Trans Agulhas

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After 19 attempts and more than 15 000 gruelling kilometres in a bumpy rubberduck Wimpie Ackermann and co-pilot Whitey Louw (Imperial Cargo) finally tasted success when they conquered the world’s toughest inflatable boat race – the 2010/2011 Trans Agulhas Challenge.

This year marked the 23rd Trans Agulhas Challenge, and as per tradition, the race kicked off in Plettenberg Bay on the 28th of December 2010, and concluded five arduous days and 720 km of battering surf later in Cape Town’s Strand area. Prior to the event, unfavourable weather reports predicted that a “tougher than usual” race awaits this year’s pilots. Psyched and ready for action, a total of 28 competitors lined up along Hobie Beach near Plettenberg Bay for the 08h00 flag drop on the first day of the race.

This year marked the 23rd Trans Agulhas Challenge, and as per tradition, the race kicked off in Plettenberg Bay on the 28th of December 2010, and concluded five arduous days and 720 km of battering surf later in Cape Town’s Strand area.
Prior to the event, unfavourable weather reports predicted that a “tougher than usual” race awaits this year’s pilots. Psyched and ready for action, a total of 28 competitors lined up along Hobie Beach near Plettenberg Bay for the 08h00 flag drop on the first day of the race.

Trans Agulhas

1st LEG

Plettenberg Bay-Mossel Bay (186 km)

The first leg of the challenge was a demanding 186 km from Plettenberg Bay to Santos Beach, Mossel Bay, and only 25 pilots made it to Santos. Willem Strydom and Willem van Tonder, Johan Lodewyks and Bertie van Huyssteen and a local team from Grootbrak, Callie Jordaan and Wally Redpath, ran into technical trouble and did not finish at Santos Beach.
Three teams received a DNF (did not finish) on the first day’s racing. No competitor wants a DNF on their card as another DNF on any of the remaining long hauls will means that the team is out of the race!
As a roaring swarm of 50 HP motors came blaring down the beach, the first boat to arrive at Santos was the Blueprint Class team of Stefan Lindeque and Phillip Brink in their Aquarius inflatable in a time of 2:45:36. They were followed three seconds later by Wimpy Ackerman and Whitey Louw in their Ceasar inflatable in a time of 2:45:39, also in the Blueprint Class.
The first boat home in the Standard Class was the Wild Africa Cream team of Eugene Vorster and Kosie Taljaard in their Aquarius boat in a time of 2:52:45. In the Modified Class, seasoned Trans Agulhas winners Dave Barnett and Tjaart Oosthuizen finished in a time of 2:43:03.

Dave and Tjaart have won the Trans Agulhas Challenge for seven consecutive years, and this year, the dynamic duo was once again top favourites to claim the crown.
However, several mechanical difficulties prevented them from having the same impact on the race as in previous years.
Rookie racers Rikus Roux and Jacques de Lange in their Infanta boat finished the first day’s racing in a time of 3:01:09. They race in the P750S Standard Novice Class, which was established by Club Agulhas for first time racers to encourage youngsters to participate in a class of their own and not compete with the hardened racers.
Since 2009/10, because of the difference in engine capacities, the starting line up for the boats had been staggered. The Standard Class (P750S) was scheduled to start at 08h00, while the Blueprint Class (P750) and Modified Class (P750M) started at 08h05 and 08h10 respectively. This is done for every long haul race of the five-day challenge.

2nd LEG

Trans Agulhas

Mossel Bay-Still Bay (86 km)

On the 2nd leg of the race (29th December 2010), Mossel Bay to Still Bay, everyone woke up to pouring rain. In Still Bay, the rain continued and visibility was poor. It was clear that conditions weren’t going to improve any time soon. All competitors were instructed to travel to Still Bay via road.
The conditions remained the same at Still Bay and an area bound long haul of 30 km was run in the bay, using the SAPS Task Force and the Special Forces from Langebaan’s safety boats as turning buoys with a beach check point on Lappiesbaai Beach to create excitement for the spectators.
After a long day’s racing, the surf race was called off in Still Bay. This is where Dave Barnett and Tjaart Oosthuizen received their first DNF, which proved to be very disappointing for this experienced team.
Still Bay proved to be troublesome as the Special Forces team of Viking 1 (Gemini) had to change co-pilots after Domenic Scarcella was injured during the long haul event. Adrian Farrell continued racing with Sinbongiseni Sithole from there on.

