Lipton Challenge Cup 2021 | Tight Till The End – Sail+Leisure
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Lipton Challenge Cup 2021 | Tight Till The End

by Ingrid Hale

This Ed is still trying to recover from a nail-biting event that was the 2021 Lipton Challenge Cup. And it’s not from the fact that I was competing in the event – but rather that as a spectator my emotions have been on a roller coaster all week. I’ve had to wear two caps – one as Ed of S+L bringing you the latest on the event, and the other as a campaigner of Vulcan representing RCYC. To say I have been torn is an understatement. My throat is hoarse from cheering and I’m emotionally drained. But at the same time I can honestly say that I couldn’t have asked for more exciting, quality racing for this prestigious regatta.

Dave Hudson, veteran Lipton Challenge Cup sailor said it best, “This is the closest contended Cup I have ever experienced in 25 years”.

Down to the windshift

Going into the final day of racing, three teams had a chance of taking the Cup: Vulcan representing RCYC had been on top of the leader board all week and led by 1 point; Nitro, the defending champs representing Witbank Yacht Club had started off slowly but had clawed their way back into contention and were on equal points with Orion DYP representing Royal Natal Yacht Club.

Just 1 point separated Vulcan from the other two teams, and all three teams had to beat the others in order to take overall victory.

Vulcan lead the race from the start, sailing a brilliant and consistent race until the last windward/leeward where Nemesis took over the lead. Nemesis rounded the top mark first followed by Vulcan and Nitro. All three headed towards the beach initially but Nitro and Nemesis gybed away to head out to sea. Orion DYP was at the back of the fleet after Zeekoeivlei Yacht Club’s Turquoise and did a gybe set, heading out towards Saldanha Bay while Vulcan remained inshore.  This had paid before when the southerly filled in, but on this final leg, the wind shifted to a westerly. The boats out to sea scored and Vulcan had to watch as her race lead, and her overall victory slipped away as the others crossed the line ahead.

To say it was gut-wrenching to watch would be kind, but as they say “it’s never over till it’s over….” and Mike Hayton of Nitro couldn’t have said it better when he said “it’s a cruel regatta!”


A small but strong fleet

Much has been said about the small fleet competing in this year’s challenge. Just five boats entered. This was both due to concerns around the pandemic, and the fact that the Cape 31’s have taken off in the UK, which led to many boats leaving our shores for theirs. But fewer boats doesn’t mean less competition – in fact it was probably tougher. And the America’s Cup and SailGP events only have a few boats too!

Of the 5 entries, one team only started racing on day 4 due to exposure. Nitro was the hardest hit with only 4 of their regular crew racing – most notably absent was their skipper David Rae. They experienced further knocks when some of their substitutes tested positive too.

Kudos to the organisers for not cancelling the event altogether. To be sailing again at this level of competition was just what was needed – to show that we can carry on doing what we enjoy at the highest level.


Thank you’s

Kerry Pryde from the RCYC racing office did a magnificent job of organising the event.

Club Mykonos were great hosts, providing a nice base for the teams to meet and sail from – although there were some touch and go moments trying to get out of the shallow marina. The social side was played down substantially due to social distancing, but a lovely prize giving following strict protocols was held at the Cape Town Fish Market at the Club Mykonos Marina.

Doug Allison and his bridge crew did a sterling job. Races were started on time, communication with the teams was excellent and courses were well laid out.

Richard Crockett from SA Sailing did a magnificent job of giving up to the manoeuvre reports on the Lipton Whatsapp group, which at one stage had over 250 followers from all over the world.

Dave Abromowitz offered superb spectator viewing from onboard the Ocean Princess. Thanks Dave.

Matthew du Toit provided incredible pictures and videos of the event.

All in all, it was a fantastic week of sailing and good rivalries.


The 2022 Lipton Challenge Cup will be held in False Bay in August, and will be hosted by RNYC.

Meet the Lipton Teams

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