The Toughest, Closely Contested, Lipton Cup Ever

The Royal Natal Yacht Club team which won the coveted Lipton Cup after 10 gruelling races.
pic by Richard Crockett

Who could ever have scripted a better finale than the one which unfolded in the final race right on the finish line?

The answer is, absolutely no one!

Here’s what unfolded. After 9 races the final, 10th race of the Lipton Cup, was a crunch race, which was expected to go down to the wire, as just a single point separated the top three boats. It was that close, with basically the winner between those three boats winning the coveted Lipton Cup.

The final race started in light-ish winds which vacillated throughout the race. There was never much in it with the top contenders covering each other closely all the time, and the rest not giving them an inch. Positions changed regularly and the leader became the tailender as quick as a flash until fortunes changed again. That was how intense this racing was.

It was the Aeolians Club team which changed the face of the race when they broke away from the fleet as they saw some new pressure on the left of the course, and went in search of it, and took the lead.

The others were duelling away apparently unaware of what the Aeolians team were up to. The Royal Cape Yacht Club had the lead until then, and were looking good, but this was always going to be a race with a twist.

The twist came on the final 8th leg of the race, the downwind leg to the finish line.

This is where the Royal Natal Yacht Club took its chance, backed their tactician, Pete Shaw, to the hilt and went in search of an elusive bit of magic on the left, and in the same area that, 2 legs earlier, Aeolians Club had sought.

They looked good, at times, as did the balance of the fleet, but as they all approached the finish line it was Aeolians Club that had the lead – and this was critical in determining the overall winner. The next of the top 3 boats to cross the finish line would be the victors. And still the fleet, under asymmetrical spinnakers converged on the finish line. Who was going to win? Any of the top 3 were still in contention, but exactly who, was still a mystery. The tension was palpable, and BMT plus a cool head would win the day.

Aeolians Club crossed the finish line. A boat length behind was Royal Natal Yacht Club. Witbank Yacht & Aquatic Club, the defenders of the Lipton Cup, were a hair’s-breadth behind, as were Zeekoevlei Yacht Club and then the Royal Cape Yacht Club. There was less than a handfull of seconds in the finish between all 5 boats, and less than a few boat lengths too. It was that close, that intense, and that exciting.

The Royal Natal Yacht Club were the victors by a mere single point from the defending champions, Witbank, and Royal Cape Yacht Club, who had led at the end of every day’s racing was third overall.

This was the most incredible advert for the Lipton Cup as an event, for sailing in South Africa as a whole, and for the Cape 31 Class too. This was yacht racing at its consummate best, and proved unequivocally that the Cape 31, a super-fast and super-slippery monohull racer, is out of the top drawer. That’s why the boat is in demand internationally, and after this performance the order book will rapidly grow exponentially as new boats are snapped up locally and internationally.

The Royal Natal Yacht Club last held the Lipton Cup aloft in victory 10 years ago when a young team lifted the Cup in False Bay in 2012. RNYC has chosen to defend their title on those False Bay waters next year. This was also the 10th time that the club has won the Lipton Cup.

Davey James as skipper of the RNYC team will have his name engraved on the trophy for the very first time as a winning skipper.

The Aeolians Club team won the final race of the last event on Table Bay, and won the final race again yesterday. That’s probably never been done before.

The Lipton Cup has never been contested over 10 races either, the most being seven. Yet it took all ten races for a thoroughly deserving team to come through and snatch victory in what was always an epic battle on the water.

RESULTS HERE:  Lipton Cup Challenge 2021 – overall after 10 races