A Race to Remember
The day started with grim rain clouds and angry winds. Murphy’s law of all days, it would be the day Touch58 does its first sailing activation, on a 75 foot race yacht, in the Atlantic Ocean. With the client being the Clipper Round the World Ocean Race they were actually all too happy about this. It reminded me of airline pilot who once said to me, “When we need turn autopilot off to fly through a hurricane, that’s when we begin to smile”. Our guests for the day wouldn’t agree with this gung-ho attitude - with one comparing the ocean state to a very tempestuous person he once knew. Fortunately, everyone braved the morning gale and made their way out to the Waterfront where we met up with the professionals whom we would entrust our lives with and head out to sea.
Two boats, two teams in an epic battle to see who were the king of the ocean! Team Rugby included my business partner at Touch58, Raymond van Niekerk, who is an actual sailor and was on the Rugby boat. We’d borrowed yacht Qingdao skippered by Chris Kobusch and volubly led by legendary ex Springbok Captain Jean de Villiers and his first and second mates Scarra Ntubeni and Seabelo Senatla. They were accompanied by an actual Knight, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the man who won the first solo circumnavigation race around the world in 1968. Adding to the flavour were two of Cape Town’s resident influencer’s, Adam Spires and Emma Jude.
Team Cricket led enthusiastically by myself, would have two of the finest cricket fast bowlers in world, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel as competent crew. Aussie skipper of yacht Sanya, Wendy Tuck, would make sure we did not sink ourselves, while GoPro international resident Chris Rogers and creative director of Men’s Health Rob Cilliers made up the supercharged crew. Comically abused by television show host Dan Nicholl, we set sail.
We cleared our mooring safely and began a short training run-through of how to keep the boat upright and moving forward whilst staying alive at the same time. The skeleton crew were great and helped the non-sailors quickly grasp the do’s and don’ts of the ocean. Before long we had the 75 foot yachts heeled at nearly at 45 degrees while flying though the water under only the power of nature. The colossal sails stole energy from the air and the bow of the boat carved through the waves with a precision that is a work of art to behold. Not one person on deck was without a huge grin as we made our way to the start line.
5 Minutes was the warning time given to get to the start line. No air gun or signal but rather just the digits arriving to zero on our watches signaling the start. Away we go! Or did we... the wind had dropped and so too did the boats angle of attack and speed. The race now was about strategy to find the wind again. Our Cricket boat at this point was around 200 meters ahead of Rugby but for good reason. Seasoned sailor Raymond knew how to find the wind in his long-time playground and set direction up away from the finish line but towards the wind. It didn’t hurt that he had sailing God Robin Knox-Johnston and old sailing buddy Jakes Jakobsen whispering advice in his ear. Before long our 200-meter lead started to dwindle as their sails filled with wind and vigorously their boat leaned over once again slicing through the ocean at speed. Cricket seeing this too then course corrected down the same path as Rugby but was it too late? The race was back on as both boats were in full power and heading furiously towards the finish line with clouds parting and the sun appearing as if headed toward the promised land. Skipper Dale was behind the wheel screaming orders and the crew grinding at the sails all made for Hollywood block buster movie material.
But, at the finish line, it was Rugby that crossed first with cricket in second. A well-deserved victory with local knowledge and experience paying dividends. It was a victory for rugby, but also to the benefit of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and Touch 58.
See Adam Spires Vlog for the day below