Trans Agulhas still “World’s Toughest Inflatable Challenge”!
As South African hero Giniel de Villiers began his quest in the 2011 Dakar Rally, regarded as the toughest off-road rally in the world, another group of spirited participants were preparing for the “Dakar of the Sea” – the Trans Agulhas Inflatable Challenge. The 24th Trans Agulhas, still regarded as the “World’s Toughest Inflatable Challenge” require unrelenting guts, fitness and endurance as participants compete for status – these courageous men and women are our Legends of the Seas – and we salute you!
STAGE ONE: 28th December 2011
LEG: Plettenberg Bay – Mosselbay
TOTAL DISTANCE: 188.5 km
The King of the Waves Event took place on the first day of the Trans Agulhas Inflatable Challenge under spectacular sunny weather conditions and the beaches filled with spectators. Due to the relatively calm sea conditions no major incidences occurred in this tightly contested format of racing.
Each year in Mossel Bay prior to the start of the King of the Waves surf circuit racing, all participants collectively proceed out to sea to lay a wreath in memory of a young girl who lost her life tragically off the coast. The significance of this wreath laying is such that on the fateful day of her disappearance, the Trans Agulhas Challenge participants gathered to assist in the search for her body. Her body has never been found and hence why each year her father accompanies the boaters out to lay a wreath for her.
In the novice class, Eben de Bod (S47) impressed the crowds with his speed and control of the boat. This is somebody to watch out for in the near future. Was it not for a technical error by passing on the incorrect side of the rescue craft, whereby he was disqualified for this stage, Eben could’ve been a real contender. He incurred a time penalty of last finishing boats’ time plus 10 minutes – tough break!
Two seconds separated a dramatic finish between Jacque Matthee and Ryk Lombard (S55) and Eugene Vorster and Lood Coetzee (S2), who finished second and third respectively in the Standard Class.
STAGE TWO: 29th December 2011
LEG: Mosselbay to Stilbaai
TOTAL DISTANCE: 86 km
Stage 2 of the Trans Agulhas Challenge 2011 saw competitors leave Mossel Bay at 8 am sharp and head towards the normally sleepy seaside town of Stilbaai. At this time of the year this town comes alive with tourists who head down to the beach to watch the action of the Trans Agulhas Challenge.
This is an annual gathering of tourists hoping to see their favourites competing in the turbulent waters off this beautiful coastline. Usually, the sea around this section of the coast is extremely rough and makes it even harder for the competitors, but more exciting for the spectators.
Last year, Stilbaai visitors experienced vary harsh windy and rainy conditions and this was the stage where seven-time Trans Agulhas champions Dave Barnett and Tjaart Oosthuizen had the unfortunate experience of flipping on a sandbank during the area-bound long-haul race. This year saw beautiful blue skies, warm weather and very good, racing-friendly ocean conditions.
According to competitors, this stage was unusually favourable with far calmer waters than normal. Tjaart Oosthuizen (co-pilot, M44) said that this allowed them to take it a little easier and rest up after the choppy conditions experienced during stage one.
Robertson Abattoir (M47) piloted by Hennie de Bod arrived in just 3 seconds ahead of M44 Team Battery Energy Drink Dave Barnet and Tjaart Oosthuizen. They put this down to their chosen setup for the day as well as running a 15-inch cleaver prop.
In the Standard Novice Class, new entrants to the Trans Agulhas Challenge S248 (Full Throttle R23 Bricks) piloted by Petrus Botha said that conditions were more pleasant today following their flip on stage one on the return leg from Natures Valley to Plettenberg Bay.
KING OF THE WAVES (STILBAAI)
Onshore winds provided for great excitement for spectators as the boats launched themselves over the waves. In the Standard Class, there was one incident whereby the S40 boat (Welverdiend/Big Five_ piloted by Christiaan Kriel, lost its co-pilot Wardo Kriel. Experienced teams were able to handle the testing conditions and newcomers to this exciting sport got to see and experience what lies ahead during stage three in Struisbaai.
STAGE THREE: 30th December 2011
LEG: Stilbaai to Struisbaai
TOTAL DISTANCE: 161 km
Stage three of the Trans Agulhas Challenge saw the competitors leaving Stilbaai at 8 am and headed off towards Struisbaai, with two beach and checkpoint stops at Witsand (59 km) and Arniston (76 km) along the way. The total travelling distance for competitors in this Stage three is 161 km.
The total distance covered during the Trans Agulhas Challenge is a gruelling 700 km in 5 days. It’s no wonder this Challenge along with the usually rough conditions, is known as “The World’s Toughest Inflatable Boat Race”. It can be seen to be in the same class at the world-renowned Dakar Rally, but only on water instead of land.
The waters on this side of the coast are renowned for being extremely rough and choppy but this year we have seen very pleasurable conditions prevailing which have made the race slightly easier for competitors thus far.
Flat waters most of the way with a slight swell between the beach stops saw the first boats arriving into Struisbaai just after 10:15 am. Usually, conditions during stage three are rough, choppy and very testing for the competitors, with some usually falling out of the race. All but one of the remaining 23 boats in the race completed the stage, with a boat in the Modified Class (M2 – Braham Coetzee/Izak Nieuwoudt) being disqualified due to two DNF’s (Did Not Finish) on the Longhaul stage.
