1971 | CAPE TO RIO
Start Date: 16 January 1971
Finish: Rio de Janerio
Number of Entries: 59
Mark: Ilha da Trinadade
Race Distance: 3600nm
Winner: Albatros 2
Skipper/Owner: J Goodwin
Second Place: Striana
Skipper/Owner: A Maupas
Third Place: Stormy
Skipper/Owner: K Bruynzeel
Line Honours Results:
Winner: Ocean Spirit
Skipper/Owner: Robin Knox-Johnstone & Leslie Williams
Second Place: Graybeard
Skipper/Owner: L Killam
Third Place: Fortuna
Skipper/Owner: Cdr E Rivero -Kelly
A fleet of 10 to 15 yachts was expected, but sailing fever took hold of South Africa and extended beyond its borders too. The first race attracted an amazing international entry of 69 boats, whose skippers included Robin Knox-Johnston, Eric Tabarly, Kees Bruynzeel, and Lt.Cdr. Maximo Reveiro Kelly. Ultimately, 59 yachts were on the starting line.
The boats set sail on 16 January from Table Bay, with an estimated crowd of 100 000 in attendance. The fleet and the numerous vessels surrounding it made for a breath-taking sight on a sunny day. SAS (South African Ships) Tafelberg served as guardship for the voyage. An ambitious weather-reporting exercise, organised by the University of Cape Town department of oceanography was also organised where the boats would do radio daily weather reports, such as data on sea and air temperatures, wind velocity and direction, cloud conditions, and wave direction and height, to an ocean-going research vessel. The results would provide much new information about meteorological conditions in the South Atlantic.
Bruce Dalling was chosen to lead the South African challenge in Jakaranda, 17-metre yawl which was built especially for the Cape to Rio. She was a hugely expensive yacht for the time; she cost US$12 000 to design and R135 000 to build. Unfortunately, she had her title challenge ended by a sheared rudder post during the race.
Voortrekker was also in the race, skippered by Cdr. A Thomas.
Another notable entry was the yacht Sprinter with her all-women crew of five; it was the first time that an all-women crew would compete in an ocean race between two continents.
The British Royal Naval Association entered the race with a 21.6m ketch – Ocean Spirit, co-skippered by two high-profile men in the world of sailing: Robin Knox-Johnstone, who had become the first man to circumnavigate the globe single-handed in 1968 and 1969, for which he was awarded the CBE, and Leslie Williams, who had finished fourth in the 1968 Atlantic single-handed race. They had teamed up to win the 1970 Round Britain race in Ocean Spirit. They ended up taking line honours after a crossing of 23 days and 42 minutes after a furious dice with the big Canadian entry, Graybeard. Despite their efforts, by the ninth day, Albatros II, a 12.8m sloop built in Knysna and skippered by John Goodwin, had taken over the lead on handicap Albatros II was the eighth boat into port, but on corrected time she narrowly pipped Striana for handicap honours. She finished the crossing in 26 days and 14 hours despite opting for a southerly course and being reduced to a virtual standstill while those boats that had chosen a course further north made good ground.
Ocean Spirit won line honours for the first race on 8 February, after 23 days and 42 minutes. Graybeard was second across the line, almost a day later. Fortuna finished less than two hours behind the Canadian entry, with Pen Duick III, the winner of the 1967 Sydney to Hobart yacht race, skippered by Legion d’Honeur holder Lieutenant Eric Tabarly finishing fourth. Sprinter, with her all-women crew, was 44th across the line, and greeted with a special three-gun salute to mark the historic moment.