Unexpected Return to Cape Town

Sadly, two yachts, ours and Punte Del Este, suffered a collision during the tactical “around the bouys” sailing that was part of initial course sailing immediately following race start from Cape Town, South Africa.

Both boats suffered damages and had to return to port. The good news is that there were no crew injuries on our boat and only minor injuries on Punte Del Este.

Clipper race officials and Robin Knox-Johnston along with Skippers, AQP’s and crew have had a day to assess the situation and plan next steps. The good news is that both boats will be fully repaired in as quick turnaround as possible and the the two will rejoin the race in a sort of match race to Fremantle with the expectation that we will be able to arrive there in time to regroup and properly join the Leg 4 race.

To shed a little more light on exactly what happened I offer this brief description. As the two yachts were approaching each other, Sanya was on port tack and Punte Del Este on starboard tack. In such crossing situations racing rules and regulations give the starboard tack boat the right of way and put the onus on the port tack boat keep clear.

Three options are available to the port tack boat.

1: Port boat to continue on port tack crossing in front of the starboard tack boat such that the starboard boat does not need any changes in their course to the avoid collision.

2: Port boat to tack early on to starboard sufficiently such thatboth will be on the starboard tack and the starboard boat does not need any changes in their course to the avoid collision.

3: Port boat to bear away turning to cross clear behind the starboard boat such that the starboard boat does not need any changes in their course to the avoid collision.

Option 3 clearly depicted in this illustration was taken by Sanya.

Port tack bear away to cross astern.

However in the conditions underway Sanya did not successfully coordinate and complete their bear away turn in time to stay clear and rammed the aft port side of Punte near the helm station. The two boats were locked together for a few minutes while we dropped sails and worked to extract our now bent bowsprit from the wreckage created on the other boat. Both boats and clipper race officials on the support rib were then able to make quick assessments of damages and the yachts returned to the Cape Town docks under their own power.

Back safely at the docks we can further assess issues.

Damages to Punte Del Este.
Sanya after removal of bent bowsprit.

Any experienced racer understands the rules and will do everything to avoid collisions. We on Sanya have acknowledged and owned up to our mistake in this incident.

It is time now to move constructively forward. We can’t deny that any endeavor such as this has risks and we must carefully and thoughtfully reevaluate and continue to hone our skills as we redouble our efforts to sail safely and fairly. I would also expect Clipper race organizers make every effort to design these race start courses to be as safe as possible. Perhaps, in hindsight, a “Le Mans” style race start would have been a good option.

Now I have some days off with my and Punte’s teammates to rest up and prepare for this Southern Ocean crossing to Fremantle Western Australia.

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