It's called "the world's toughest inflatable boat challenge" and this year, the 26th annual Trans Agulhas Challenge will once again test both man, boat and machine.
More than 30 teams have already signed up for the 2013 race, covering a distance of 900km in five days. This gruelling race, hosted by the Agulhas Inflatable Boat Club (AIBC), is due to start on December 28 in Plettenberg Bay and set to end on January 1, 2014 in Strand.
When Sparks Esterhuyzen, well-known resident of Hermanus, first came up with the idea of organising an inflatable boat race of this magnitude, it was dismissed by many who believed it would be an impossible, dangerous quest. This did not stop three inflatable boat teams from entering the first Trans Agulhas Challenge in 1988. Today, 26 years later, the race is as popular as ever with many teams entering year after year.
Teams can enter one of four classes: the stock class; novice stock class, pro stock class and the modified class. To adhere to international standards, the standard and standard novice classes have been changed to stock and novice stock classes as from this year.
The 2012 winners have all signed up for this year's race. They are J Matthee and M van Geems (standard class winners, sponsored by Van Loveren); Peter Groenenstein and Nichol Parr (standard novice class winners, sponsored by Valumax, Amigos and Excellparts); Wimpie Ackermann and Whitey Louw (pro class winners, sponsored by Imperial Cargo); and Dave Barnett and Tjaart Oosthuizen (modified class winners).
Eleven teams have entered the Trans Agulhas Challenge for the first time this year and between them they'll be competing for the top position in the standard novice class. Last year's rookie winners, Peter Groenenstein and Nichol Parr from Gordon's Bay, will be competing in the standard class this year.
Each day the boats are expected to reach a number of check points before proceeding to the finish point. On day one, stage one (December 28), the challenge starts at Hobie beach and ends at Santos beach in Mossel Bay. The beach checkpoints on this stage are situated at Swartvlei, Wilderness, Glentana, Great Brak River and Little Brak River. Stage one is the longest in the race, spanning 189km.
On day two (December 29), the boats will have a beach checkpoint at Vleesbaai and Gouritz River Mouth before finishing at Stilbaai main beach. The total distance of stage two is 86km.
Day three (December 30), man and machine will be racing a distance of 161kms, stretching from Stilbaai to Struisbaai main beach, with a beach checkpoint at Witsand and Arniston/Waenhuiskrans in between.
Stages 4 and 5 takes place on December 31. The boats will head out from Struisbaai and check in at Die Damme, Pearly Beach and Uilenkraalsmond before finishing at a buoy checkpoint at Hermanus old harbour. After the surf race at 13:00, the teams have a couple of hours to do maintenance and repair work before they head off to Gansbaai for the night race, ending at Hermanus new harbour. Total distance covered on day 4: 135km.
The final stage of the 2013/14 Trans Agulhas Challenge over 131kms starts at 09:00 at Hermanus new harbour. From there on, the teams will race to Gansbaai harbour and back to Hermanus new harbour before heading out to sea. Beach checkpoints on the final stage are at Onrus beach, Kleinmond and Pringle Bay. After a final "fly by" check point at Gordon's Bay Harbour, the teams will head to Strand for the finish.
A festive atmosphere will be greeting the boats after every stage of the race, with popular singer Andries Vermeulen entertaining the crowds. The spectacular daily King of the Waves competition (taking place at 13:00 at every overnight point), promises to be a huge crowd pleaser.
For more information contact the Race Promoter, Gerhard Meyer – 082 802 7138