Governor’s Cup – Fleet creeps towards St Helena in light airs

Banjo. pic by Trevor Wilkins
pic by Trevor Wilkins

Banjo still on target to break record
Having enjoyed nearly a week of good, consistent winds, crews in the Governor’s Cup fleet are currently suffering from lack of speed as their yachts wallow in light airs 400 or so miles off the African coast.

The conditions look set to remain for the next few hours, which means the second half of the 1,700 nautical mile race to the remote Atlantic island of St Helena will become a game of tactics as crews work hard to seek out wind while remaining in the best of the north-flowing Benguela Current.

Banjo, the Farrier F9AX, continues to set the pace at the head of the fleet, and lead the Multihull division. Although, like the rest of the fleet, they suffered with lack of wind over the last 24 hours, it looks as though Kevin Webb and his team could still be on target to beat their previous 10-day line honours record, if the wind returns as predicted. They are currently 530 nautical miles from the finish line making nearly six knots.

Dave Immelman and team on Adrian Pearson’s Dudley Dix 38 Black Cat are still leading the Racing division ahead of Lechyd Da (Miura).

Further down the fleet Carel Jacobs and team of the Baltic 42 Cool Runnings in the Racing division are struggling with slow progress and say they are considering switching on the engine so they get to the Island in a reasonable time.

“If we do that, of course, we’ll have to go into the Cruising division. Shame really, it was looking good at one stage because we decided to track over to the east before the wind died, and it seemed to work, but now the wind is gone completely. It is now about 3kts max.

Despite that, everyone is in good spirits and having fun and it’s better than work. Franz von Molgje, one of our crew members is celebrating his 53rd wedding anniversary today and we are looking forward to steak for dinner tonight. We can also report that Pieter Jacobs, who had a nasty swelling on his eye a few days ago and we had to get medical advice on, is fine now and it all seems to be clearing up.

“It is hot out here and we went swimming yesterday. Thankfully there are no sharks here just a few Flying Fish. We did see sharks at the start off Cape Point, which is not particularly unusual in that area.”

Stephen Wilson, who originates from Liverpool (UK) is racing Vulcan 44 (Humphries 44) and is currently mid fleet with 830 miles to go. Having recently completed the Cape to Rio Race, he says the conditions are what were expected: “We had the same conditions in January, so we are fairly used to it by now. We currently have 3.5 kts from the north-east, and have the Code Zero up. Our plan is to chase the wind slot into the 6-8kt wind band when it arrives.”

Wilson says one member of his team is very excited about arriving in St Helena. “We have one guy from St Helena on board who we’ve named the ‘Saint’. Part of the tradition of the race to give St Helena people life experiences, so I agreed to take one on board. Little did he know what he was in for because he’d never sailed before. The start in 30kts plus was a real baptism of fire but he seems to be enjoying it, although I think he is looking forward to get his feet back on ground in St Helena.”

John Seager and his team on Tallulah (Tosca 36) continue to lead Cruising division. In the light winds they made 89 miles in the last 24 hours, which is an impressive performance with no real-time wind communications on board and are now 950 miles from the finish.

Seager said: “We have no idea where anyone else is on the course nor have any form of weather forecast, so we continue to sail blind. We are hoping to seek out a bit of breeze soon once we hoist the gennaker and get onto a reach. We flew the spinnaker all day yesterday but the wind was so variable we dropped it overnight and poled out the genoa to keep the boat more stable.”

Ashley Kerr and his team on the Peter Culler 65 schooner Windjammer lost out in the last 24 hours and are now in third place in the Cruising division behind Aurora (Atlantic 49), skippered by Andre Greeff.

John Leslie, from race committee commenting on the race so far said: “Although the fleet has hit a soft spot and are struggling at the moment, the current wind predictions show more wind is on its way in the next few hours. This being the case, there is still a chance Banjo will break her 10-day record to St Helena. Her current ETA to the finish line is Sunday afternoon, which means she could potentially complete the course in eight and a half days.”

More details on the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race can be found at; or by visiting the Governor’s Cup Facebook page: or @Governors_Cup.

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