The Trans Agulhas, described as the world’s “toughest and longest” inflatable boat challenge, proved as tough as ever with six of the 34 boats which started the challenge on December 28 failing to make it to the finish in Strand on January 1, 2014. It was the 26th time the Agulhas Inflatable Boat Club (AIBC) hosted the challenge, which takes place over a distance of 702 kilometres.
This year’s race marked the return of race promotor, Gerhard Meyer, after an absence of 11 years. In the “golden years” of this sport (late nineties and early 2000s) more than 60 teams, including several international outfits, participated in this prestigious event.
Due to a number of factors, including tougher economic times, many teams struggled to find sponsors over the last couple of years, which led to dwindling entries and fewer spectators. Gerhard has big plans for the race and has made it a personal goal to revive those glory days with more participants, bigger sponsors and entertainment for the beach-goers. He has put his money where his mouth is and one could already see a marked improvement in the 2013 challenge with more spectators, better media coverage, excellent branding, live entertainment and crowd participation.
“We received very positive feedback from both the participants and the spectators. Even though I’m satisfied with the 2013 race, there’s still room for improvement, but we now have a solid base we can work from.” Gerhard expressed the hope that bigger sponsors would start returning to the Trans Agulhas, which has the potential to become a world-class event.
Unforgettable highlights of the 26th Trans Agulhas challenge: – The public got to experience the Trans Agulhas for themselves. By ‘liking’ the official Trans Agulhas Facebook page, they could win two laps on board one of the team’s boat;
– The dramatic rescue of a bather by the pilot of Team Rusgenot, Dreyer van Niekerk. The team experienced engine problems and had to row to shore in Wilderness (along the Garden Route). Seconds after reaching the shore, Van Niekerk had to swim back in to rescue a girl who was swept into sea by a strong current;
– The 2013 challenge was supported by capacity crowds along the route. The race was also followed internationally via social media;
– The participation of 11 novice teams;
– Near-perfect weather conditions on most days and a wind-still finish in Strand;
– The live performance by singer/ storyteller Andries Vermeulen at every overnight point.
According to the pilot of Team Imperial Cargo, Wimpie Ackermann, the 2013 Trans Agulhas was much easier than the last year, mainly because of the excellent weather conditions. The teams only experienced strong winds on the first two stages. “Thanks to the calmer conditions, we could reach top speeds of between 70 and 75km/h. It was fantastic,” Wimpie said.
Team Imperial Cargo was the overall winner of the professional stock class.
TRANS AGULHAS 2013 RACE REPORT
Stage 1 (Plettenberg Bay to Mossel Bay)
Distance: 189 km
Beach stops at Swartvlei, Wilderness, Glentana, Great Brak River and Little Brak River.
The first stage started at Keurboomstrand on December 28th in near perfect conditions, with the wind only picking up after the top teams have completed the stage. True to its legendary status, the race denied eight teams to complete the first stage, mainly due to mechanical failure.
Drama unfolded when the Rusgenot team of Dreyer van Niekerk and Floris de Kock rescued a girl that was swept into the sea at Wilderness. The team had mechanical problems and couldn’t complete the stage; and after rowing themselves to shore, van Niekerk ran back into the water to save the girl.
First over the finish line in Mossel Bay in a time of 02:59:33 was the First Road Emergency team of Dave Barnett and Tjaart Oosthuizen who participate in the modified class. Second to finish was Peter Groenenstein and Nichol Parr (Valumax/Amigos/Excellparts) competing in the stock class. Third home was the pro stock class entry Team Nulandis (Stefan Lindeque and Tony Ingram).