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Cape Town Sailing Week.

Last updated on 25 Jul 2009

Incorporating Admirals Regatta and Table Bay Week 
25th-27th April & 1st - 3rd May 2009

The inaugural Cape Town Sailing Week got off to a wet and soggy start on Saturday morning, 25th April at the Hout Bay Yacht Club with a big fleet of about 50 yachts entered. The idea of combining two traditional Cape regattas into one major event involving six sailing days over the two long weekends was met with enthusiasm by Cape Town’s top skippers with a record entry of 19 boats competing in the top level IRC division and more than 50 in the total mix. 

The weather forecast was accurate only in that rain was forecast. A strong and gusty North Westerly caused an uncomfortable and lumpy sea for the competitors. Gusts ranged between 12 and 30 knots with twenty degree wind-shifts being the order of the day. There were many reports of damaged sails and equipment and several cases of seasickness, as well as a few spectacular wipe outs - not least of which was ours and for which we won a prize later that evening for the most spectacular broach of the day. So who said we wouldn't make the podium? (They just didn't know how!) 

Cold, lumpy and wet!

Perhaps the biggest problem was the very long delay of over two hours for crews to be waiting offshore for the race to start, in drenching rain and cold temperatures. The depth of the sea exceeded the length of the ground tackle for the marker buoys making it impossible for the very experienced race officer, Doug Allison to set a course. Exactly the same problem occured at last years Admirals Regatta. I would have thought that little issue would have been discussed and dealt with at the 2008 wash-up meeting. 

Finally the first race (of three scheduled for the day) got underway just before 13h00. I'm not sure if we were all getting a little hypothermic, but we were not our usual snappy team. Add to that our pitman wasn't feeling too good with a touch of seasickness.

Pacer 3 felt distinctly uncomfortable in the prevailing conditions. It took a good deal of coaxing getting her over the lumpy waves and maintaining speed. Our problem was the gust factor. We had the right sails up for the lulls, but were overpowered in the gusts - and we were in that state 70% of the time. So we would have been better off with the #2 headsail and probably a reef in the main as well. 

We also had a new man on spinnaker trim this being his first experience with an assymetric kite. Add to that a mastman whose last sail was on a J27. The secret is speed in getting such a big spinnaker up and drawing before it goes in the drink. Our first hoist was just too slow and the spinnaker collected a whole lot of water in the foot preventing it from going up. It took a while to get things sorted whilst the rest of the fleet sailed away from us DDW - except for the 40ft Lobelia who seemed to having even more problems than ourselves. We broached in the first gybe, but made a quick recovery. The damage was done and there was no way we were going to make up enough time on the big boats. 

By the time we went into the final downwind leg the wind was well and truly up and very gusty. After another broach and a series of four roundings up and falling off, we finally got going with the A2 kite again. We were going fast - 17,5 knots when we last looked at the GPS, when Phill called out that there was a big gust approaching from behind. About that time we were rapidly approaching to leeward and astern an L26. The gust hit both boats at the same time. The L26's spinnaker burst into tatters, but we just accellerated rapidly to around 22 knots and then the boat spun out - but it happened incredibly quickly. The damage was minimal. Two broken mainsail battens and a bent stancion. Phill tripped the halyard, so Nic could recover the kite, allowing us to cross the finish line under the jib and main. That was undoubtedly our fastest broach ever. Normally I have a very clear recollection of events, but that broach has left a blank in my mind. I would love to have seen a video of it!

In the IRC fleet the race was won by A-L (Farr 38) skippered by young and talented Robbie van Rooyen, with Mark Sadler (of Shosholoza fame) taking 2nd place in the Welbourne 46 (Hifidelity) and SA’s world champion Hobie sailor, Shaun Ferry taking 3rd spot on the ILC 40 Gumption New Balance. 

Whilst we waited for the RC to start the next race, we deemed it a good idea to tuck a reef in the main and switch to the #2 jib and the A4 kite. One thing we have learned is that zips on headsails are not a grand idea and they are a real pain in the arse to connect in rough conditions and more so when you are in a hurry. 

