Route du Rhum. The South African Connection

Power of One being sailed by Donald Alexander.

by Richard Crockett

As we are starved of local sailors competing on the world stage, the local sailing community quickly latches onto anyone with a South African connection sailing internationally, and especially in high profile classes or events.

Malcolm Hall and his crew recently won the Fareast 28 Worlds, while William Voermann and his crew won the last race of the Etchells Worlds, finishing 10th overall in a start-studded fleet. These recent events saw the guys enjoy a high level of following locally.

The 40th anniversary race of the Route du Rhum starts tomorrow – and it’s a very tough race for singlehanders from St Malo in Brittany to Point-à-Pitre on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. It’s a 3,542-nautical mile course with 124 skippers competing.

In this fleet is relative rookie Donald Alexander sailing a Class 40 – one of 6 classes of boats in the race.

Donald Alexander.

Donald is of course the younger brother of Campbell Alexander who is a passionate Laser and Flying Fifteen sailor, and former Commodore of the Point Yacht Club. The Alexander brothers were brought up in a sailing family and have sailed out of the Point Yacht Club all their lives. Initially Donald was a passionate dinghy sailor, then kiteboarder, but a change of heart, or maybe realising that as life can quickly slip by too quickly, that any foray into ocean racing needed to be done quickly.

For this superfit guy, it was not a case of just ‘keelboating’ as he took a massive out-of-the-box leap and bought himself a Class 40 named the ‘Power of One’. He sought advice and coaching and delivered his new steed singlehanded across the Atlantic from France to the USA, and has since put in many hours sailing and racing the boat, and giving her a full refit prior to the start of this race.

In his own words he says: “I am a dyed-in-the-wool true amateur in this race and surrounded by consumate professionals. My aim is not to win as I am still a rookie, but I am going to do my level best to beat as many of the professionals in my class as possible.”

So we can expect him to give it his all, which his close mates know he will, so his passage is definitely going to be one to watch.

Despite having an ‘old’ boat in comparison to some of the others who are sporting boats bristling with the latest technology and design thinking, he feels that his refit will assist him as he has updated all his equipment including instruments, navigation systems and auto-pilots, and more.

Let’s hope that this race is good for him and inspires him to much greater heights in the world of singlehanded sailing as we have not really had anyone to match the heady heights that Bertie Reed, John Martin and JJ Provoyeur achieved “back in the day”.

Maybe in a few weeks time Donald Alexander will consider taking on the world singlehanded? Bring it on – and all the very best for the Route du Rhum Donald.

Follow the Race HERE

For a race preview read the editorial by Brain Hancock HERE