The Cape to Rio yacht race, which starts Saturday in Cape Town, has always had a chequered history because of international opposition to apartheid.
But this year’s race has hit the news for other reasons. One participant has died, another is missing, believed washed overboard, while another is suspected of the murder of an ANC official.
The Royal Cape Yacht Club is the mooring place for the Cape to Rio yacht race – entrants waiting here putting the final touches to their craft ahead of the starting gun on Saturday.
A fleet of 57 boats is participating in this year’s three-thousand, six-hundred nautical mile race.
Yachts from South Africa, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Great Britain, United States of America and Brazil are taking part.
But only days before the start, the race is surrounded by both tragedy and controversy.
British millionaire Tony Perry was found floating next to his yacht “White Lace” in the yacht club basin just before Christmas. It is thought that Perry, who could not swim, was blown off the cat walk by a strong wind while walking back to his yacht.
Then the nine-metre entrant “Kuss Den Wind” was found floating adrift miles from Cape Town. Her sails were down, the engine idle and the German-born skipper Gerd Mayer was nowhere to be found. It is believed he was washed overboard.
In the latest controversy to hit the race, it’s been revealed a man suspected of the murder of an African National Congress official is taking part.
Allan Stokes, a crew member aboard the yacht “Sunday Star”, has
appeared in court in connection with the death of Foreign Affairs Department trainee Nithianathan Govender.
He was released on warning to appear in court at a later date. Police say they do not regard Stokes as a flight risk.
Despite the setbacks, those participating are upbeat about the challenge ahead.
SOUNDBITE: (in English)
“We’re doing the Cape to Rio Yacht Race on the boat called
“Portuguese Discovery Coins”. We’ve been presented with a set of
coins by the Portuguese Consul-General in Cape Town for delivery to
the Portuguese Ambassador in Brazil. This is to commemorate the sea
routes that were discovered by the Portuguese. They discovered the
Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and Brazil they discovered in 1500. So it
ties in nicely with the various sea routes that the Portuguese
discovered, who were the great navigators of the world.”
SUPER CAPTION: Dennis Joubert, skipper of yacht “Portuguese Discovery Coins”
The first Cape to Rio yacht race was in 1971. But in 1976, Rio de Janeiro pulled out as the finishing port because of opposition to apartheid.
A Cape to Uruguay race ran from 1979 to 1985 but in 1993 Rio resumed its role.
The only all-woman crew in this race, skippered by South African
Marion Cole, has entered on “Kelly Girl”.
SOUND BITE: (in English)
“For most of these girls are normally sailing with the macho guys most of the time. And that’s why they are all together on my boat. So I don’t think it’s a problem. Obviously we are going to do things different and it’s not going to be very easy. But we are certainly going to try our best and certainly make sure that we stay up, you know, among with the front guys.”
SUPER CAPTION: Marion Cole, skipper of “Kelly Girl”
The cut-off time to arrive in Rio is February the second.
But conditions are favourable for an attempt on the 15-day three hour record set by the German yacht, Broomstick, in 1993.
Published by Associated Press