream laced with Oreos were hand delivered to Ciao Bella by brother Brennan Robinson who’d flown in from the UK to surprise them. It was 23 days and 16 hours since leaving Cape Town and the brave and brilliant crew could let their guards down, lower their sails and indulge in the treats and the moment, allowing the motor to take them home.
Sailing for Peace and Unity in Africa, they have created excellent awareness around this significant cause that is close to their heart.
Chatting to Ryan once settled about the experience, he spoke of the challenge, the fight with the stormy weather and the resilience shown by the crew, one driven not only by self-preservation in those moments, but by the desire to preserve each other ringing true to the mantra – ‘together we are stronger’.
Reflecting on the fact that he and Michaela had done the crossing twice before as a family, and how different it was to be heading up the team themselves.
Speaking of the challenges they faced: ‘You don’t want your mother to worry about you, so you down play the reports on the blog. It’s not easy to cross an ocean, everybody would do this if it was. One of the crew broke a rib on day one, leaving him pretty immobilised. the water maker broke and we were down to about 700ml a day – and then the cyclone which was hectic. You don’t walk out the same as how you walk in. Something clicks, you dig deeper and you view things differently.’
Would you do it again, we asked. ‘There were moments when I wanted off and not to get on a boat ever again, but now I say yes I’d go right away, as sailors have exceptionally short memories. Every race is different. Each holds its own challenges, and lessons. I’d recommend it to everybody, it will change you, for the better.
Ciao Bella – JM Bucha 54 Sailing Team were 3rd across the line on 28 January at 04:14 UTC and in 23d 16h 14m 52s. Congratulations to them!
With the race committee settled in the bay and word of Haspa Hamburg’s pending arrival, a decision was made to camp out under the star-studded skies and await their arrival at the finishing line.
As though on cue, the German crew of 12 from Hamburgischer Verein Seefahrt arrived with dawn, the catchy bright red of their hull and raised white sails silhouetted against the burnt orange sky and calmly lapping ocean, as the golden sun rose above the horizon.
It was an aptly dramatic and appropriate way to mark the end of their journey.
Having taken advantage of a powerful swell that saw them gaining miles in the last day, the lack of wind on approach allowed a more philosophical acceptance for the team. The Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro was in sight, they’d managed to avoid Cyclone Kurumi by veering South and the German flag was flying.
As the horn confirmed their crossing of the finish line, they cracked open beers they’d had the good discipline to save for the moment, and rightfully revelled in their success. Established in 1903, the HVS academy has competed in the Cape to Rio a number of times, including the very first edition in 1971. This was another to add to their records.
Once docked at ICRJ and in interviews, the overwhelming comment was how this group of 12 sailors who’d started the voyage as strangers, had become firm friends – or family. They had achieved something great together and were glowing with pride.
Skipper Torben Mühlbach praised the skills of his navigator Marvin Schlesiger, and the contribution of every member of the team. He said a defining moment for him was while lying in his berth on a break and wondering what he could do next. So slick was the harmony and functionality of this crew as they rose to any unforeseeable occasion, putting their best selves forward.
Sebastian, the self-proclaimed oldest member of the crew spoke of how special the feeling is when you leave a harbour to take on an adventure, and how it is even better when you arrive at your destination. In this case Table Mountain, which they could see long after commencing the race, to the outline of Sugarloaf Mountain on their morning approach.
A personal highlight for him remains ‘the stars in the night sky, especially on the calm nights when you can simply appreciate the ocean and the art of sailing’.
He was most impressed at how well everybody got on and how organised they remained throughout. ‘There was quite a bit of action and in those dark moments it can be challenging. Yet they were constantly prepared for anything.’
‘It is much more fun sailing in a warm climate, rather than in wintery weather’, seems a general consensus. The team were full of praise for competitors Mussulo 40, who they regularly caught a glimpse of, and how effective the double handers were.
For most of this spirited crew, sailing, racing and the challenge of ocean crossings is what drives and inspires them, and in turn they hope that this achievement will encourage other young sailors in Germany to get involved, take up this glorious sport and work towards doing their own ocean crossing one day.
Torben’s advice: ‘just go sailing, on any boat, take any opportunity, just go.’
Of course, many Caipirinhas were in order once on terra firma with hugs, the bond of firmly bonded camaraderie, cheers and many Hipp Hipp Hurras! May the HRV relationship with Cape2Rio continue to grow from strength to strength.
The Haspa Hamburg team were 4th across the line on 28 January at 09:03 UTC in 16d 21h 3m 55s.
Mussulo 40 Team Angola Cables
The impressive double handled Mussulo 40 Team sponsored by Angola Cables were next in line, their stylish blue and grey sail flirting with the light wind as they approached home.
Consistent and strong contenders from the start, the much respected, deeply bonded and now suavely bearded duo set a fine image with their broad relaxed smiles and thumbs up as the embraced their finish.
Sailing alongside them was a second Mussulo boat from Angola Cables, laden with cheering supporters that was out on the water to see them in.
Much loved Leo and Zé were setting Brazil’s social media on fire as supporters sent messages of welcome and congratulations to them. Once they’d crossed they responded on Instagram with a post that read #WeHereBrazil!
