‘She walks the waters like a thing of life,Lord Byron, The Corsair (1814)
And seems to dare the elements to strife.’
Messing about in boats. An activity that has grasped men and women’s attention since the dawn of civilisation as we know it. Although, to be fair, our ancestors weren’t actually ‘messing about’: boats were very much designed and built for transporting of goods, not point-to-point racing. Taking a load of grain – as an example – across land was an invitation to theft, loss through inclement weather and all the other pitfalls of the days before roads and rail. Putting the cargo into the hold of a ship and setting off under wind power wasn’t exactly a guarantee of safe passage, but it did give a far better chance of the grain arriving closer to its destination. Hopefully not saturated with seawater or munched by the ubiquitous rats.
When it came to that other occupation so much favoured by humans over the millennia – warfare – sailing boats were the equivalent of the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles of their day. Once all the local land had been conquered and subjugated, empires could only be enlarged by taking fleets of sailing boats, filling them with men and horses, and setting off to ‘travel to distant and exotic places, meet interesting and exciting people, and then kill them.’ ( Author, humourist and arch-cynic Spike Milligan’s take on Queen Victoria’s attitude to overseas travel.) History is littered with accounts of fleets of sailing vessels heading for foreign shores, and mostly ending up either being scattered by the winds, sunk by sea monsters (debatable) or decimated by local sailors who knew the currents and winds far better than the invaders.
But it’s not the galleons, square-riggers and frigates that we are looking at this week; it’s those people for whom nothing beats the sound of wind in the rigging, the feel of a graceful hull carving through the swells and the joy of the open ocean. It short, those individuals who take their pleasure in yachting. Here in the Cape we are privileged to host one of the oldest yacht clubs on the continent, the Royal Cape Yacht Club, and the forest of masts that populate the moorings off their clubhouse on the far side of Cape Town harbour are testament to the number of people who love ‘messing about in boats’.
What, exactly, is a yacht? Good question. Checking with various authoritative sources gives quite a few answers. What is beyond question is the name: yacht came from the Dutch word yachten and takes us back to those heady days when boats where all about war and commerce: it means ‘hunt’, and these sleek vessels were designed to chase down and intercept pirates in their clunky cargo boats. Back to the definition – a yacht appears to be yacht when ‘it is a pleasure vessel exceeding 10m in length; has an overnight cabin and is judged to have good aesthetic qualities.’ So not a Hobie Cat or dabchick, then. More confusing still is the fact that yachts can be sail or motor powered; for the purposes of this discussion lets restrict ourselves to sail – the reason will become obvious shortly.
Broken down into ‘cruising’ and ‘racing’ categories, sailing yachts differ widely in design and comfort levels, the trade-off for speed over comfort creating the most obvious variations. Single or multi-hulled, with many different mast and sail configurations possible, a full breakdown would take many chapters to cover comprehensively. We have the perfect solution: a visual display of a wide array of yachts, all parading past you as you sip a chilled beverage or two and take in the sights.
This sail-studded display is courtesy of the previously mentioned Royal Cape Yacht Club, who are having their season opening regatta this coming Saturday, the 15th of October. Founded in 1905 as the Table Bay Yacht Club, the RCYP is renowned for their activities in the yachting world, hosting many an international events (the Whitbread Race, the BT Global Challenge, The BOC Around Alone Race, the Volvo Race, The Lisbon Expo 98, Clippers, and the Hong Kong Challenge, to name but a few) as well as holding multiple events for members and local yachts people. The 2022 Royal Cape Opening Cruise has been themed ‘Spirit of Africa’ and yachts and crew members will be dressed accordingly; the boats will sail in procession past the Clock Tower in the V&A Basin to salute the Commodore at around 14h00 – an amazing sight for spectators.
The best possible way to watch this amazing show of sail is to join us aboard our luxurious catamaran Sea Princess for a hour: we will get you as close to the action as possible without the throngs of people, and with a fully stocked bar on board you can watch the sun go over the yardarm, splice the mainbrace, toast the fleet and just enjoy every minute of this annual parade. Check website foe booking details, and get a full breakdown of the RCYP’s fun afternoon – there is a lot more that is happening, including a piratical ‘Chase the Flag’ event – at https://www.facebook.com/royalcapeyachtclub/events.
And when you decide you, too, want to mess about in boats, Waterfront Charters have a wide variety: pick your favourites and join us as we enjoy the joys of cruising on the open sea!