The mark laying boats had taken on a lot of sea water in the rough conditions, so in the interests of safety, racing was abandoned for the rest of the day as the fleet headed back to the harbour for the warmth of the clubhouse. We were the last boat to get back to the harbour. It was a hard, wet, cold upwind slog.

Sunday 26th: Day Two. Three windward/Leeward races scheduled. 

With a light wind forecast, coupled with dense fog, this day was doomed to be something of a failure as the weather gods simply refused to play ball with the sailors. It turned into a long day of waiting as the fog came and went. By lunchtime the skies opened up to a reveal a pleasant sunny day but the wind was pitifully light. After 2pm the fleet was called out to start a race, which had been set within the confines of the bay with the start line just outside the harbour wall – making for excellent spectating from the shore as the fleets lined up for some precision starts.

The Pacer felt great in the light wind and flat water, so we decided on our strategy to work the right hand side of the course. Our start was text book stuff and to our delight we were able to hold two 42 footers off for most of the beat and even pull ahead. We have now figured out the upwind, light air hull trim for the P27S - and it showed! 

But this race was not to be as many areas of calm appeared near the windward mark. The race officer had no option but to abandon this race as well. 

So, after two full days only one race had been completed. Not a very happy state of affairs and of course everyone had an opinion on how to do it better. Now if only we could get them all to serve on the orgcom! 
Making a clean start in Pacer 3


Finally a nice, warm sunny day for all the sailors! But that came at a price - a serious lack of wind. The weekend’s sailing seemed to have some kind of voodoo on it and one can only have sympathies with the organizers who have no control over the weather.

The fleet motored out to the start area off Kommetjie beach for an 11h00 start in a fitful 6 knot breeze from the south. The IRC fleet was off first and after a short windward leg, spinnakers were set as the yachts gybed over onto starboard in the direction of the finish line, but the downwind reach was short lived as the southerly petered out completely leaving most of the boats stationary. It would be the first of many holes for the day.

The Class, 1, 2 and L26 fleets all managed successful starts, but after an hour the entire fleet was in the stranglehold of the calm section off Karbonkelberg. It was decision time. Some of the top boats headed far offshore, others decided to stick close to the land once a hint of northerly breeze ghosted over the area. So the anticipated downwind run had turned into an agonizingly slow beat. Gumption went offshore followed by most of the IRC fleet, but Hifidelity stayed inshore hugging the coast followed by Lobelia, Aladdin and Pacer 3.

When the courses converged at the rocky point where the crane wreck is, it appeared that Gumption and Hifidelity were neck and neck, but many of the boats that went offshore lost out very badly. After another spell of zero wind, the southerly filled in again allowing for some reasonable downwind sailing, but it did not last long and the inevitable holes started appearing again. 

I have never seen so many seals. They were clearly enjoying the calm, balmy weather and there flippers and tails to be spotted all over the sea. These are fast animals but one of them must have been asleep as we approached quietly under spinnaker doing around 5 knots. The seal disappeared in a blur of speed to be followed a second later by a loud thud as the keel connected it. It surfaced none the worse for wear about 20 meters astern and started following us looking indignant. It served to lighten the burden of a very dreary race for us.

Aladdin had gone rock crawling all along the foul ground, whilst the rest of the IRC group had opted to go slightly further offshore. The breeze faded and returned many times during the course of the afternoon causing much frustration and mixed fortunes amongst the competitors. It became clear that the majority of the fleet would not make the 16h00 cut off time to the finish line which had been set off Clifton’s 4th Beach. There can be nothing worse than to have raced all day and miss the cut-off time by a few minutes. The airwaves were abuzz with VHF requests to the bridge for clarity about the cut-off time, but quite rightly, the bridge could not offer any advice. This of course, only added to the general frustration. The procedures were set out quite clearly in the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions and those that had done their homework knew that they could still get a result despite being later than 16h00. 

The last mile was pure agony. Had it not been for a one knot northerly current, many boats would not have crossed the line as there was only about one knot of breeze between 16h00 and 18h00.

