The Cape to Rio Race

As an incurable romantic I have always enjoyed the following story.



The second Cape to Rio race took place in 1973. Included in the field was 73-year-old Kees Bruynzeel, who had suffered three heart attacks in the year leading up to the race. So determined was he to take part, he took along a nurse specially trained in heart emergencies as a member of his crew on Stormy.

The race favourite was Ondine, skippered by American Huey Long, while Voortrekker had been re-rigged for the race.

Ondine gambled by sticking close to the rhumb line – the most direct route – while Stormy skirted the South Atlantic high, with Voortrekker electing to race a little north of her.

After a week, Ondine ran into trouble and her daily mileage dropped dramatically. Stormy, meanwhile, was fairly consistent.

By day 21, Huey Long had had enough and he made the decision to retire Ondine from the race so that she could keep her other appointments on the racing calendar.

Stormy took victory in a record time of 21 days, 15 minutes and 31 seconds. On corrected time, she clocked 19 days, 18 hours, 20 minutes and 18 seconds. Jakaranda was second across the line, followed by Omuramba more than three days later.


A couple of extra facts from my admittedly questionable memory which may (or may not) be true:

1. Stormy was one of the smaller boats in the race and, as such, wasn’t amongst the pre-race favourites.

2. Kees was quite prepared to die during the race. It was rumoured that his crew had instructions to bury him at sea, then continue with the race.

3. The boat arrived earlier than anticipated, so there was no welcoming committee.


Chuckles adds:

Remember it well. I saw the start of the 1979 race, as I was in CapeTown getting married at the time, and we had an apartment on Beach Rd, Mouille Point near the lighthouse.

1 comment for “The Cape to Rio Race

  1. Amfortas
    January 15, 2013 at 00:47

    “…..Ondine gambled by sticking close to the rhumb line – the most direct route –….”.

    The Great Circle is the most direct route. The Rhumb line is just easier to navigate as it crosses the longitudes at the same angle each time. You just stick to the original heading.

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