Lipton Challenge Cup. One of Those “Must Watch” Regattas

pic b y Ashleigh de Villiers

by Richard Crockett

The Lipton Challenge Cup, presented in 1909 by Sir Thomas Lipton, is the only national inter-club sailing competition in South Africa – and it’s a highly sought after trophy to win.

The official challenger this year is the Royal Natal Yacht Club, naming Mark Sadler as skipper. Their boat was only being launched this week, and is named ‘Orion DYP’. She will be raced for the first time on 20 July in a C31 race day off Cape Town.

Yanmar – Royal Cape Yacht Club.
pic by Richard Crockett/SAILING Mag Blog

The defending Club, the Royal Cape Yacht Club rose to the challenge, and after a tough seven-race series to select their ‘defender’, their sailing team will be headed by Gerry Hegie and double Olympian Asenathi Jim.

The regatta will take place from Sunday 4 August to Saturday 10 August in Table Bay, with the host Club being the Royal Cape Yacht Club.

The format for this regatta has not changed much for many years, but this year it’s going to be very, very different – and to win the coveted Lipton Challenge Cup the teams will have to produce more than just their A-game! Sailing at its consummate best will be witnessed on the water – of that there is absolutely no doubt.

Having used the very versatile L26 Class yacht since the early ‘80s, this year a new class of yacht, the ultra-modern, ultra-fast and very slippery Cape 31 has become the boat of choice. Despite having provided close-quarters sailing for the last year, these boats are still relatively unknown, with crews still getting to grips with their nuances, while fine-tuning for all points of sailing takes dedication and loads of training time on the water.

Owing to the new class of boat, all the top sailors in the country are gearing up to compete as they know that this year’s event will provide the very best and most competitive racing seen in the regatta for many years. Many a former Lipton Challenge Cup winner will be out there relishing the action this year after growing bored with the L26 Class yacht.

The above, coupled with the fact that the Lipton Challenge Cup races are all a minimum of 12 nautical miles, makes it a very tough competition as races might last as long as 2 hours, with no respite. Concentration, supreme fitness and complete team work are simply a few of the ingredients that will be required to lift the Lipton Cup this year.

There is always a little secrecy to this event as competitors play their cards very close to their chests in an attempt to gain some tiny advantage. So it was not surprising that there was a last-minute flurry of entries last Friday (5 July) before the 17h00 entry deadline.

Magic – Hermanus Yacht Club.
pic by Ashleigh de Villiers

Hermanus Yacht Club
‘Magic’ will be sailing for Hermanus Yacht Club which has won the Lipton Challenge Cup twice before.

Their entry will be jointly skippered by Malcolm Hall and Roger Hudson who will undoubtedly surround themselves with some highly talented crew. In fact, one suspects that the crew will have several Lipton Cup victories to each of their names as Roger Hudson and his L26 team, sailing for the Royal Cape Yacht Club have won the last two Lipton Challenge Cup competitions, with some even having world championship titles and Olympic experience.

A highly motivated and very competent team compete on ‘Magic’. They are the Cape 31 Class Champions having won all but one of the events that constituted the championship. These guys never rest on their laurels, and spend an inordinate amount of time practising, analysing and fine-tuning their boat to ensure that they are always at the top of their game – so they will be a formidable team and one which will provide tough competition to the other teams.

Malcolm Hall (co-skipper) has been sailing for 41 years, and has wealth of experience in national and international dinghies and small keelboats. Last year he and his team won the FarEast 28 World Champs.

Roger Hudson (co-skipper) has two world championship titles to his name, 3 Lipton Cup titles and has twice represented South Africa in the Olympics. Plus a string of impressive results across all forms of the sport.

Ski – Gordons Bay Yacht Club.
pic by Ashleigh de Villiers

Gordons Bay Yacht Club
The last time that the Gordons Bay Yacht Club won the Lipton Cup was way back in 1998 when sailing off Port Elizabeth in Algoa Bay. Pete Shaw and Steve du Toit were joint skippers all those years ago.

The Club is back again, this time with a young mixed team of sailors who will be sailing aboard the Cape 31 ‘Ski’ which will be skippered by Rodney Tanner.

‘Ski’ was the very first C31 launched after the prototype ‘Flame’ was extensively evaluated prior to the first C31 being built. So Tanner has a lot of experience on the boat, and by now should have sussed out all its nuances.

His crew, while young, have been sailing together for years on various boats, so come with some pedigree and experience.