Home by birth to Brazilian Leo Chicourel and adopted home to Skipper Zé Guilherme, their sense of arrival would have felt different. The duo have been sailing together for six years, and have done numerous ocean crossings together.
This was Leo’s third Cape2Rio and he remarked on how different each race is, with the dynamic of the crew, the weather and ocean’s mood always unpredictable. They are very happy with how this race panned out.
Skipper Jose Guilherme says his first memory of single handed sailing was ‘when I was very little, maybe ten or eleven years old and in Mussulo Island off Angola where he grew up. He set a mission for himself to sail from Mussulo to Luanda, a distance of about 2 miles, but at the time the ultimate that felt like sailing around the world.
Since then with the Cape2Rio race his dream is resumed, this time with sailing partner Leo by his side.’
Angola Cables is the Angolan multinational telecommunications operator of fiber-optic telecommunication that is bringing connectivity, and in so, change to Africa, who have been the sponsors and encouragement that made this Cape2Rio possible for them.
On arrival Mussulo handed over six neatly packed eco-bricks that they’d filled on the crossing; economical, thoughtful and considerate, indicative of this team’s wining and wonderful character.
The Mussulo 40 Team Angola Cables were 5th across the line on 28 January at 13:06 UTC in 17d 1h 6m 2s.
While the first three arriving crews of the day gathered with friends and family for a celebratory sundowner at Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro’s Convés Deck, the Race Committee headed back out beyond Guanabara Bay to the finish line, to await the next approaching boats.
The sun was just setting when on the distant horizon two sails appeared. The first, Laurium Capital Mojie, with Almagores II hot on their tail and evidently determined to fight to the end and ensure an exciting finish for all.
Almagores II is spectacular.
A 102 foot southern wind boat built in Cape Town for an Italian owner, this was her first time sailing the Cape2Rio race, making her the second biggest boat to participate in the approximately 3600 nautical miles South Atlantic crossing.
As the two boats harnessed the wind and approached the finish line with determination and at full available speed, Almagores II was able to take advantage of her size and expansive sail, overtaking Mojie and completing a minute ahead of her.
‘Almagores, Almagores – you have crossed the line – welcome to Rio’ announced Luke Scott, Chair of Cape2Rio 2020 into the radio from the Race Committee boat that sped alongside them, trying to keep up.
This was met by the loud ringing of Almagores II’s horn and excited cheers by the Italians of ARRIVATI !!
Captain Francesco Donati with Navigator Andrea Henriquet and their remarkable crew had taken on this ocean crossing and succeeded with style.
Yet for the boat owner Federico Borromeo, who had joined them onboard as skipper, this was more than just a personal challenge and adventure. He was living out the long standing dream of his late father who had always hoped to do this ocean crossing. Federico had also previously planned to do the race with a dear friend who had also since passed away.
On this Cape2Rio 2020 he was carrying both of their spirits and dreams with him on the wind.
The crew spent the day doing immigration, sorting out their boat and settling in somewhat before joining the other teams that have arrived at the ICRJ’s Convés Deck for drinks.
Almagores II sailed to raise awareness and funds for their charity of choice Fondazione Theodora Onlus, an organisation that works with professional artists and clowns to support and bring some light relief to terminally ill children, and see them and their parents through the difficult ordeal. An important foundation.
The Almagores II crossed the line on 28 January at 21:56 UTC in 17d 9h 56m 42s.
Laurium Capital Mojie
After an exceptionally successful race and having overcome significant adversity after losing their Skipper to health issues the day before departing Cape Town, the team onboard Mojie had consistently looked good and were confidently approaching the finish line.
Replacement Skipper was Clarence Hendricks, who they were fortunate enough to bring on board together with Ian Coward, both sailors with extensive offshore experience that proved to be invaluable assets to Gavin, Alistair and Richard who were about to complete an adventure of a lifetime.
The Race Committee joined them 1,5 miles from the finish line between the two scenically beautiful islands of Ilha Do Pai and Ilha de Mae, just outside Guanabara Bay.
Coming in alongside Almagores II and sparring bravely despite being somewhat dwarfed by her size and grandeur, did not deter from their experience in any way.
There were celebrations and cheers as they reached the finish a minute after Almagores II, with the two boats respecting each other’s positions and taking the last stretch into port together, to where family and fellow participants excitedly awaited them.
Chatting to them after their arrival, they cheerfully made it clear that the race might be finished but not the work, with the boat, sails and themselves needing some TLC. They expressed awe at the magnitude of the ocean, the life altering experience of the crossing – with the challenges they faced and decisions they needed to make – and how Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluiah” became their sunset theme song whilst out in the deep blue.
On the last stretch just as land came into sight, they’d been accompanied by a pod of dolphins frolicking at the bow, playing as though in a last burst of encouragement.
‘It’s an overwhelming sense of triumph. We did it. We crossed the ocean. We survived the dangers. We dealt with the problems. We’ve experienced something few people can even imagine. We’ve risen above everyday life and we did it together.’
The Laurium Capital Mojie crossed the line on 28 January at 21:57 UTC in 24d 9h 57m 58s.
For more information contact Simone Balman
Cape2Rio2020 Race Administrator