Having a Whale of a Time
The biannual Distell Holiday 23 “Fun” Worlds Competition is hosted by Port Owen Yacht Club and this regatta is a highlight for Holiday 23 sailors from across the country.
Words: Marna Cilliers Photographs: Marna Cilliers, Kevin Liebenberg, Coenie Thiart and Di Webb.
The Distell Holiday 23 “Fun” Worlds is the event every Holiday 23 owner marks on his calendar long in advance. Life for these keen sailors is planned around this event. Hosted by the Port Owen Yacht Club, this biannual regatta is characterized by the get-together of “yachties” from all over the country, enthusiastic sailors with great sportsmanship. Levels of experience and skills of the sailors differ considerably, yet it offers a prime opportunity to compete against the best in the class.
GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN
The Holiday 23 yacht is very popular and ideally suited for both beginner and advanced sailors. Designed by Angelo Lavranos, this 23-footer was first built by John Robertsons Yachts Ltd (SA) in 1979. Part of the popularity of the yacht is the fact that it has a lifting keel and rudder, the mast can be folded and the yacht can be towed anywhere most conveniently by trailer. Only 200 yachts were built in total.
Sailors came from as far as Zimbabwe and Richard’s Bay to participate. A total of 7 yachts were towed from Gauteng to Port Owen for this event scheduled for the last week in May 2015. At Port Owen, the services of Frank Stuyk made light work of lifting the boats off the trailer and assembling the masts, a task that requires less than half an hour to be ready for racing. This makes the Holiday 23 in effect South Africa’s only true trailer sailor!
The Holiday 23 is indeed also an awesome little sea boat. A group of enthusiastic participants sailed from Gordon’s Bay, rounding Cape Point to participate in the event. The first stop after leaving Gordon’s Bay is Cape Town, where they moored at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. This particular voyage for yachts Pee Dee Q with Coenie Thiart at the helm and yachts Nina, Morning Wings, Seaweed and Asti was an exercise in careful navigation, as dense fog was experienced during their crossing of False Bay. The overnight stop at Dassen Island is a tradition. Here braai fires are lit and the beautiful sight of Dassen Island lighthouse is enjoyed for the night while yachts are rafted along each other at anchor.
Before first light in the morning, the journey continues past South Head Light and North Head Light, passing the entrance to Langebaan Lagoon. Yachts that left Club Mykonos at first light join the group en route to Port Owen, turning it into a “sailing armada” invading St Helena Bay, all in high spirits.
A traditional welcoming party of local yachtsmen sailed into St Helena Bay to meet the group. Kevin Webb and Patrick Knobel on Banjo guided the yachts along marked buoys up the Berg River. Navigation in the Berg River is tricky due to the tidal changes, where shallow areas can cause the unsuspecting sailor to get stuck.
OPEN DOORS AND OPEN ARMS
Port Owen Marina’s excellent facilities with the adjacent Port Owen Yacht Club plays host to the regatta. The club members pull out all the stops to ensure that more than 100 participating sailors enjoy true hospitality and real West Coast culture. During the event, the Commodore, Peter Musik, is in charge of breakfast and personally fries around 200 eggs every morning. Members of the club help prepare delicious meals and many a sailor returns for one reason: the traditional snoek braai as prepared by Frank Stuyk. Another tradition is the hospitality of Kevin and Diane Webb who invite the fleet to anchor at Britannia Bay after a hard day of sailing. Watching the sunset from their home, delicious espatadas on the braai are on offer with local wines. Sailors then overnight on their yachts in festive spirit and in position for the start of the next morning’s racing.
A potjiekos competition was a key milestone on the social calendar this year. Sponsored by Distell’s Olof Bergh, Maritha du Toit, representative of Distell and two other judges, Leon and Christine Terblanche, were surprised by the delectable tastes and flavours. Allan Rosenberg’s team from Gauteng literally “cooked up a storm” with their Turkish Beef Pot with prunes and walked away with the top prizes.
The course for the regatta was set by Race Officer Allen Biesheuwel on the bridge boat, Mia. The first day’s racing was windward-leeward courses in St Helena Bay. Competition was very stiff, not only by the leading boats, but within the total group of 23 entries. Much fun was had “around the cans” with boats in very close pursuit, often missing each other by mere inches. After racing to St Helena Bay, Britannia Bay and back, competition for the winning position was anyone’s guess. The odds were between Maximillion with Kevin Webb, Annie with Morne Sasson and Seamist with Frank Stuyk.
The winner of the last race would determine the overall winner, so there was all to play for in the last downwind dash. The father and son team, Frank Stuyk and Jean-Paul Stuyk, sailed their way to glory, winning by one point with Kevin Webb, the previous Governor’s Cup holder, in second place and Morne Sasson with Annie in third position. Morne also won the accolades as the sailor who improved most since the last regatta. Only one point differentiated the three top sailors, namely 10, 11 and 12 points.
EVERY ONE IS A WINNER
The purpose of this event is not only sailing competitively, but to ensure that all sailors have a lot of fun while gaining experience, which enhances their sailing skills. Whether you were among the top sailors or at the back of the fleet, each participant made new friends, enjoyed a West Coast experience of note and definitely left looking forward to the next get-together.
Sailing the boats back to their home marinas add to the experience of the ocean. Marna Cilliers reported some fabulous sightings by One Step’s crew along the way: a few rare killer whales off Jacobsbaai; passing no less than 6 large whales; pods of dusky dolphins playing alongside the boat; sightings of literally hundreds of seals pounding on a shoal of fish – all the delights of Neptune that make sailing along the West Coast…so much fun!