In the IRC fleet it was Shaun Ferry in Gumption New Balance claiming 1st place over A-L (Farr 38), followed by Addis in Cape (A35), the latter who had made a remarkable recovery from far behind with a very long gybe far offshore during the final hour of the race. We had been at least a mile ahead of them at one stage and can easily hold them off downwind. They had the wiley and experienced JJ Provoyeur on board and one has to admire them pulling a 3rd place out of a disastrous first half. 

Only one boat in Class 1 completed the race (Touch n Go). Similarly only FTi Flyer completed the route in Class 2. None of the L26’s was able to finish in time. 

The unfavourable weather conditions over all three days have had most of the crews fairly unhappy and there have been plenty of comments and criticisms bandied about. However if there had been 12 knots of steady sailing breeze over the three days, everyone would have been delighted. That is part and parcel of the sport which we must all accept. 

The double scoring distance race has changed the results quite dramatically, but there is still a lot of racing to get through before we can predict a pattern amongst the top contenders. This regatta is still wide open. 

It looks like we're sinking, but it is the effect of deep swell combined with a telephoto lens.

Racing continues on Table Bay from Friday 1st through to Sunday 3rd May.


One of the Class 2 boats (Cabaray) as well as 8 Seconds in the IRC fleet have lodged a protest against the RC about the cut-off times in Race 2. The result of that protest is that any boats finishing after 16h00 would be scored DNF. This affects ourselves and Alladin in the IRC fleet - dramatically!!! It also means no finishers in Class, 2 or the L26 Class. 

Both Alladin and Pacer 3 have put in requests for redress based on the fact that the start was late and the smaller, slower boats were therefore prejudiced. Had the race started on time, we would both have made the cut-off time. There is also ambiguity in the Sailing Instructions in that the stated cut-off time did not preclude a time rule based on 140% of the leading finishers time. At time of writing the hearings have not taken place. 

Watch this space..... 

Late edit: Pacer 3, Aladdin and 8 Seconds were all granted redress and a finish order as stated here. 

May 1st (Races 3, 4 & 5) Table Bay 

After the disappointing weekend at Hout Bay, the fleet was eagerly anticipating getting some quality racing in for the second half of the regatta. With a 10 knot North Wester blowing steadily over Table Bay and the promise of some rain with plenty of low cloud and a choppy sea, Race Officer Doug Allison, went out on time, got his course laid (this time with the scoring gate in place) and caught many of the skippers off guard who then missed the first start. 

Perhaps the biggest problem for most skippers was that there was a fair amount of kelp floating around, but we have all seen it a lot worse. The fleet had a clean start and set off for three loops of the windward/leeward course. The level of competition in the IRC fleet is excellent, where even a tiny mistake will cost a place or two. Windpower (Rick Nankin) pulled off a 1st, followed by Hifidelity (Mark Sadler) and Aladdin (Bjorn Geiger). 

Getting a 27 foot boat to out perform a 40 foot boat takes some doing - especially in non planing conditions. We treated this regatta as an experimental one and tried many different combinations of trim to extract maximum speed out of the Pacer, but the bigger boats killed us on upwind speed as well as on point. Downwind we could stay on pace, but not really gain. We got a 13th (out of 17) 

Race 4 started promptly about ten minutes after the last finisher. It was almost a carbon copy of the earlier race with the wind conditions being identical – perhaps a little lighter. Once again there was the clear leader in the IRC fleet with Windpower winning from A-L (Robbie van Rooyen) and Tenacity (Errol Stern). We scored another 13th. Consistency if nothing else! At least we were holding back the challenges from the Mount Gay and the L34 and the gap between ourselves and our benchmark boats was getting smaller. We rate more or less the same as Addis (A35) and the Farr 40 (Aladdin) so we try to stay in touch with them as an indicator that we are sailing to our rating. We were sailing our socks off and making very few mistakes. 

Meanwhile the Club 1 and 2 fleets were sent off on a Bay Race allowing for more leisurely racing. 

