from Roger Deane
Terminal 5 Heathrow on the evening of April 20th wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be – getting the bags dropped and security cleared was a breeze.
We were to spend a few days in Cape Town on route to the Worlds in Port Elizabeth and despite the excitement I managed to sleep for 6 hours on the flight – so easy to fall asleep when you sit next to my brother!
Sun and warmth greeted us on Saturday morning’s arrival in Cape Town and finding a cab into town proved simple…and cheap. Our first taste of South African life came in the form of ‘load sharing’ which isn’t double trailing to a regatta – it’s all to do with reducing the demands on the electricity supply in the city…basically it meant we couldn’t check in to the hotel properly as the power was off.
So we left the bags and headed out. Our plan was to do Table Mountain (TM) but as it had cloud on the top we diverted to an amazing place called Camps Bay which is a beautiful beach area with fabulous restaurants – we sat outside for a long lunch of seafood washed down with a pleasant bottle (or two) of Rose at a restaurant called Paranga.
Feeling relaxed and with the skies over TM clear we headed for the cable car by cab – no queuing and straight to the top – fantastic views all round. It was quite windy and about 15 degrees colder than it was lower down. Tick in the box – one sight seen!
High on the agenda for the evening was to find a watering hole showing the final Six Nations match between England and France…..this was easy as SA is a rugby mad country.
Our waiter at Paranga in Camps Bay recommended a wine farm, Groot Constantia, in the Constantia Valley as a good one to visit – so about 30 minutes in a cab from downtown got us there on Sunday morning for a tour of the distillery and the all-important tasting!
This is one of, if not, the oldest farms and it really was a fascinating tour. After the tasting ‘lecture’ we were invited to try their Chardonnay-du-Monde (sparkling white wine) which in 2015 had just been given the accolade as the Best in the World – something they were very proud of…we needed to try several glasses to be sure!!! Second tick in the box.
We were now hungry. We had been recommended a restaurant called the Brass Bell at Kalk Bay – so off we went. This is a really fun place where you sit to eat on a pier extending out into the surf. Again it’s great seafood there and plenty of liquid refreshment – as we were also thirsty again too.
For no real reason that I recall we opted to take the train back to the city – high risk strategy for a late Sunday afternoon in any country – but one came almost on time. To say we were the only ones on it would be an understatement it was rammed – couldn’t even see the seats let alone get one. The locals seemingly travelled with their entire family. The (standing) journey took nearly an hour – all for 12p a ticket. Not sure which box this ticked!
Monday and it was off to Robben Island which is an Island with a prison on it where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. It’s a really pleasant boat ride on a fast cat which takes about 40 minutes after which you are loaded on to a pretty ancient bus to be given a guided tour of the island. On arriving at the prison itself we were introduced to an ex-political prisoner who takes you around the jail explaining what is what. I can’t remember the guy’s name but he was in prison there for 5 years after being arrested in the Soweto student uprising and was classed a ‘political prisoner’.
We saw Mandela’s cell and got a good impression how life worked there – imagine digging a big hole in all the heat one day then filling it in the next day only to return the following day and dig in again…for 20 years!!!! Third tick in the box.
Our flight to Port Elizabeth was due to leave at 13.20 on Tuesday. Up until now all had gone pretty smoothly with our ‘back of a fag packet’ itinerary all going to plan with boxes being ticked etc.
The cab didn’t turn up. So we booked another – there wasn’t one for 6 people available so we ordered 2. Unfortunately a road was closed and the driver arrived on foot and asked us to follow him to where he had abandoned his cab. We had to wait for some time for the second cab to arrive and we set off a little behind schedule.
I was in the number 2 cab and as we swept off the motorway under a flyover we saw number 1 cab on the hard shoulder. We stopped behind it. Broken down. The cabbie was trying to persuade another cab to come to our rescue but because this is a well know crime area no cab wanted to come to our rescue – so both drivers left us to go and try to flag down another cab (on a motorway!!). Meanwhile we became an object of attention to the population who lived in cardboard boxes under the motorway flyover. Squeaky bum time!
Thankfully we were left alone by the local inhabitants and rescued by another taxi – managed to just about get our flight to PE.
The flight path in to PE takes you almost directly over Algoa Bay (aka Nelson Mandela Bay) and we could see the harbour and all the yellow SAP livery from the air.
