Sailing legend Dalling passes away

9 July 2008

South African Bruce Dalling, winner on handicap of the 1968 Transatlantic Single-Handed Yacht Race sailed between Plymouth, England and Newport, Rhode Island, died in Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands on Monday at the age of 69.

Dalling’s win, which included him crossing the finishing line behind only Geoffrey Williams on Sir Thomas Lipton, was achieved on Voortrekker, probably the most famous name in the history of South African sailing.

The boat, a 49-foot kvetch, designed by Ricus van der Stadt and specially built by Thesens of Knysna, was sponsored by the Rembrandt group of companies. Dalling had been chosen from 40 applicants to represent South Africa by the Springbok Ocean Racing Trust.

National hero

His success in the race turned him into a national hero and sparked massive interesting in sailing in South Africa. It also provided the spark for the formation of the Cape to Rio Yacht Race – the longest ocean race in the southern hemisphere.

While South Africa celebrated Dalling’s success, Admiral H.H. Biermann made the first recorded suggestion of South Africa organizing an ocean race, either to Australia or South America, at a function in Cape Town. His idea proceeded to grow at an astounding rate.

The Springbok Ocean Racing Trust changed its name to the South African Ocean Racing Trust and immediately sprang into action. In co-operation with Clube de Rio de Janeiro, the race was organised in conjunction with the Cruising Association of South Africa (CASA) for 1971, at a date which would allow the finish to coincide with Carnival time.


Between 10 and 15 entries were expected, but that number was far exceeded as the race was embraced with enthusiasm, both at home and abroad.

Entries poured in, including from Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Mozambique, Mauritius and the United States. There were 69 entries in all, of which 59 ultimately crossed the starting line with 421 people on board the boats.

Dalling skippered Jakaranda, which was expected to lead the South African challenge. Unfortunately she sheared a main rudder post early in the race and her chance of winning was done.

The 3 600 nautical mile race has been raced 11 times since 1971 and is Dalling’s lasting legacy.


Despite his successes as top sailor, Dalling was a remarkably modest man, who was loath to speak about his achievements, which were about far more than sailing alone.

He studied agriculture and law and later practiced as an advocate in Pietermaritzburg. Due to ill health he gave that up and became a lecturer at the University of Natal.

Later he took up farming, but continued to serve as an assessor in High Court cases.

Dalling leaves behind his wife, Carol, a son, William, and two daughters, Kerry and Kathy.

The South Atlantic Race

The ocean race he inspired, the Cape to Rio, has become the South Atlantic Yacht Race as it has from time to time changed its destination to also include Punta del Este in Uruguay and Salvador in Brazil.

It next takes place in January 2009 from Cape Town to Bahia (Salvador).

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