Race 5 and another back to back. A dark cloud was hanging over the city indicating some rain on the way and with it came a wind shift – subtle at first, but it would skew the course a lot in the halfway stages. There were big gains to be made. The whole fleet headed off for the pin end with the resultant squeeze and too many boats over the line to recall individually so a general recall was given. At the second attempt to start Race 5, (with the I flag flying) the pin mark was moved further back to square the line, creating the opposite effect – now everyone wanted to be at the committee boat. At the start the Farr 38 A-L pulled a high risk starting maneuver which almost caused a collision with Pacer 3 and Just Fun. We were reaching in when A-L suddenly turned downwind right in front of us. We had the Mount gay to leeward only two meters away and the committee boat imemdiately to starboard. It was an incredibly close shave and we immediately called PROTEST to A-L who also acknowledged and signalled an apology. Fortunately another general recall flag went up, letting them off a protest situation. However the recall flag was the wrong one. It was meant to be the individual recall flag and we had a brief glimpse of the race officer looking fairly upset with himself. Finally the fleet got off to a clean start, but the wind had gone very light. 

Halfway through the race the fresh breeze arrived with the rain and those on the port side of the course benefitted. We took almost a mile lead over the Mount Gay on that beat. The run had turned into a tight reach to the finish, so we quickly changed to the A4 asso (a fair bit smaller and flatter than the big A2) and we made definite gains on the fleet having a straight line angle to the mark without having to gybe. We picked up three places to finish with a 10th. 

Windpower won from Ballyhoo Too (Iain Park-Ross) and Addis in Cape (Alexander Monet). 

This was a far more satisfactory day’s racing and a much happier bunch of sailors enjoyed the comforts of the clubhouse after racing.

Race 6 (Saturday 2nd May). A flat and calm Table Bay indicated that there might be no racing for the day. The race officer, Doug Allison postponed racing by two hours setting a possible start time of noon. The grey skies gradually disappeared and a light 5 knot westerly crept over the bay – just enough to start a race. 

The top three places were hotly contested with some very aggressive starts in the IRC fleet. Kelp was a serious problem for several boats during the day, requiring a reverse maneuver to dislodge it and that would generally result in a poor result as both Puma and Maestro found out in such a competitive fleet. 

The breeze held and a decent full race was completed with Rick Nankin on Windpower starting to dominate with a string of first places over the weekend. 2nd and 3rd places were taken by Hifidelity and Ballyhoo Too. We collected some kelp around the keel as our speed was definitely down a notch to finish with another 13th place. 

Race 7, this race was sailed back to back on the previous race is identical conditions. The shorter start line had the IRC fleet jostling for prime position and several boats were recalled. Rick Nankin continued to dominate with solid wins in the light conditions. Ballyhoo Too and Addis in Cape took 2nd and 3rd places. It was distracting to sail behind the youngsters on A-L who had lit a braai (an incredible statement of “we are here to have fun and we may as well win at the same time”) attitude as they already owned a considerable points advantage over all the other boats. We suffered as the delicious aroma of the BBQ came wafting downwind. I suppose being really hungry didn’t help our cause much! 

There was drama in the L26 Class when the bowman, Matthew, on JML accidentally fell through the fore-hatch and broke his arm. Photographer Trevor Wilkins was on hand to assist with his first aid and rescue knowledge in getting the injured youngster safely back to shore and off to hospital. 

Race 8 (back to back). The race officer decided to shorten course for this race as the breeze was fading. Everyone was fairly tired from all the light wind concentration. The IRC start was as aggressive as ever. There was starboard bias on the line so everyone wanted to start at the committee boat end. The result was that Addis luffed four boats onto the wrong side of the start line – including themselves. We had decided on an opportunist strategy for the start and had hung back. A perfect gap opened up right next to the committee boat for us to slide into for what would have been the best start of the regatta. The ensuing chaos resulted in a general recall. There was a fair amount of cursing going on. Things settled down into a more orderly start six minutes later. It was more of the same - sitting to leeward, dodging kelp and sailing at 3 knots. It was just starting to get a little boring and I started wondering about the sense of sailing 15 windward/leeward races in one regatta. It might make a lot more sense to give the sailors more variety and make every alternate day a distance race. It would also be good to see some different course layouts and not just windward/leewards. A few triangular or trapezoidal courses make for interesting and varied racing. Windpower now fully in its stride took another bullet from the braaing boat A-L and Hifidelity. We improved by two positions and managed to hold a few more of the big forty footers back behind us. 