Landed and luggage retrieved we had booked the shuttle to the Town Lodge Hotel – home to most of the competitors and others involved in the Worlds. No load sharing here so we checked in and then took a cab to the Yacht Club.
Security was all around us and getting in to the port was no exception and after a bit of a queue we got to the club which was right in the middle of what is a busy commercial port – most of the SA made cars are shipped in pretty ugly container ships from here.
Our boat had been unloaded and abandoned in the dinghy park and to be honest was a bit of a mess having had crud and dust blown into it and rained on over the previous 3 or 4 days – clean up time.
If I’m honest registration was a bit chaotic – you couldn’t properly register and get a berth allocated until you had been measured – but there was no measuring being done. It’s usually one of the worst bits of the regatta getting measured but, apart from the faff of having to take a shuttle with your sails to another site for measuring, once we were in the tent all went smoothly.
I’m not going to rant about the issues we had with our new mast other than to say it was very warm and sunny in the boat park and had it not been for a 2 hour delay for the first pre-worlds race we would have missed out.
During the regatta we experienced sailing with both dolphins and sharks (hammerheads about 6 feet long) and in our 2 capsizes managed not to look like dinner.
Launching and recovery was simple all be it into a fairly narrow channel between the marina pontoons and with not too many competitors it was never crowded.
Ashore, SAP had worked their magic and presented a great sailors lounge next to the yacht club along with their media cube – the coverage and analytics just gets better and better and the traditional post sailing happy hour was as popular as ever with the free-flowing beers and nibbles.
The pre-worlds prize giving and worlds welcoming party was preceded by the raising of the SA flag on the top of the hill in the City centre. The City put on really well organised official welcome with all our national anthems played and flags presented. It was an eclectic grouping behind some flags with a German and a Swede behind the Union Jack and a Brit behind the Stars and Stripes – plenty of banter too!
After the flag salutes we all trouped through the City to the ‘Town Hall’ for the customary speeches and welcomes from all and sundry – there was also food and drink.
A day off and then into the Worlds for 3 days of great sailing before the lay day. We opted for a quiet day of bimbling and beach. Others took a short safari and came back all animalled up having had a great day out seeing South Africa’s wildlife.
The Mid-regatta party scheduled on the night before the lay day was a fabulous event. We were all bussed about 25 km up the coast to what is best described as a very rustic beach and water sports club. A large marquee had been erected and fires were lit – which we were grateful for as the temperature does drop in the evenings.
The briars were also fired up and whole lambs were being roasted. If anyone was in any doubt as to how much they like to eat in SA then this was the place to be. Meat, meat and more meat. Some fish too and spicy stews to fill that last corner.
There was a band too – these guys were really entertaining and everyone got up and danced – a great atmosphere plenty of laughs and one or two impressive shapes as the local brew and SAP cocktails did their stuff.
The last shuttle bus left about 1 I think – it was full!
On most nights the bar in the hotel shut at 11pm at night but those requiring further refreshment found their way to the casino next door which was open until about 3am. Not content with winning the Cricket World Cup I noticed our brothers from down under were good at cards as well and I can only guess that one of the reasons for big Nick’s aching back came from carrying home his winnings!
Heavy winds meant we lost a day of sailing – it was 40+knots in the harbour – too windy even for the container ships and a cruise liner to dock – it was a cloudless sky and most were able to enjoy the extra ‘rest’ day.
The final days sailing were again good 5O5 conditions although the offshore wind meant the waves were smaller. Holty and Carl won with a day to spare – Congratulations!
Washed down, the boats were packed away in the containers hopefully to be safely delivered back in early May.
The prize giving was held at the club and in the SAP sailors lounge. Every competitor was announced and invited up in finishing order and presented with medals and mementos then photographed before the top ten got their prizes and we heard a winners’ speech from Mike and Carl.
More meat from the briars and local ice cream came before some riotous behaviour on the dance floor which could only escalate to one thing – boys will be boys – and into the dock went Mike for his winners wetting. Carl was always going to be a challenge and as he entered the water managed to take regatta runner up Ian with him. Several others followed and surprisingly no one managed to go in with their phone!
That was it then. What a great experience the whole trip was. Great people who could not have worked harder or given a warmer welcome to us visitors to their amazing country. If you missed this by now you know you missed something special.
Would I go sailing there again? You bet!