3rd LEG

Still Bay-Struisbaai (161 km)

The third leg of the race, from Still Bay to Struisbaai is a crucial leg in determining the final result. The day broke clear and racing commenced as planned. A strong wind was gusting in Struisbaai, but this neither deterred pilots nor spectators as a typical buzzing crowd gathered at Struisbaai’s beach.
In all the years of his participation in this event, it was the first time that Tiaan Vermeulen won this leg. Tiaan and Theo Rischbieter in their Plaaskem-sponsored Caesar boat was victorious while Barnett and Oosthuizen received their second DNF on this leg, which unfortunately, took them out of the event.

Trans Agulhas Flip

4th LEG

Struisbaai-Hermanus (133 km)

On New Year’s Eve, pilots lined up from Struisbaai to embark on the fourth stage to the Old Harbour in Hermanus. Of the 26 boats that started from Struisbaai, only 23 managed to reach Hermanus after heavy seas and big surf gave the pilots quite a pounding! The first boat in was Stefan Lindeque and Phillip Brink in their Aquarius in a respectable time of 1:58:20.
At around 20h45, pilots geared up for the traditional New Year’s Eve night race, which is done from Gansbaai Harbour across the bay to Hermanus’ New Harbour. First boat in was Tiaan Vermeulen and Theo Rischbieter in their Ceasar boat in a time of 18:54:00. In a close battle for second spot, Wilhelm Rabie and Paul Roux emerged on top.

5th LEG

Hermanus to Strand

Trans Agulas

On New Year’s Day, heavy misty conditions made visibility poor and subsequently cancelled the long haul event. Competitors went via road to Gordon’s Bay Harbour for the long haul event to Pringle Bay with three beach stops at the Strand.
Despite the fact that Club Agulhas, organisers of the event, didn’t announce an overall winner, Wimpie Ackermann and Whitey Louw’s winning time of 9:51:26 was the quickest of all the competitors and nearly 5 minutes faster than second-placed Stefan Lindique and Phillip Brink with their time of 9:56:42.
“The Trans Agulhas isn’t all about speed, and I believe that our fitness and preparation contributed to our success. The Challenge is also very psychological and our mindset was right,” Ackermann told Die Burger.
“The seas were never exceptionally rough, but poor visibility made it very challenging. I think on the first day of the challenge we made our breakthrough going past Knysna. We used the conditions to our advantage and grabbed the opportunity with both hands,” said Ackermann.
Ackermann and Louw finished second in the first leg, and then took victory in the second and third leg and again second spot in the fourth leg of the challenge. To view the official final results of the 2010/2011 Trans Agulhas Challenge please visit

2010/11 Trans Agulhas may have proved disappointing for legend duo Oosthuizen and Barnett, but…

Plenty has been said in newspapers about the disappointing finish of the respected and legendary rubberduck racing duo of Dave Barnett and Tjaart Oosthuizen (M44 Battery Energy Drinks Racing Team). Some even suggested that this might be the end of their long, illustrous career. But following them closely throughout the five-day Trans Agulhas Challenge, I thought I’d shed some light…

1st LEG – Plettenberg Bay to Mossel Bay (186 km)

Adrenaline levels were high as the flag dropped on the first leg. Water and wind conditions were favourable – Dave and Tjaart were racing from the start. It was at Swartvlei that Dave and Tjaart decided to become more serious.
They gained a couple seconds lead in the first Long Haul event – an enormous result considering that an engine mounting had broke and top speeds could not be established at times. However, this was only the start of their mechanical headaches.