So with two discards in the bag, the final placings in the IRC fleet are very tight with A-L still at the top of the log (Windpower did not compete in the Hout Bay leg of the regatta, but have nonetheless sailed well enough to be only a few points behind A-L). Sunday should be a cliffhanger for the boys on A-L.

The final day of racing was scheduled for Sunday, 3rd May. At 0900 the bay was covered in a thick blanket of fog and absolutely no wind. The postponement signal went up as the sailors once more were subjected to a long wait for the fog to clear. By 1100 the fleet were sent out to do battle in the final race of the six day regatta. The wind was just a whisper of five knots and less from the west. There was not much more to prove as the battle lines had been drawn and in most classes the results were pretty much a fait accompli. 

We were one of the first boats to leave the marina whilst the fog horns were still booming out their solitary vigil. I thought it a good idea to take the boat into the V&A dock area for the general public to cast their eyes over the Pacers lines and use it as a mini marketing moment. Bearing in mind this was about 1040 on a Sunday morning, Nic (our bowman) suddenly had an urge for chicken, chips and beer, so we tied up at Quay 4 whilst Nic and Simon strode off into the waterfront shops looking for "breakfast". We left over the glassy waters of the harbour enjoying our chicken and beer breakfast and setting a very pleasant mood onboard Pacer 3 for what would be the final race of the regatta and probably also our final race on Pacer 3 and it would also deliver our best result of the event. 

Soon the IRC were off in the ultra light conditions. It wasn’t long before Windpower took the lead in the now customary pattern in the IRC fleet. It was in the middle of the fleet where the real battles were taking place. We seemed to have found some new speed and were challenging the bigger boats to score our best result of the regatta (8th). What was heartening is that we finished ahead of some serious competition, including the Farr 40 (Aladdin) who we have to give a small amount of time too, as well as A Pacer 42, Fast 42, Fast 40, IMX 40, Mount Gay 30, L34. So things were definitely getting better for us on Pacer 3 as we are getting to understand this boat and how to get more speed out of it. One thing is for sure, in this IRC fleet, we are learning our lessons well. 

The wind remained very light, but the full course was completed by the whole fleet. Windpower won from Hifidelity and Ballyhoo Too to secure second overall. 

In the final analysis, the Farr 38 A-L was the clear winner by 3 points, with Mark Sadler at the helm of Hifidelity taking 3rd overall on a tie breaker with Windpower, who won all the races that they sailed in. Considering they did not participate at all in the Hout Bay leg of the regatta, it leaves little doubt that they would have cleaned up in a big way. 

At the prize giving which was held in perfect weather out on the deck overlooking the yacht basin, Admiral Koos Louw spoke of the need to keep the youth involved in sailing. 

Whilst there were several valid issues that need to be considered as improvements, there as many positives which will ensure the continued success of this event- not the least of which is TV coverage. 

Cape Town Sailing Week is gaining momentum with the announcement of a sponsorship from Cape Town Tourism to fund a television program on Mnet Supersport, the production Company, V&R Television Productions, will be there to catch all the action on and off the water. 

For full results and lots of pics visit the official website at 

It has all happened so fast....literally and figuratively. I embarked on the Pacer 27 project just a few short weeks ago and have not even vaguely come to understand these boats properly yet, when I received an unexpected phone call from a Pacer 27 owner in Vaalie land. He is emigrating and needs to sell his boat. It took just seven days and the deal was done. The pic above shows hull # 7 "Hyperactive" packed at DAC on the Vaal Dam, ready to leave for Cape Town. The pic was taken at 1400 Friday 17th April. We are going up to collect it on May 9th. 

If ever there was an endorsement of a product, this is it. I have fallen head over heels in love with this little boat and am delighted to be her new owner. 

Cudos to her previous owner, Bo Slazek - a true gentleman - who with consummate patience to a thousand emails and questions from me, has been incredibly accommodating and willing to go the extra mile. 

I wish him well in his new venture in Perth Australia and managed to not ask the question: "So how come Pickfords are not Packing the Pacer for Perth?"