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Cape to St Helena Yacht Race

by Vince Thompson / St Helena Independent 6 Jan 2023 23:46 PST
Banjo approaching the Cape to St Helena Yacht Race start line in Cape Town © Simon McDowell

'Banjo' wins 3,060 km dash after fighting off 'Tin Tin'

The biennial Cape to St Helena Yacht Race ended with Banjo, a Farrier trimaran owned and skippered by Keith Webb making a dash to the finish line; cutting 7 hours off a previously estimated arrival time. As the yacht approached St Helena, Keith Webb reported to race control "Quick one - I'm on watch and it's hectic. Wind 18 knots, Waves 2m. All good on board. Home stretch! Cheers Banjo."

Regular race entry Banjo and first time entry Tin Tin were racing almost neck-and-neck in the closing stages of the first Cape to St Helena Yacht Race since the Covid pandemic. Tin Tin, is a 33 feet JPK 10.10 monohull owned and skippered by Di Hutton-Squire. The yacht was bought direct from the French factory in 2016 and is seen as one of the finest racing yachts available. Banjo is a 32 feet trimaran. Informed observers said before the race the yacht and crew of Banjo were capable of setting a new course record. Banjo also won the 2018 Cape to St Helena; the 2020 race was Covid-19 casualty.

The race started from Cape Town on 29th December. The starting gun was fired at 2pm and the yachts sailed into 30 to 40 knots winds and 4 metre swells. It wasn't long before flying fish landed on Banjo's deck, providing the evening meal. Tin Tin logged 215 miles in the first 20 hours clocking an average speed of almost 11 knots and a maximum speed of 22 knots. Banjo and Tin Tin were already at the front of the leading group.

As the yachts greeted the New Year the wind dropped to between 10 and 15 knots but Serendipity lost the spinnaker pole overboard and had some repairs to do. Serendipity was one of several yachts looking for the best course to set in response to slight changes in wind direction. The crew of Unwind were now complaining of lack of wind. Other crews also made the same comment.

The wind picked up again as the leading yachts closed in on St Helena. After struggling to make headway with speeds of less than 5 knots, conditions improved during the middle of this week, making it possible to race at 10 knots and slightly more.

The wind picked up further as the leading yachts closed in on St Helena. The improved racing conditions continued, taking Banjo to the finish line in fine style extending the lead over Tin Tin to about six hours.

The Cape to St Helena is organised by the Royal Cape Yacht Club in conjunction with the St Helena Yacht Club and St Helena Tourism. The Royal Cape Yacht Club prides itself on having a strong contingent of female competitors as members. In the Cape to St Helena race the youngest competitor of them all is 12 year old Anna Scheder Bieschin who celebrated her 12th birthday on board Naledi on 2nd January.

The Cape to St Helena race is gathering increasing interest from ocean-going racing crews and there is talk about making it an annual event. After the 2020 race was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions it was hoped the 2022 race would have 20 or more entries. However Covid restrictions at St Helena where lifted too late; several of the potential entries had made other plans. Two entries from the 2020 race retired leaving 10 crews to arrive at James Bay over the three days following Banjo's finish.

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