2nd LEG – Mossel Bay to

Still Bay (86 km)

Mother Nature triggered unfavourable weather, and a safety decision was agreed upon to cancel this leg of the race and continue to Stilbaai with the boats on trailers.
On the final lap, David and Tjaart acknowledged the end was nearing and anyone could still reach the finish line first. Crowds were cheering, when all of a sudden, a moment of silence as everyone held their breath. Tjaart and Dave’s boat had flipped on a sand bar – throwing both of them out of the boat.
Fortunately, there were no injuries. A few minutes passed as David and Tjaart calculated what would happen if they do not finish the race. What would the penalty be? Do they flip the boat over and start the motor? This proved impossible as the engine was wedged into the sand.
Together, they decided to call for help to assist with getting the boat on land. Frustrated and disappointed, they politely asked supporters to give them a moment or two to gain perspective on the situation.
After a while, the duo came to the realisation that the race is far from over. They requested assistance from their supporters and after numerous attempts to clean plugs and the draining of sea water, the engine started and they took the boat to the harbour. With the knowledge that a lifeline had been used [DNF], the team’s focus remained in order to rebuild and salvage the situation.
At 22h45 on 27 December 2010, Michael Hammel completed the rebuild process of the motor. A committed and focused Team went to sleep with the knowledge that the following day’s leg was right up the duo’s alley and that lost minutes could be made up.

3rd LEG – Still Bay to

Struisbaai (161 km)

The race began in the knowledge that there was a 13-minute time difference between them and the first position. David and Tjaart kept their focus, and before long there was not a boat in sight. They were leading the leg of the race. Every aspect seemed to be working in their favour – the water conditions, boat set-up, prop selection, etc.
As they neared Arniston, the race changed completely. The engine had stopped working. After numerous attempts from both team members they failed to start the engine, waves began drifting them towards the rocks. After 45 minutes, the realisation sunk in that they needed to make it to shore as the waters had started to get extremely rough.
They called for backup, but were stuck behind dunes whilst waiting for assistance. In this time, David never gave up! He swopped and tried so many things to get the motor going – until Tjaart indicated that the problem could not be fixed, it was the charge coil. It was time to put the engine cover back on and make peace with what had happened.

Upon arrival in Struisbaai, they went directly to the beach to find out what the result of the incident meant for their team. It was their second DNF – which meant that they could not participate any further in the challenge. Sadly, this would mark the first time since they began racing – approximately 10 years ago – that they would have to pack up and go home without completing the full race distance. This didn’t damper their spirit towards the sport however – for the remainder of the race they visited some of the locations to give their support and show their interest remained fixed on the sport – a sign of true sportsmen!

Trans Agulhas Winners

Will David and Tjaart be back for the 2011/12 Trans Agulhas?

Many assume it’s simply a fact that Dave and Tjaart will do well when they race – very few may understand the time, dedication and sacrifices that these two men give.
The Trans Agulhas is a fast-paced, action-packed watersport event which sees the endurance and physical fitness levels pushed to the limit. Both David and Tjaart were consistent in training and preparations included a 300 km run at Blouberg, Cape Town, over weekends in tough conditions.
An approximate distance of 1 500 km had been covered whilst practising with their Ceaser inflatable boat, Yamaha engine and with the technical assistance and guidance of Michael Hammel.
A great deal of planning and structuring is carried out prior to the Trans Agulhas. The boat is inspected by Ceaser Inflatables; the engine is rebuilt – utilising parts sponsored by Yamaha – by Michael Hammel, safety equipment is inspected; etc.
There is no doubt that these two legends will be back in December 2011! They have begun planning and with the assistance of Battery Energy Drink, they are roaring with energy! This sport means a lot to these two best friends, and they will be better prepared than ever. I know there’ll still be plenty of adrenaline-packed racing from the two best pilots in the world’s toughest inflatable race.


The 2010/11 Trans Agulhas will be remembered for the sad end to the consecutive period of dominance by veteran pilots Dave Barnett and Tjaart Oosthuizen. With recent reports of negative press, insider and close friend Nathan Browne says that despite their disappointing result, the sport’s two top athletes still have plenty of fight left in them…
During the first leg of the Trans Agulhas, Tjaart and Dave’s boat had flipped on a sand bar – throwing them both out of the boat.
“Dave never gave up, until Tjaart indicated that the problem could not be fixed – it was the charge coil” Tjaart and Dave’s engine troubles just got worse, and they dropped out of contention!


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