Vasco da Gama Race 2014

bellatrix 2014 vasco winner
Bellatrix – the handicap winner

by Sophie Thompson

Gregg Hurter again took handicap honours in this year’s Vasco da Gama Race after a long hard slog from Maputo to Durban.

This well-established highlight on the South African yachting calendar lived up to its reputation of being a gruelling race. On the first night the fleet were hit by a south- westerly cold front moving up the coast, and then were left with light winds and rolling swells for the rest of the race.

Less than one hour separated the top three line honours positions some 60 hours after the start. It was a very slow race on a 300nm course.

First home was the ‘family’ boat Ray of Light, skippered by Michael Kavanagh, who is new to the Durban sailing scene. They finished in just under two and a half days. The crew comprised the extended Kavanagh and von Bredow families (father Pieter, daughters Heidi and Sigi, son-in-law Michael, and Heidi and Michael’s five year old son Sean), together with Sophie Pages, Jacobus Langner and Luke Scott.

Sailing in his second Vasco, Kavanagh said: “The race was good and hard with more emphasis on hard. We raced to our strengths which got us through. The crew’s support was phenomenal; even if they were down below battling with the conditions they were still supporting the guys on deck. The bad weather was extremely challenging for us on Thursday night.

“On Saturday we were becalmed about 20 miles from the finish so we dropped our sails and jumped in the water. A bit of a breeze came through so we got back to racing, just in time as we spotted a few sails on the horizon,” said a smiling Kavanagh.

Chris Frost on Southern Storm was second across the line with Hurter on Bellatrix hot on his heels, finishing only two minutes later.

Frost explained: “We were doing well in the heavy weather. The rest of the race the winds were light and fluky and we were a bit too far offshore. At one stage the land breeze picked up. Ray of Light and Bellatrix were rewarded for staying inshore, and gained three hours on us. We managed to claw our way back, hauling in Bellatrix, but just ran out of runway to reel in Ray of Light.”

A delighted Hurter enthused: “The race was very long! My team manned up on the first night and held together. We had a very wet first night with the guys getting drenched on the rail. On the last day we had Frostie and Ray of Light in sight. We worked so hard and pulled up on Southern Storm, but we couldn’t pip them on the finish line!”

Congratulating his team, Hurter said: “From the start we had a very structured watch which made things easier. The whole team can be so proud of themselves. Brennan Robinson and Struan Campbell kept our morale up throughout the race while Malcolm and Lianne Tiley did a fabulous job with the boat admin, and keeping us watered and fed.”

More than half the fleet did not complete the gruelling race with five boats retiring out of the 11 starters.

Bellatrix’s Drew Amoretti received the Choose Life Youth Trophy for the first U25 sailor on IRC handicap. Mike Surgeson, navigating on Bellatrix, was awarded the Bentley Nuttal Trophy for navigator on the first boat on handicap.

Line honours
1 Ray of Light             Michael Kavanagh     (Beneteau First 44.5)     59h: 11m: 54s
2 Southern Storm     Chris Frost                   (Pacer 395)                      60: 00:18
3 Bellatrix                   Gregg Hurter               (Beneteau First 40)      60:02:36
4 Sticky Fingers        Rob Samways              (Whitbread 30)              63:37:06
5 Pallucci                   Warren Clark               (Simonis 35)                   66:04:00

1 Bellatrix                     Gregg Hurter,
2 Sticky Fingers         Rob Samways,
3 Ray of Light            Michael Kavanagh,
4 Southern Storm     Chris Frost,
5 Pallucchi                 Warren Clark

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