Team Battery Energy Drink (M44 – David Barnet/Tjaart Oosthuizen) came in first place with a time of 2:16:12 keeping them in first place overall in the Modified Class. Following closely behind the M44 was former World Champion Stefan Lindeque/Tony Ingram racing for Boost Performance Racing/CA Components in the Blueprint Class with a time of 2:19:33, retaining his current first spot in the Blueprints. In the Standard Class, boat S2 [BC Carriers/Libra Makelaars] piloted by Eugene Vorster took first place with a time of 2:21:48. STAGE FOUR: 31st of December 2011 LEG: Struisbaai to Hermanus
TOTAL DISTANCE: 133 km The Trans Agulhas showed its true colours during the fourth stage as the conditions heading into Hermanus changed dramatically from the rest of the race. The weather change seemed to arrive much sooner than originally forecasted and many boats were caught off guard in terms of their propeller choice, trim and engine height settings. Dave Barnett M44 – Battery Energy Drink – Winner of the Stage, said it was critical to get this right from start, as one could always change the propeller. It becomes more difficult to change the trim and engine height settings while racing. The morning start in Struisbaai to the first beach check point at Die Damme, according to the more experienced teams, was expected to be a tough section. Thereafter the legs to the 2nd (Pearly Beach) and 3rd (Uilkraalsmond) beach stops were normally assumed to be easier going, however, this was not the case. Stefan Lindeque/Tony Ingram, leaders in the Blueprint Class, described this stage as the most important as it was seen to be the trickiest. Lindeque said: “heading out of the flat waters of the bay, we noticed the very rough conditions. Once past the tricky waters in the first 30 km, you have to navigate through kelp and reef. After your beach refuelling stop at Pearly’s, the boats are quite heavy and you need to navigate deep swells in the bays, not always easy”. Rowan Hawkes, manufacturer of Aquarius Inflatables and previous national competitor on this important stage, said: “With the water in Struisbaai being so calm your propeller choice is very important – you can run the whole leg with the incorrect setup, the wrong propeller and all you end up doing is losing important time. So your entire setup is extremely critical.” This certainly provided for much excitement due the prevailing wind and every worsening sea conditions. When enquiring about the competitors’ thoughts on the night stage of the Trans Agulhas from Gansbaai to the new harbour in Hermanus, the general feeling is that it’s very dangerous and could ruin your entire race, so critically it is important to be conservative and just get safely to the other side as you don’t need to damage your boat this close to the end stage.
STAGE FIVE: 1st January 2012 LEG: Hermanus to Strand
TOTAL DISTANCE: 131 km Stage 5 (Hermanus – Strand), traditionally the make or break leg for many once again proved itself for its rough and difficult conditions as the boats headed out from their start in Hermanus towards Gansbaai. According to Sakkie Schrader (99M – Masters Class), “The swells were enormous and we were against the swell with the wind pushing strongly from behind, causing boats to be sucked into the holes”. After turning at the checkpoint in Gansbaai, the competitors were able to control their circumstances a little easier, as the wind was lifting boats assisting the competitors from being pushed into the holes. During this leg, there were two checkpoints and three beach stops, with Onrus beach stop causing havoc due to the short beach and huge onshore breaks. Due to these extreme conditions, Stage five saw the fall of seven boats from the Trans Agulhas Challenge. VICTORS AGAIN! M44, David Barnet and Tjaart Oosthuizen in their Battery Energy Drink sponsored Ceasar powered by Yamaha, were victors once again for the 8th time in this year’s Trans Agulhas Challenge. They were the only boat to complete this gruelling Challenge in less than 11 hours and secured the title of Overall Winners in this the 24th Trans Agulhas Challenge, securing the King of the Waves title along the way. Stefan Lindeque and Tony Ingram in their Boost Performance/CA Components sponsored Aquarius powered by Tohatsu, victors in almost every inflatable boat race, were able to secure their first Trans Agulhas victory in the Blueprint Class. This was a tightly contested Class, and had it not been for Wimpie Ackermann/Whitey Louw (55 – Imperial Cargo) flipping their boat during stage one, this class would have been contested to the very end.
This was Wimpie Ackermann’s 20th consecutive Trans Agulhas Challenge – he is a true Legend! For more information, contact Nathan Browne at the Bridge Brand Marketing on firstname.lastname@example.org or 083 232 8542
Overall Results: P750S Standard Novice No. Pilot/Co-Pilot Sponsor Boat Time S47 de Bod/Fernhout Robertson Abattoir Aquarius 12:23:20 S91 van Tonder/van Tonder Simonsberg Metal Infanta 13:31:49 S44 Malete/Ndinga Viking III Aquarius 14:23:02 P750S Standard No. Pilot/Co-Pilot Sponsor Boat Time S55 Matthee/Lombard Guerrini MC Ceasar 11:16:52 S98 Smit/Theron Mweza/PlantHire Gemini 11:41:09 S40 Kriel/Kriel Welverdiend/Big5 Ceasar 12:03:14 P750 Blueprint No. Pilot/Co-Pilot Sponsor Boat Time 1 Lindeque/Ingram Boost/CA Comp Aquarius 11:18:56 55 Ackermann/Louw Imperial Cargo Ceasar 11:47:05 100 Schrader/Carstens Globeflight Gemini 13:47:16 P750M Modified No. Pilot/Co-Pilot Sponsor Boat Time M44 Barnett/Oosthuizen Battery Energy Drink Ceasar 10:47:43 M47 de Bod/Kotze Robertson Abattoir Thundercat 11:25:45 M109 van Wyk/Gouws Marlow Trio/Goswell Gemini 11:41:25 MASTERS No. Pilot/Co-Pilot Sponsor Boat Time 1M Cloete/Steyn Heins Motolek Infanta 11:16:24 99M Schrader/ May Gemini Zapcat Gemini 12:55:54