Reporting from Rio de Janeiro.
Zulu Girl powered by Mazi Asset Management
There were numerous false starts on the morning of the 29th January, as the Race Committee heeded to word that Sulanga, the gorgeous Mumby 48 catamaran skippered by Dr Klaus Wiswedel, would be nearing the finish line before dawn.
Arrival was to be slow for them though as the wind dropped off completely, making for a rather frustrating end for this weary crew of experienced sailors in Sunethra Abey, Jan Buhrmann and Joshua Bryant.
Sulanga is a boat built for luxury and speed – when the god of wind plays along. One that is completely self-sustained and free of single use plastic. They pride themselves on their connection with the ocean and their efforts in helping to preserve it, and had even opted for an exclusively vegetarian diet during the crossing to further endorse this connection.
Having taken warnings of the pending storm to heart and placed priority on preservation, Sulanga had headed far north and detoured out of the line of danger, waiting it out for a day, which proved to be wise decision.
Although that said, Sunethra did mention that they’d anticipated the crossing would take 17 days, and it had taken 25, which was an unanticipated stretch for them.
A self-contained and competent team of worldly sailors, they were ready to rest, replenish and reflect on their adventure, while toasting their safe arrival.
Sulanga crossed the line on 29 January at 12:09 UTC and in 25d 0h 9m 10s.
Next in was the Brazilian boat Saravah who were returning to their home club Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro. A crowd favourite on both sides of the Atlantic with a great deal of support behind them, their arrival was synonymously vibrant as they were joined at under a mile from the finish line by supporters, fans and loved ones who had come out on their own boats to share in the celebration and see them in.
At 500m from the end line with a gentle breeze blowing offshore, Saravah was in her element, the crew lined up to share in the long anticipated moment. They had come all the way from Brazil to South Africa and were now arriving back to Rio.
And then the whistle marked their crossing.
‘Saravah, Saravah, Saravah this is Cape2Rio 2020 Race Committee – welcome home!’
There was jubilation all around with Skipper Pierre Joullie announcing immediately into the radio: ‘We competed the Cape2Rio in 2017, we have just completed 2020 and look forward to being back in 2023 with at least two boats from this crew.’
Such encouraging words and an endorsement of the good work done by the organisers.
Saravah immediately sent a support boat to collect Luke Scott, Cape2Rio 2020 Chair, from the race committed boat. Inviting him to join the crew as they cruised the last stretch, warmly expressing their gratitude for the friendships made over the process.
Pierre Jolie’s young son was next to hop on board, and with his hands firmly on his father’s shoulders, helped steer Saravah home where a jovial group of friends were waiting at the ICRJ with champagne, streamers, warm handshakes and embraces. Also a bucket of fresh water that they poured over the skipper as a baptism of the sea, an old custom among seamen.
With many stories to be shared, Pierre, who had sailed with his brother Alain among the crew, entertained the welcome committee with animated tales of adventure that this united and experienced team of homegrown Brazilians had encountered on their crossing.
Saravah’s contribution to #Sail4Good is twofold. Firstly connecting fellow competitors Umoya who’s drive it was to create eco bricks with the waste they created, with an organisation in Brazil that will receive and put to use these bricks. Saravah also made eco bricks.
The other is their partnership with Marine Inspirations who supports young sailors in establishing careers within the super yacht industry, with South African veteran sailor and founder Phil Wade joining them for the crossing.
Welcome home Saravah!
The Saravah team crossed the line on 29 January at 14:56 UTC and in 18d 2h 56m 17s.
Zulu Girl powered by Mazi Asset Management
Zulu Girl charged to the finish line, carrying with them the hopes and future of many emerging South African sailors. An incredible achievement for Skipper Siyando Vato and his team of experience and relatively young sailors.
They had suffered more than their fair share of challenges and been heavily hit by the storm that left them with a broken rudder and a badly burnt crew member, as well as being without power for ten days, disconnected and running short on fresh water.
Yet they were in RIo and the energy among them was palpable. And while most arriving crews had delighted in the sight of a chilled beer to celebrate the occasion, all this team could ask for was water, which they were happily handed by the Race Committee.
The crew from Mojie had sailed out to see their friends and fellow competitors in and with Zulu Girl needing a tow, had offered to do the honours. Seeing the two South African boats arrive into the club, while the rest of the Cape2Rio crews cheered them on, was an emotional and beautiful moment. One that was proudly South African.
This young dynamic team are backed by their sponsors Mazi Asset Management, who have supported them from fruition and throughout the journey. Skipper Siyanda Vato, Clarence Hendricks, Peter Marsh, Le-Roy Rudolf, Joweal Klaase, Daniel Agulhas and Theodore Yon had done it.
In an interview the next day, Siya spoke openly about the crossing and how it had been a tough one for them. ‘This is not a race that just anybody can do, although minor challenges can be expected and good prep can make them easier to manage, you just never know what the elements and chance will throw at you.’
‘After encountering our alternator situation, it brought everything down to making sure that our supplies lasted the rest of the race. It wasn’t ideal, but it got us across the pond.’
Not having electricity had multi-faceted consequences though, as the crew relies heavily on water to prepare their freeze dry food, as well as for drinking. The lack of power supply meant they couldn’t properly navigate around the ocean or look out for potential dangers. It had also limited their ability to understand more about where the storm was and how it was moving.
‘But we handled it, we managed to download sufficient grib files with the electricity we had. Peter as a trained meteorologist also proved invaluable in the situation’.
‘When we were hit by the storm it was the dead of night and everything turned pitch black, bar the occasional lightening that lit up the horizon. We saw 70-80 knots, got the sails up and with the boat vibrating like crazy, rode out the storm with Theo at the helm battling for control.’
We broke our steering lines, so had to tap into our emergency tiller, went bare pole and as the weather calmed allowed ourselves to drift in an easterly direction, leaving many people at home worried. Soon it was sunrise and we could assess the situation, check the boat and make the required repairs. The crew was obviously a bit shaken, but we managed to calm down and get our heads back on the race.’
Siya is very proud of how well the team came together, although admits they would have preferred a better position. But given the adversities faced, they are happy to have made it safely across. He made special mention of the crew’s valuable sailing experience and of Le’Roy’s undying humour and ability to lift the crews spirits, even in their darkest hours.
Would you do again, we ask? ‘In a heartbeat, every day, and twice on Sundays’ he says. ‘We’ll be back – and next time we’re taking the trophy!’ Watch this spot, we recognise determination when we see it.
Zulu Girl’s #Sail4Good is the ‘No More Barefeet Campaign’ that invites the donation of used school shoes to be distributed to disadvantaged children, so that they may go to school and in turn get an education. This is something that the crew have put their hearts behind, that constantly humbled and reminded of the bigger picture on route, and that they will continue to promote.
Connect with them for details of where to drop off any shoes you may have.
Zulu Girl powered by Mazi Asset Management crossed the line on 29 January at 19.41 UTC and in 18d 7h 41m 15s.