St Helena Island may be one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet, but for the crews who have just tackled the 2022 Cape to St Helena yacht race, it’s been a thrilling trip of a lifetime.
Situated in the South Atlantic, nwest of South Africa, it’s taken just over two weeks for some of the crew to sail the 1,700 nautical miles (1,950 km) from Cape Town to St Helena.
Previously called the Governor’s Cup, the biennial Cape to St Helena yacht race was first conceived by Captain David Roberts, former Captain of the RMS St Helena, after watching the Cape to Rio fleet sail through Duncan Dock to Table Bay from the Royal Cape Yacht Club in 1996.
The first Cape to St Helena race in 1996 attracted 13 entries, with the second edition in 1998 securing a record 22 entries. For the 2022 race, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic, 12 competitors took up the challenge to race their yachts across the South Atlantic to St Helena.
It was Commodore Neil Gregory who fired the cannon at 2pm on 29 December to signal the start of the Cape to St Helena 2022 race. Heading into steady 25 knot winds and some lumpy swells at first, the crews endured extreme weather patterns, strong winds, rain squalls and heavy seas over the ensuing days on the ocean.
Daily reports to the Royal Cape Yacht Club from the fleet included entertaining descriptions of flying fish on deck, Christmas trees of oilies around the mast, and snack-bartering to sit night watch.
The first yachts were spotted arriving at St Helena on 6 January. Once again, it was Kevin Webb’s Banjo, winner of the 2018 Cape to St Helena race, who took line honours after a nine-day dash with the winds.
In an exciting dash to the finish, Di Hutton-Squire’s Tintin nabbed second place from Dale Kushner on Kia Paarl Fomo.
The leading three yachts were followed by Rocket and Compromise, who finished with just five minutes between them, proving the race is never over until you cross the finish line.
Naledi, the team with the youngest crew, was the sixth yacht over the line. Anna Scheder Bieschin celebrated her 12th birthday on-board on 2 January.
Anastasia, Serendipity and Sulunga finished seventh, eighth and ninth respectively, followed by Unwind and Suidoos II. Unfortunately, Assegai had to retire from the race after they sustained electronic damage and had to divert into Luderitz, Namibia. The final leaderboard results here.
Fortunately for the crews, it was then time to relax and enjoy the many attractions to be found on one of the UK’s oldest overseas territories.
Best known as the place where Napoleon Bonaparte as well as King Dinuzulu and some 6,000 Boer Prisoners of War were exiled, there’s plenty of fascinating things to do and see on the island.
“Be it hiking past soaring crags, exploring the seas, or uncovering its multi-layered history, St Helena is guaranteed to make even the most hardened traveller weak at the knees,” says Matt Joshua, Head of Tourism for St Helena.
For travellers keen on exploring an unusual bucket-list destination far from the crowds, Airlink offers weekly flight service from Johannesburg (JNB) to St Helena Island (HLE). Flight tickets are available on flyairlink.com and through all IATA-registered travel agents.