- 02 May
Point Yacht Club
Slugged as the ocean Comrades race, the 47th Vasco da Gama that started offshore of Durban last Thursday, with Durban North’s Neville Bransby lining up at the start line on his yacht, Ocean Spirit.
Bransby, an old warrior of the water, loves nothing more than to be far offshore on his beloved yacht. In the October storm last year, having watched the weather predictions, the old seadog singlehandedly headed offshore to hone his skills first handed in the storm conditions. All the weather predictions were incorrect in regards to the winds that whipped through Durban.
He returned several hours later, a little bit battered but full of stories having survived the epic conditions that lashed the coastline. Both Bransby and Ocean Spirit handled the conditions bravely and made him ready for any big weather that could be dished up on his next big sailing adventure.
Fast forward six and a half months, Bransby and his crew were one of eight yachts that began the hard core blue water ocean race that spans 400NN down to Port Elizabeth. This was Bransby’s fourth consecutive Vasco. In the record breaking race in 2017, Bransby finished fourth on line honours last year in a time of 51 hours, 13 minutes and 54 seconds. He was second on handicap in the cruising class. He was awarded the Rubicon Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship last year. The two years prior, he co-helmed with Trevor Donald on Deo Volente, a Lavranos 36.
Since the October storm, Bransby has spent most of his free time meticulously preparing his cruiser and was fully ready for the challenge that the Vasco is.
Ocean Spirit got off to uneventful start, rounding the Fairway mark, popping her kite and setting her sights firmly on the finish. Conditions at the start were a pleasant 15knots Northeaster, Bransby opted to stay inshore for the first leg but broke free of the coast as the winds dropped and headed seaward, benefiting heaps from this tactic as she stormed down the coast into third overall.
The weather Gods tossed an array of conditions at the adventurous fleet, dismasting one yacht, shredding the main sail on another and a rogue wave knocking a helmsman off his wheel, slamming him onto the deck.
Representing Point Yacht Club, Bransby and co were sailing exceptionally, when they discovered they were taking on water near East London. The team were unsuccessful in detecting the leak and made the tough but wise choice of retiring from the race and making their way into East London.
Only two yachts out of the eight strong fleet made the finish line, with five yachts retiring between Port Edward and East London and the yacht Chinook returning back to Durban on the first night after losing their mast.
Taking line honours was the uber-slick Durban entry, Phezulu flying the Point Yacht Club burgee, and sailing an impressive race was the smallest yacht in the fleet, earning the 2018 handicap honours, Bernard Farmer from the Royal Cape Yacht Club was the absolute champion on his Seaport Supply DARG Shadowfax.
The next race taking place offshore of Durban will be a long haul race on Sunday 20 May, and the local fleet will be hoping that Bransby will be on the start line with a shipshape Ocean Spirit.
For more info visit www.pyc.co.za or like the club’s Facebook page.
Pictured at the start of the 2018 edition of the epic blue water ocean race, the Vasco da Gama, Durban North’s Neville Bransby tackles the long distance race to Port Elizabeth.
Pic by Sophie Thompson
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