A Race Without Equal

‘We still view the sea as a limitless wilderness, which of course, it is not. We view the sea apart from the earth. We call this planet Earth, yet this is the only planet that has a sea. I think we should have called it “sea”.’

Sir Arthur C Clarke; 1917 – 2008. Science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer.

To expand on the epigraph above, did you know that there are 1.3 billion billion tons of water on our blue planet? We aren’t sure who weighed these tons – after all, one ton of seawater looks pretty much the same as the other 1 billion billion (allowing for some fresh water) – so it must have been quite a lengthy exercise. Admittedly, this water is all on the surface of ‘Earth’, so it does give a rather skewed picture of the ratio between solid and liquid: of the roughly 510 million km² of the world’s surface over 362 million km² is ocean. That’s around 71%, so it’s no wonder that our planet shines like a blue jewel in the cosmos.
During the latter part of November, a fleet of intrepid yachts folk will be arriving in Cape Town, and it’s a fair bet that these 700 or so sailors will get to see a large proportion of those 1.3 billion billion tons of water. Earlier this year eleven identical sleek racing yachts embarked on the Clipper Race 2019-20, and this stunning nautical adventure is taking them right around the planet, crossing the vast expanses of the oceans. Billed by the organisers as a Race Without Equal, it certainly lives up to the hype: a Round the World yachting challenge with a record breaking eight legs – a 40 000 nautical mile race between eleven 70 foot ocean racing yachts. Each yacht is skippered by a highly experienced professional, but this is where the unique aspect of the Clipper Race comes into its own: the crews are made up of over 700 enthusiastic amateurs – the only requirements being a love of the ocean and an adventurous spirit. You read that right: you don’t need to be a Bertie Reed to participate in this amazing challenge, but you do need to be enthusiastic, fit, love the ocean, ready to accept the challenge of sharing living space with a bunch of permanently damp companions, and have a healthy approach to excitement and potential danger. Here’s what the Clipper Race website has to say: “Having completed a rigorous training course, participants are suited and booted in the latest extreme protection gear to commence the race of their lives – an unparalleled challenge where taxi drivers rub shoulders with chief executives, vicars mix with housewives, students work alongside bankers, and engineers team up with rugby players.”
Crewing can also be done by ‘legs’ (not human sea legs, although a pair of these would be extremely useful); crew members can choose to sail on any – or all – of the eight legs of the race. This means that certain crew members will disembark en route, to be replaced by equally enthusiastic mariners for the next leg of the journey.

The Clipper Race is an annual event, and was the brainchild of Sir Robin Know-Johnston, the first man to sail single-handed and non-stop around the world, a feat achieved between 14th June 1968 and 22nd April 1969. It has become an international fixture of note, and not only in the world of yachting. It’s attraction to all those who long to test themselves against the sea, not only seasoned yachties, sets it apart from other races, and as a spectator event it receives great attention around the world – not only in the ports where the yachts dock, but in all the towns and cities that have competitors participating and who watch the progress of the race on various media.

Here’s where Waterfront Charters come into the picture! The Clipper 2019-20 comes to port in Cape Town in November, arriving after a 4200 nautical mile South Atlantic crossing from South America. They set sail again on the 17th November from the V&A Waterfront, heading for Western Australia, a challenging 5500 nautical miles distant. Although we’d love to participate – we reckon Esperance would make a great round-the-world schooner – we are here to serve the people who will be entranced by the race. The boats arrive in Cape Town piecemeal, depending on the weather conditions they have encountered and other indeterminable sailing circumstances, but they will be leaving on the next leg together in a great pageantry of sail; first a Parade of Sail, an obligatory ‘Man overboard’ drill, a short course race in Table Bay and then the farewell for Australia.
And we will be there to see them off, drifting nearby – close enough to be part of the action without infringing. Two of our superb vessels, the abovementioned schooner Esperance and our luxurious catamaran Serenity One, will be departing the V&A Waterfront at around the time the yachts take their leave of the port. We will host friends and family of crew members, yachting enthusiasts, wide-eyed tourists and locals alike: whoever is interested in viewing an amazing nautical spectacle up close.

Full details are in the website; given that the 17th of November is looming we suggest you get clicking as soon as possible – it’s an event that will stand out in the memory of all those who participate, be they participants or spectators: nobody who sails in Table Bay ever forgets the occasion.