And the winner is…!
The Trans Agulhas is a competition that separates men from legends – and two that certainly will claim their status as legendary in the race is the duo of Dave Barnett and Tjaart Oosthuizen. Claiming their ninth overall win in this event, Dave and Tjaart talked to us about what went down this year.
David and Tjaart of Boat M1 Battery energy drink have been racing together for 11 years, competed in the Trans Agulhas 10 times and won total of nine times – the most successful team in the history of Inflatable racing. They have broken all the records but will they be back to defend their Championship?
They managed to get out on Table Bay waters three months prior to the race to get their boat fitness back to the level that you need in order to compete at the top level. They raced at Yzerfontein and in a Club race from Hermanus to Gordons Bay – and with those two victories under the belt they were happy with the Infanta Inflatable and Yamaha and feeling good about the Trans Agulhas.
Day 1 (Plett to Mossel bay)
The weather was looking fairly good for the first day with a four-metre swell and light SW winds. We were happy with the setup we had been training with and decided just to play it safe and go with what we know. Lots of teams make the mistake of changing things at the last minute and end up losing time on the first day.As the flag dropped, we were off to a great start and led the boats over the bay on our way to Nature’s Valley.
First to arrive there, we turned back to Plettenberg Bay to take on more fuel and head down the coast. We managed to refuel quickly and were on our way again just as the next boats arrived. As we rounded Robberg to head to Knysna, the conditions changed dramatically! The wind was quite strong and the sea a mess. We pushed hard most of the way.to Mossel Bay but did have some problems on the beach stops with the big swells and getting beached a few times, having to wait for the water to surge back in so we could get underway again. It was a good test of fitness in these difficult conditions. It is very important to communicate well and talk to each other and stay calm in these circumstances. We stayed calm under all conditions, and since we have raced so often together, we are very much in tune with each other – this is a great advantage for us.
We arrived in Mossel Bay in first place with an overall lead of about three minutes.
Day 2 (Mossel bay to Still Bay)
Weather again looked pretty good – light south-westerly winds with a 3.5 metre swell. We were again first away from the beach and first to arrive at Vleesbaai, and as we departed for the next stop, the next boats were just arriving. There was some big swell as we travelled the reef on the way to Gouritz beach – a good, clean stop saw us on our way again. On the way to Still Bay the water conditions favoured us and we were able to utilise the speed of our Infanta and be the first to arrive and extend our overall lead.
Day 3 (Still Bay to Struisbaai)
The race really starts here! Only two beach stops over a stretch of about 165 km. This is the time that tests your concentration and you have to maintain your pace for long periods. The weather was similar to the first two days. The reef of Still Bay had huge sets running through it, but we took a gap through the swells and were on our way to Witsand – some guys thought we were a little mad taking chances through there, but if you don’t take chances, you won’t be rewarded. We took on fuel at Witsand and left just before the next boats were arriving. On the way to Arniston, through the oyster reef, we did clip a rock as the tide was low – but damage was minimal and didn’t affect our speed. First in at Arniston and on our way around Saxon Reef, there were big swells but there’s always a way through if you wait for the right gap.
Around the bay to Struisbaai, the water conditions never let up so it became a bone crunching ride all the way to the finish. First in and now sitting on a 14-minute lead overall.
Day 4 (Struisbaai to Hermanus)
The weather wasn’t great for the run around Cape Agulhas! There was a strong southerly wind with a big swell running. We decided to set up very conservatively as the sea was looking pretty rough. We had a good lead, but no time to do anything crazy. Big swells around Cape Agulhas gets the adrenalin pumping, and onto the Damme, we took fuel and were lying in sixth place as we left. On the way to Pearly, the sea was rough! There was massive swell and we were feeling sorry for the overseas guys and the novices to have to negotiate the conditions. We took our time leaving Pearly and played it safe.
Danger Point was crazy huge! We played it safe and went around the reef, arriving in Hermanus in third place with an overall lead of 10 minutes going into the final day.
Day 5 (Hermanus to Strand)
After some of the boys partied the night away for New Year’s Eve, it was back to business in the morning. The weather was not good – a gale force South Easter with big swells. We kept our conservative setup! Big waves at Onrus with loads of kelp in the water makes it a very difficult stop. We had a lucky break in the sets and we were on our way to Kleinmond. There were two boats ahead of us but out of sight. We kept it calm after a couple of near flips and we stopped to talk to each other and assess the conditions, making sure we both stayed relaxed and just get ourselves safely to The Strand! We were leading overall with more than 10 minutes allowing us to take it steady.
Going around Hang Klip was pretty hectic in the worsening conditions! It was into Pringle bay for the final beach stop and onto Gordons Bay in conditions that were getting more difficult by the minute; wind gusts were unbelievable and close to flipping the boat on more than one occasion. Finally, the finish was in sight! A short run across the bay to The Strand and we’d be home free, but this is also the stretch where one just hopes the equipment will last to get you over the last few km. We rounded the finish buoy and saw that we were second to arrive and found out we had won our ninth Trans Agulhas! We took a moment to ourselves to reflect on what we had just achieved…it was an emotional feeling for us! We were very proud of what we had just accomplished. With a total of nine under the belt, and this being the most gruelling, there’s one only question; will we be back? Of course we will!