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RCYC Senior's Race.

Last updated on 25 Apr 2009

Race in a nutshell:

We have competed for a number of years in this event - each time with the RCYC Sailing Manager, Ron Keytel driving the boat. 2009 presented a new challenge in that we no longer have a J27, so after some discussion with Ron (bearing in mind we won this event last year) we decided his familiarity with the J27 design would be a far better option than switching him onto the Pacer Sports boat - and doubly so since no spinnakers are allowed in this event. Then there is also the matter of the rating variance: .995 for the J27 versus 1.080 for the Pacer. So it was arranged to sail on Alan Taylors J27 "Pure Magic" with some of the Smackwater Jack crew. 

We had Ron driving with myself on main trim, Greg did the genoa trim, owner Alan Taylor handled the pit; Michela sorted out the mast, whilst Nic did the foredeck. 

Being a pursuit race we had the luxury of only two J27's on a 400m start line so our start at 14h50 was bang on target. 

Here amongst our older members (the ranks of which I am about to enter) one looks carefully beneath the withered brows and sunburned skin and many faces become recognizable – sailors who have shaped this countries’ sailing history: Dave Abromowitz, Hein Schipper (how I envy that man and wish I can be like him one day), Gerhard Koper, Sheriff Saville (my octogenarian hero) and many more like him. I was wondering how I could possibly do this event justice in 300 words and the truth is, I can not. Being at the prize giving is one of the most moving sailing events one can imagine. It seriously brings a lump to ones throat. 

Fifty one yachts completed the event in conditions which can only be described as very kind. Not that a blustery south easter would deter any of these ancient mariners! The race is run as a pursuit race with the little boats starting first and with all respect to the senior sailors, no spinnakers are allowed, although I strongly suspect if this rule were abolished, the bay would have been resplendent in colourful spinnakers. How about it for next year organizers? 

The day was close to perfect with a low bank of fog looming out to sea and a light to moderate Westerly tickling the Atlantic. A whale frolicking right in the path of the yachts caused no undue alarm. At 14h00 the first boat (Buccaneer “Let’s Go!”) set off to the windward mark. It took a long time before the fastest boat (and eventual winner) – Landmark 43 skippered by Gerhard Koper finally crossed the starting line. 

Going up the first one beat leg to the #2 channel marker, we had a 33footer (FTi Flyer) trying to climb upwind of us - and adding distance to the mark. the wind had kicked up a few notches to around 20 knots and we were getting overpowered with a No1 Genoa up. Try as we may, we could not pierce through to leeward of FTi Flyer, but we did manage to get ourselves into an inside overlap position at the mark. There things almost went badly pear shaped, when Ron could not get the J27 to bear off around the mark. The two boats rushed towards each other as Allan yelled for the crew to get their legs inboard. I ducked as FTi's boom swept by my head. It was really close. Finally Pure Magic obeyed the helm input and we were able to bear away downwind. Going down wind with a poled out genoa seemed a great pity (compared to what could have been achieved with a spinnaker up) but off we went until we were the most leeward boat. It was time to gybe and get to windward of the fleet and sail a hot angle, to allow a port approach and the inside overlap at the Milnerton mark. We didn't want to be to leeward of any of the big, slower boats in such light wind. Speaking of which, had dropped right down to about 6 knots. 

Our plan worked perfectly and we picked a nice clean lane upwind back to No2 mark. The breeze was getting ever lighter so we made a decision to back back onto starboard to stay in the pressure. That was a baddy as the breeze headered on the new tack and went slack. there was nothing for it but to accept the loss and tack back onto starboard. We sat almost stationary for a minute of two and then slowly picked the westerly up again and got going. From there we chose our options well as we carved our way through the leading five boats. 

Light winds and a few large holes spread over the course saw several skippers coming to an untimely standstill, whilst others with more luck, tacked away and remained in the pressure. After a slow run down to the Milnerton mark, it was still the diminutive Buccaneer well in the lead but others were closing fast. 

Approaching the No2 mark we only had the Buccanneer ahead of us, but the big, fast boats were closing fast. At the penultimate mark rounding it was Buccaneer “Lets Go” (Duncan Johnson), followed by the J27 “Pure Magic” (Ron Keytel) and the Landmark 43 “Windpower” (Gerhard Koper) in third place. The final short broad reach to the finish line saw a few changes with the Buccaneer losing the first three places to finish 4th overall. Gerhard Koper in the new 43 ft boat had too much power and won comfortably from “Lobelia” (Gordon Kling) who just pipped Ron Keytel in the J27 “Pure Magic” into third place by one second. 

The real winner was the sport of sailing and this big fleet of competitive sailors who pitched to honour our senior sailors. The men and women who have brought glory and honour to this wonderful sport of yachting. If you were one of those who attended the magnificent prize giving ceremony, you will agree the level of competence of organization is only matched by the skill on the water. Each year I am increasingly touched by the emotion of this event. Perhaps it is because I am about to enter this phase of my life? 

Each year a new crop of outstanding sailors qualify to sail in this event. Waiting in the wings are Geoff Meek, Rick Nankin, Alan Keen and others. One thing is certain – this event will be well attended for many years to come as South Africa’s beaker of quality yachtsmen keeps growing. 

Roll on 2010!

1 Windpower Landmark 43 Gerhard Koper 60-69 
2 Lobelia IMX 40 Gordon Kling 60-69 
3 Pure Magic J27 Ron Keytel 60-69 
4 Lets Go Buccanneer Duncan Johnson 60-69 
5 Spilhaus III Swede 55 Teddy Kuttel 70-79 
6 Vodoo Wayne Hennings 60-69 
7 After You L36mod Bill O' Reilly 70-79 
8 Gumption ILC40 Dave Abromowitz 60-69 
9 Eight Seconds Leisure42 Grant Ballantyne 70-79 
10 Maestro Pacer 42 Ankie Roux 60-69 

For full results see