Big breeze sees records tumble at MAC 24-Hour Challenge

Pictured is Ces Liugong Forklift Enterprise Dinghy chasing GP14 Red Barron around the course. Both teams broke SA Records set in 2000 and 2004.

A strong gusty South Easter ripped through the Milnerton Aquatic Club’s 24-Hour Challenge fleet and helped the endurance sailors break existing records.

Seventeen teams from around the country started the challenge at noon on Saturday in testing conditions. The south-easter was blowing at 20 knots with gusts of 25 knots cycling through.

There were seven Sea Scout teams and one Land Scout team from Durbanville sailing big Saldanha Dinghies; and two Bosun dinghies from the Navy and Sea Cadets from Saldanha Bay. The rest of the 24-hour fleet consisted of the Sonnet, 420, GP 14, Enterprise and Pico Dinghies.

A few of the teams were forced to use smaller sails to help keep them upright, others using full sails found out very quickly after the noon start that they were headed for disaster. The big Saldanha Scout Dinghies were struggling and a mast came down on one – others capsized. Dinghies also had to come in for repairs when the gusty wind damaged fittings. The wind was taking its toll on the fleet.

Three hours into the event, only five teams were sailing. Two Sonnets – CMD and We are Sailing Centre, 420 team – Rocket Pocket, GP 14 – Red Baron and Enterprise – CES Liugong Forklifts. These teams continued sailing as the south-easter was heading for 30 knots.

The race officer, Kevin Richardson, called the team leaders in at 6pm and it was decided to continue sailing as there was a very good chance of breaking the world record of 256km.

Team management and efficient crew changes are critical when trying to break records. The five teams were relieved when the wind started to moderate after 9pm – it had been gusting up to 35 knots. The five teams sailed through the night and were joined at 5am on Sunday by the rest of the fleet, who were ashore.

The wind was steady at 10 to 12 knots and these were perfect sailing conditions for the event. After 24 hours, the Sonnet CMD logged an incredible 371km, the 420 Rocket Pocket – 307km, the Enterprise CES Liugong Forklifts 248km and GP 14 Red Baron 255.3km.

These are all new South African records – Red Baron was just 700 metres short of breaking the world record of 256km set in the UK.

The City’s deputy mayor and Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Eddie Andrews, said it had been three years since they last hosted the event and he was happy to see the turnout.

“I was at Rietvlei (on Saturday) to watch the challenge and was happy to see Capetonians making optimum use of this natural asset. People were hiking, jogging, and walking in nature and others were picnicking with friends and family. This is what we want to see at these facilities. We understand that people may want to visit but that the economic climate makes it difficult, hence, we (offered) free entry.”

Milnerton Aquatic Club hosted its first 24-Hour Challenge, at Rietvlei, at the weekend.
Rietvlei, a section of the Table Bay Nature Reserve, was buzzing with activity at the weekend’s 24-Hour sailing challenge.