“Albatros II” – Winner of the Very First Cape to Rio Race

It was this pic which led me to John Green who crewed aboard Albatros II in the first Cape to Rio Race in 1971 – 49 years ago.
pic by John Green

by Richard Crockett

My coverage of the current Rio Race coupled with my “On This Day – Newspaper History of Sailing” has highlighted the bonds one creates with an event like this, as well as the lifelong memories.

Following the progress of this race is John Green of Cowes, Isle of Wight, who was a crewman aboard “Albatros II” in the very first 1971 Rio Race 49 years ago.

The 1971 crew of Albatros II.
pic from John Green

I asked John how he got to sail aboard “Albatros II”, and his instant reply was “got lucky”. When pushed he revealed that he wrote to SA Yachting Magazine, enclosing his CV, and asking if they could find him a berth. His CV was obviously impressive as Brian Lello, the Editor, had him signed up immediately as he was crewing aboard “Albatros II”.

John sailed from Malta to Walvis Bay on Ocean Spirit, and then flew to Cape Town from Windhoek to join “Albatros II”. At the age of 25 he struck it lucky. This race undoubtedly made a big impact on him as today he still recalls it like it was yesterday.

Albatros II sailing off Rio.
From the SAILING Mag Archives & Historical Records

“Albatros II” went on to win that race on handicap by some 5 hours, and finished 8th over the line in 26 days 14 hours and 18 minutes. Five hours is a pretty good margin to win by, but as most followers of this race now know, the light winds off Cabo Frio have thwarted many an intrepid yachtie trying to cross the Rio finish line. The wind shuts off and one simply ghosts along – if that!

“Albatros II” managed to avoid the calms and with reporting not so good in those days she had not reported in for three days before finishing, with her last reported position putting her 300nm East of Rio and “chasing squalls”!

Her closest rival in terms of handicap was Striana, which finished 2 days before, and her skipper was on the water to meet “Albatros II” when she finished, and in an act of fine sportsmanship was the first to board and congratulate them.

Albatros II having finished and won the 1971 Cape to Rio Race.
pic by John Green

“Albatros II” was an E G van der Stadt design, owned by S B Thesen and skippered and navigated by John Goodwin. Her crew were: Arthur Holgate; John Allen; Hal Thesen; John Green and Brian Lello.

Each award-winning yacht in 1971 won a gold medal, and those who were not eligible for gold, received a silver one. Note, the yacht received the medallion, while all crew aboard yachts which finished within the 40 day time limit, received a plaque.

I have never seen a gold medal from this race, although I have a silver one in my collection of memorabilia. John Green still has his plaque which is amongst the many pics depicted.

Albatros II and part of her crew receiving their prizes.
pic from John Green

Albatross won the following trophies:
South Atlantic Trophy (and gold medal) – winner overall
RCYC Trophy – winner, class III corrected time
Cape Town Prize – first across the line class III
Southern Cross Trophy – best placed South African yacht on corrected time
Royal Natal Yacht Club Trophy – First South African yacht across the line
Trophy of Capricorn – best placed South African Yacht (on corrected time) whose hull was built or finished in South Africa
Navigator’s Cup – John Goodwin, “Albatros II”

On a sad note a bronze sculpture of “Albatros II”, in commemoration of the 1971 South Atlantic Race, was presented to the City of Cape Town in 1980 and erected in a prominent place. Regrettably many years later it was stolen and was probably sold as scrap.

South Atlantic Race Statue Albatros II presentation on 23 February 1980.
L-R is the Mayor of Cape Town Alderman Louis Kreiner accepting on behalf of the City of Cape Town the statue, from Rotarian Harry Braun, Commodore of I.Y.F.O.R (Cape Fleet).

“The late great Arthur Holgate! The best seaman I ever sailed with before or since!” said John Green.
pic from John Green

Peter Blake aboard Ocean Spirit on passage to Walvis Bay and Cape Town for the 1971 race.
pic from John Green

“Jim Pugh on Ocean Spirit! We quit our jobs together and flew to Malta to join Ocean Spirit and head to Cape Town. Jim raced on Stormy in the 1971 race” said John Green.
pic from John Green

A commemorative plaque John Green has from the 1971 Cape to Rio Race.
pic from John Green

The cover of the Official 1971 race brochure.
pic from Jim Green

A commemorative ceramic plate from the 1971 race.
From the SAILING Mag Archives & Historical Records

The Silver medallion from the 1971 race.
From the SAILING Mag Archives & Historical Records

The Silver medallion from the 1971 race.
From the SAILING Mag Archives & Historical Records

The book written after the 1971 race.
From the SAILING Mag Archives & Historical Records