Nitro – Witbank Yacht Club.
pic by Ashleigh de Villiers

Witbank Yacht Club
‘Nitro’, with owner Mike Hayton as skipper, and David Rae as helmsman will represent the Witbank Yacht Club. Rae has vast top-class international sailing experience, and has cherry-picked a great team of highly competent crew. These guys have always been a threat on the water racing their C31, and who knows, they may well just peak during the 2019 Lipton Challenge Cup.

Nemesis – Aeolians Yacht Club.
pic by Ashleigh de Villiers

Aeolians Yacht Club
Also representing a Gauteng based yacht club is Philip Baum’s ‘Nemesis’.

Although most of his sailing career has been on the Finn dinghy, Baum is a talented sailor who has made the transition to keelboat sailing well. He has selected a crew that have a huge amount of international sailing experience mixed in with some seriously good up-and-coming young sailors.

MB Racing – Walvis Bay Yacht Club.
pic by Ashleigh de Villiers

Walvis Bay Yacht Club
MB Racing will be representing the Walvis Bay Yacht Club, and has Bjorn Geiger as skipper. Geiger is a great motivator within the class, and is very keen in terms of promoting the class and sailing on these super-slick, super-fast and exceptionally modern C31 sailing yachts.

Vivaldi – Sailing PE.
pic by Ashleigh de Villiers

Sailing PE
‘Vivaldi’ will be representing a newly formed yacht club named Sailing PE.

Skippering ‘Vivaldi’ will be the evergreen Rick Nankin, who will be the oldest skipper in the fleet at the age of 69. Despite his age, he is a ‘youthful’ 69, and as competitive as any of the other skippers too.

But what he does bring to this entry is experience by the bucket load.

Nankin has won the Lipton Cup on 7 different occasions, so he knows exactly what it takes to mount the campaign, select the crew and train them into a winning team. Some of his team have previously won the event as skipper, and others as crew – so this is a talented team who will undoubtedly be going for glory! And they will not give their competitors an inch on the water either.

CuAI6 (PO4)4(OH)8.4(H2O) or simply Turquoise – UCTYC.
pic by Ashleigh de Villiers

University of Cape Town Yacht Club (UCTYC)
UCTYC has competed in this contest religiously for many years, and their crew bring with them lots of spice and excitement, plus more often than not the addition of some serious competition too.

The excitement these students bring is not just the enthusiasm, excitement and exuberance of youth, but additionally of being completely unpredictable on the water while needling some of the serious contenders and generally being a thorn in the side of most teams due to their collective ability to make a boat go fast. UCTYC teams have regularly stood on the podium in the Lipton Challenge Cup, and indeed won races too, so anyone who views their entry as a bunch of “hopefuls” may well end up eating their words.

It is also fitting that a bunch of students are sailing a boat with a complicated formula as a name – CuAI6 (PO4)4(OH)8.4(H2O) – to be precise. Google it if you like, but it refers to the colour turquoise – an apt name for a colourful bunch of students.

Leading this youthful bunch is skipper Nicholas Ryall, undoubtedly the youngest skipper in the fleet at the age of 21.

SCUD – Langebaan Yacht Club.
pic by Ashleigh de Villiers

Langebaan Yacht Club
‘SCUD’, competing under the Langebaan Yacht Club burgee, has a star studded crew with 5 of the 7 named crew so far having a Lipton Cup victory under their belts.

But it’s at the blunt end of the boat “in the office” where the real fire power of SCUD is laid bare as her co-skipper and helmsman, Greg Davis, has 12 Lipton Cup victories to his name, while co-skipper Geoff Meek has 2. That’s a serious amount of talent calling the shots, and this has to be added to the experience of the rest of the crew to realise what potential they have.

In the Lipton Challenge Cup one cannot rest on one’s laurels and expect past successes to count for anything in a fleet which, once all entries are received and the crews assessed, will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the most competitive racing fleets ever assembled in this country.

Couple this to the fact that they will be sailing the Cape 31 class yacht for the very first time in this competition, only a very bold or very ignorant person would predict a winner.

Whatever happens, this is going to be one of those “must watch” regattas.

Some Lipton Cup History
The magnificent Lipton Challenge Cup was presented to the Royal Cape Yacht Club by Sir Thomas Lipton in 1909 – that’s 110 years ago.

The first ever Lipton Challenge Cup regatta was in 1911, with this year’s competition being the 66th challenge sailed.

It is fitting that 110 years after Sir Thomas Lipton presented the Lipton Cup, it is being sailed in a new class of racing yacht – the Cape 31. This is the 6th change of yacht type in the history of the event.