Colliding in Cape Town

“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

I realise this nautical adage is referring to sailing competency, but it could equally be applied metaphorically to team development, as my team have not had the best arrival and departure from Cape Town…Perhaps the spirit of Table Mountain had a beef with Punta del Este and wanted to show who’s boss, because we were penalised on our way into Cape Town and now we can’t leave Cape Town as Sanya has spectacularly T-boned our beautiful boat! Now she and the crew are being repaired back at port. All this happened a mere FIVE minutes into race start (!) to add insult to injury. Punta was starboard of Sanya, so technically Sanya was the give way vessel, although I gather a number of circumstances were reported that imply it is beyond simple anti-collision rules being broken…Skippers’ protests and a Race Committee investigation are ongoing, so no ‘official’ outcome yet.

Following a briefing back in port yesterday with both crews, Clipper report that repairs will take 8-10 days. All crew have either decided to fly home for a few days or go off sightseeing South Africa, but have to reconvene in port on 26th November. Sanya are also staying in port to race with Punta del Este when the time comes, as no one wanted a yacht going out into the great Southern Ocean on its own. Sanya also sustained some damage to her bowsprit in the collision so that needs to be repaired too; although it is a lot more of a routine repair. Nonetheless, it’s all still a very fluid situation and despite the intention of having all the fleet racing from Freemantle at the same time, precisely how this will be achieved is yet to be confirmed. I also do not know at this stage if Sanya will receive penalty points or if we will pick up some bonus points in sympathy. The official statement from Clipper on the collision typically does not give much away.

Many of us onshore crew and our team supporters are having withdrawal symptoms from not being able to avidly check-in with the race tracker on a daily basis and seeing the rest of the fleet draw ever further away from our stationary position is soul destroying, but nonetheless, the humour from team mates has been brilliant. David Lee’s message on the Crew, Family and Friends of Team Punta del Este Facebook page made me laugh out loud:

“Any chance you guys could challenge Sanya to a beach volleyball game or something? We are sort of lost without the race tracker, although Alan’s game face videos helped me get through another day of work. ;-)”

Alan, Alan Loy, is another team mate who is only racing in this leg – Leg 3 – managed to also make us all laugh with this:

“…You’ll be pleased to know that Punta del Este is a learning team, fully committed to continuous improvement.”

But despite the humour to keep up morale, it’s very sad to see our beautiful boat in pain; I wince just looking at the photos of the damage and impact of collision.

I was initially in shock when I heard the news yesterday morning and then I spent the rest of the day feeling great empathy and being gutted on their behalf; especially for my team mates who have joined in Cape Town to undertake a very challenging leg across the Southern Ocean and it’s their only leg in the race. One crew member may have to withdraw from the race as he does not have the flexibility to wait for the completion of repairs and then race on to Freemantle. His race could be over before it’s started and I feel for him. Another crew member also can’t continue because he sustained injuries to his shoulder as a result of the collision, so has had to withdraw. This is one of the scenarios I dread. All those months and years emotionally, financially and mentally committed to the race and then, BOOM! It’s over. Just like that.

Until very recently I strongly felt the hardest part in all this was getting myself to the start line, but recently, I am also beginning to see that this is then swiftly followed by the challenge of remaining in the race. Despite the fact that Leg 3 has only just got underway and race start was only 10 weeks ago (it feels like an eternity!) we have already seen one Skipper sacked, another resign and I know of one crew member who has resigned from the race despite being a RTW’er for his team, not to mention those crew from across the fleet who have sustained injury and had to withdraw in port for medical treatment.

Still, it is also true that “every cloud has a silver lining.” For me this is encapsulated by the spirit of Team Punta del Este and those crew currently biding their time in Cape Town who took the initiative to locate a charity for all the fresh food that had been stowed aboard less than 24 hours previously to feed 22 crew 5,000 calories a day, for 28 days at sea (i.e. there’s a LOT of food on board!). So it makes me proud to learn that due to the significant delay in Punta’s departure from Cape Town, the fresh food on board Punta del Este went to a local charity in Cape town, U-turn, who work with those living on the streets (, because the crew donated all their fresh food to the charity yesterday. A big shout out to fellow crew Craig Palmer and Nick Binks for organising this; true Punta del Este spirit!  

Victualing in Cape Town

…So every cloud has a silver lining. We were able to be charitable despite our major setbacks and we could repay the hospitality shown to all the crews whilst in port, by feeding some of those people in Cape Town, for whom the idea and opportunity to race in a round-the-world yacht race is even more of a pipe dream than mine was.

I hope it won’t be long before we can!