SA crew in historic Cowes Week win

11 August 2010

For just the second time in the 168-year history of Cowes Week, one of the largest and most prestigious sailing regattas in the world, a South African yacht won its class when Jeroboam emerged victorious on Saturday.

Sailing in the very competitive J-109 class, the team from the Royal Cape Yacht Club, on a boat chartered by Rick Garrat, and led by Dave Hudson (helmsman) and Mark Sadler (tactician), easily won the J-109 class with a race in hand.

Sailed in the Solent, the stretch of sea between the south coast of England and the Isle of Wight, from 25 July to 7 August, Cowes Week is raced in waters notorious for sandbanks, difficult tides and incredibly stiff competition.

Local knowledge is considered a prerequisite for winning and, with about 800 boats entered, competition is very stiff.

In taking victory, the South Africa crew beat the current J-109 European champion and the United Kingdom champion, as well as the previous four-times winner of Cowes Week.

The crew of Hudson, Sadler, Dirk de Jager, Roy Dunster, Simon Eatwell, Karim El Shabrawy, Christopher Garratt, Marlon Jones and Wandisile Xampyi turned out to be a powerful combination that featured some of South Africa’s most exciting young sailing talent and experienced yachtsmen.

Race Ahead Foundation

The South African crew included members of the Race Ahead Foundation which was formed by Dave Hudson and his father Roger to help young, talented people realize their potential.

The Foundation members came from townships in the Cape Peninsula and have made a big impression on Dave Hudson. “It is a great experience for them and for me. It is great to sail with them”, he told Cowes Online.

“We are the ones who taught them initially but now we learn from them, which is brilliant,” Hudson said. “They have improved leaps and bounds since last year, and shown really impressive improvement.

“Since last year they have been focusing on their dingy sailing back home, and doing a limited amount of sailing on bigger boats. They are key members of the team and they really are strong.”

Commenting on the Solent, tactician Mark Sadler said: “The Solent is a tricky place to sail, so it has been a steep learning curve this week.

“We are used to sailing in strong breezes and not much tide. We had to get used to the area, a lot of current, and sailing in shallow water.”

Goal

For the South Africans, sailing an unfamiliar chartered yacht, the goal of Cowes Week was to get used to the Solent ahead of the Commodores Cup, an inter-country team event for large yachts, which begins on 14 August. They did more than get used to conditions, they produced excellent results.

Apart from Jeroboam’s victory, Mike Bartholomew and his crew on Tokoloshe placed third in IRC Class 1, while the big boat in the South African Commodores Cup team, Phil Gutshe’s Windpower served notice that she will be one of the yachts to watch in the Commodores Cup by improving throughout the week after a slow start.

SAinfo reporter

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