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SOUTHERN CHARTER YOUTH NATIONALS - HERMANUS DECEMBER, 2011

The Southern Charter regatta got off to an excellent start on Monday with a large fleet of South African Sailing (SAS) recognised youth sailing classes seemingly almost "filling-up" Stofvlei. The three courses when all the yachts were on the water together seemed to span the length and width of this beautiful salt-water vlei, also known to some as Kleinriver lagoon. Sunny conditions prevailed and a light and highly sailable breeze of about eight knots cooled the air. It was an inspiring and record-breaking sight of note. On the surface everything seemed to be running smoothly. Anyone knowledgeable about what goes on behind the scenes in organising sailing regattas would know that seldom happens. However, there was an almost calm in the air while the two hundred and plenty youth prepared their craft for launching in anticipation of the first race of this premier championship event. Meantime a large crowd of parents and other supporters took shelter from the summer sun on the clubhouse veranda and under the Bedouin-style tent that had been perfectly positioned so as to offer an optimum vista of the unfolding events and quiet excitement that is so typical during the closing minutes before such an important regatta gets fully underway.

 

The welcoming function on the Sunday evening went off very well indeed. Some of us arrived at the proverbial 11th hour having driven up to Hermanus from Cape Town after having been involved in one way or another at the start of the Volvo Round the World Race on Table Bay only hours earlier. The snacks at the HYC welcoming function were delicious as well as plentiful and the regatta seemed poised to be a great success even at this early stage. During the early evening final entries had topped the number of competitors at an incredible 210 yachts, much to the delight of the organising committees. With many of the competing yachts sailing double-handed there are at least an estimated 250 or so youth sailors in and around the yacht club premises right now. These sailors combined with their supporters have made for a large crowd indeed, together with lots of "gees". It has been many, very many, years since competitive yachting in South Africa has seen such a lot of such positive activity and energy at a premier sailing event. Congratulations and "well dones" need to be heartily communicated to all concerned who have been involved in the planning, organising and unfolding execution of this milestone championship event.

 

Where does one start to describe what's been happening on the banks and waters of Stofvlei? Well, there are 11 different "fleets" of yachts representing some nine "classes" if one would allow some licence in terms of defining such that are participating in the event. Some of the yachts are "single-handers" e.g. the Optimist and RS Tera classes - while others are sailed by a crew of two e.g. the Hobie 16 and the 420 classes. An amazing 32 clubs spanning four countries are represented at the championship... If this regatta is testimony to what is happening to the sport of yachting in South Africa and in youth sailing at that, it is definitely alive and quite well - and growing for certain. A huge responsibility for the administrators and organisers of sailing in South Africa both now and in the future for sure if the Southern Charter Youth Nationals is any barometer of the current state of reviving health of this important sport that is so close to the hearts of many that understand the meaning of the love of the water.

 

 
     
Loyiso Jamda and Simthembile Mbana sailing for Izivungu preparing their 420 dinghy for the first race on Monday   Michael Caroline with his beautifully
prepared Dabchick - Benoni S Club

 

On Monday, the first official competitive sailing day of the regatta, the sight of this immense youth fleet was amazing for certain. Whether viewed from the water, shore or mountainside the sight was spectacular indeed. The historical legendary figure Hermanus Pieters, history tells us, used to ply the elephants (Olifantspad) path annually from the now Caledon area to the ocean shores of modern day Hermanus and after whom the famous tourist town is named. Then he used to marvel (on his way to do some fishing) it is said at the spectacular green landscape and numerous blue-water streams leading to the sea. On Monday there is no doubt that he would have been very well-pleased if he was to have seen the amazing and beautiful sight of all the yachts competing for championship points on Stofvlei.


And incredibly, as the young sailors were competing on the waters of Stofvlei in this important Southern Charter Youth event Monday afternoon the Volvo yachts were thundering past the coastline off Hermanus only a few miles away on their challenging journey to Abu Dhabi.

 


Groupama, hotly followed by Camper passed close by Hermanus during Monday's Youth Nationals event

 

With Groupama in the lead and Camper only one nautical mile or so off the transom of the leader one could only reflect upon the "humble" beginnings that these often so-called modern "rock star" extreme sport sailors had themselves when they too were in there youth. Many of these now famous and aspirational sailing ambassadors who pit their skills against the elements at the cutting edge of the international competitive yachting world "cut their very own teeth" in youth classes - and gained their experience step-by-step, percentage by percentage, at youth-type events, internationally. One wonders who, where and how many of the young sailors competing in the Southern Charter event on Stofvlei, Hermanus on Monday will become the future sailing "greats" of our world in the years to come...

 

Southern Charter Youth Nationals December, 2011

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