Nine out of 36 yachts setting out for the start of the Cape2Rio race were forced to return to Cape Town, South Africa due to extreme heavy weather. The race began on the afternoon of Jan. 5 and by the next morning gale-force winds and 25-foot seas began taking its toll on the racers.
The Angolan entry, 54-foot Bille, was dismasted and crewmember Antonio Bartolomew lost his life when he was swept overboard. Bartolomew was rescued by his crewmates, but died later aboard the vessel. Bille’s surviving four crew all sustained serious injuries.
Multiple rescues unfolded in an emergency operation that spanned more than 24 hours. The effort involved other yachts in the vicinity, the National Sea Rescue Institute, the South African Air Force, Western Cape Department of Health, and the South African Navy frigate Isandlwana.
Other yachts were also seriously affected by the storm. Black Cat, a 38-footer skippered by South African designer Dudley Dix, suffered a damaged rudder. The yacht Isla lost both engines and had an electrical fire that was extinguished by the crew. Explora had a flooded engine compartment and DoDo lost steering and power. Indaba, Avanti, and FTI Flyer all opted to return to port with crew that were exhausted or injured.
In a statement made to the press by fleet frontrunner Maserati, skipper Giovanni Soldini said, “Given that the Cape2Rio fleet includes small cruising yachts ill-prepared to cope with such violent ocean storms, it might have been wiser to postpone the start. But it’s always easy to evaluate these things in hindsight.”
Maserati set a new record and completed the race on Jan. 14 in 10 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds. The remaining race boats hope to reach Brazil by Feb. 1.
Weather conditions for the Cape2Rio 2014 race had been similar to those during the 1979 Fastnet Race off southern England. In that race 15 crew, four others shadowing the race, and two from a cruise boat in the area were killed, while 25 out of 303 yachts sank.