The Cape 2 Rio is to South African yachting what the Cape Epic is to mountain biking; the Comrades Marathon to road running; the Midmar Mile to swimming. It’s the iconic test for South African sailors. It’s the race by which yachtsmen and women measure themselves by. It’s a significant challenge.

The next edition of the event starts on 1 January 2017. It will take competitors from Cape Town to Rio, almost 6000km across the Atlantic Ocean. The record is held by Italian Giovani Soldini and his crew on the 70-foot Volvo 70 and stands at 10 days 11 hours 29 minutes and 57 seconds. That’s quick, but a long time to be in race mode. Among many things, it requires experienced minds, physically fit bodies, reliable equipment, trusted gear, huge commitment and significant preparation and planning.

The Cape 2 Rio is not an annual event, which makes it an even more significant race for yachtsmen. There have been 12 editions since the inaugural race in 1971 and the event attracts all of South Africa’s finest along with many international crews. Winning the race is a truly big deal. It gets extensive media exposure beyond sailing circles and just finishing the demanding event gives yachtsmen and women a significant sense of achievement.

The Vulcan crew is competing in a number of local build-up races for Cape 2 Rio, including this weekend’s Spring Regatta and next week’s Mossel Bay Race.
Photo credit: Trevor Wilkins

South African yacht Vulcan is one of 23 entries so far (entries close on 1 December 2016). It’s a modified GP 42 mono-hull and will have a crew of eight for Cape 2 Rio. After an extensive conversion from inshore to offshore mode during the winter months, the crew took the boat out for a run on the final weekend of August.

Former Cape 2 Rio competitor and now co-skipper and helmsman, Francois Kuttel, sailed for the first time with the team. He familiarised himself well with the boat and spent some time on the helm to get up to speed with driving the super sensitive GP42.

“The last Cape 2 Rio I did was a lot of fun, but there were only two of us. I thought it would be great to be on a competitive boat this time with a real chance of winning. Last time was to prove that I could do it. This time I really want to win it, as does this committed crew. And this boat is perfectly suited to it!” said Kuttel.

“After about four months of modifications to our GP 42 to make the boat compatible for offshore racing, we finally got our team back on the water for some essential rig tuning and sail testing. In what was very light to moderate conditions, we managed to check out the brand new A2 gennaker, built by North Sails. This design of sail will become one of our most important downwind sails for the Atlantic crossing,” said co-skipper Hylton Hale.

The Vulcan crew is competing in a number of local build-up races for Cape 2 Rio, including this weekend’s Spring Regatta and next week’s Mossel Bay Race.
Photo credit: Trevor Wilkins


“Francois got a bit of time on the helm, just to get him used to the boat. I’m sure he’s going to be fine. We didn’t test any electronic stuff today. We literally just checked sails and got the rig back in column and tuned properly. We will be sailing around to Simonstown soon for the Spring Regatta as well as the Cape 2 Rio qualifier, which is the Mossel Bay Offshore Race. We’ll take our full Cape 2 Rio crew, except for our two overseas based sailors and there we’ll test electronics as well,” added Hale.


Part of the crew’s preparation is a change in diet to ensure they’re more reliant on nutrient-rich, satiating natural fats. This will help them with long-term focus and lower the risk of energy dips, which can affect performance. The Noakes Foundation along with Pathcare Laboratories tested the crew in July and developed appropriate diets for each crew member to ensure he or she is optimally nourished, based on the low-carb, high-fat principles. It is estimated that the crew will burn 7 000–8 000 calories per day, due to their metabolism never slowing down as a result of the non-stop race format.


The Vulcan crew is supported by Helly Hansen, the world’s leading all-weather sportswear brand. Helly Hansen is a Norwegian-based global brand that’s the No.1 choice for men and women taking on extreme physical and sporting challenges where the weather plays a significant role.


“We are proud to be a partner of the Vulcan crew and are looking forward to ensuring they are appropriately kitted to manage whatever conditions the Cape 2 Rio throws at them. Helly Hansen is a brand that has significant credibility in sailing, starting from when the brand was launched in 1877 to decades of involvement with the Volvo Ocean Race,” said Erwin Winter of Helly Hansen South Africa.


“Confidence in your apparel is exceptionally important. We know that in Helly Hansen gear, the Vulcan crew will be as well prepared as possible, both during their preparation and the Cape 2 Rio race itself.


The crew comprises a 17-strong squad from which six, plus two international professionals will be chosen to compete in Cape 2 Rio. The Cape 2 Rio team currently is Carl Richter, Colin Whitehead, Francois Kuttel, Hylton Hale, James Largier, Johnny Cullum, Sarah Mecoy (USA International), Shaun Pammenter (RSA International).


Follow the team’s Cape 2 Rio progress on Facebook: Vulcan Sailing and the Cape 2 Rio Yacht Race; and on Instagram: vulcansailing_cape2rio.