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A New Era Dawns

Aug 2019

A New Era Dawns

The Lipton Challenge Cup sailing event is this country’s most iconic yacht racing regatta, with its origins dating back to 1909 when Sir Thomas Lipton gave the South African Sailing Community the magnificent Lipton Cup trophy.

The opening paragraph of the Deed of Gift says: “Know all men by those present that I, Sir Thomas Lipton, of London, England, for the purpose of encouraging yachting in South Africa, and especially in the way of friendly contests in sailing and seamanship in deep sea yacht racing, do hereby give to the Table Bay Yacht Club of Cape Town, Cape Colony, the silver Cup delivered herewith”.

At the same time, Sir Thomas left a trade mark which may be described as Rule 1 of the yacht racing rules.

The essence of Rule 1 is: “Competitors shall keep in view the ordinary customs of the sea and discourage all attempts to win a race by other means than fair sailing and superior speed and skill”. In this highly commercialised sporting world of ours this is perhaps of more than passing interest.

This year is the 66th Lipton Cup contest with competitors seeking to win this 110 year old trophy exclusively for inter-club competition.

While Sir Thomas spoke of “friendly contests”, the regatta has always been a very tense affair with no quarter given at any time on the water. Yet despite the closeness of the on-water competition, the rivalry has always been friendly.

To date just 5 separate classes of yacht have been designated as Lipton Cup classes. This year sees the 6th change of class with the super-fast, super-slippery and most modern up-to-date Cape 31 racing yachts being raced for the first time.

For many years there had been concern about the continued use of the L26 class yacht as the Lipton Cup boat, but there was no alternative choice until the Cape 31 was developed by Sir Irvine Laidlaw in 2017. Designed and built to cutting edge technology, the concept piqued the interest of many top yachtsman, and quickly a 14-boat fleet was built and launched. The racing has been so close and competitive that the Cape 31 was quickly touted as the next Lipton Cup boat, with the yacht clubs of South Africa voting for its inclusion in 2018.

And with this change of boat, has come a complete rejuvenation of past sailors coming back to the competition with the intention of winning. Many of the great names in the sport locally, and in terms of being Lipton Cup winners, have emerged and are racing highly competitively in the Cape 31.

The above, coupled with the fact that the Lipton Challenge Cup races are all a minimum of 12 nautical miles, makes it a very tough competition as races might last as long as 2 hours, with no respite. Concentration, supreme fitness and complete team work are simply a few of the ingredients that will be required to lift the Lipton Cup this year.

The defending club is the Royal Cape Yacht Club who accepted the challenge from the Royal Natal Yacht Club to contest the Lipton Cup for the 66th time.

One stand-out sailor worthy of mention is Rick Nankin who at the age of 69 is the oldest skipper in the fleet. Yet despite his age he comes with a massive pedigree in the Lipton Cup and sailing in general. He will be competing in his 25th Lipton Cup regatta, and is the only person in the fleet to have sailed in the last four designated Lipton Cup classes – those being the 30-Square Metre in the ‘70s, the 1/4-tonners in the early ‘80s, the L26 and now the Cape 31. Plus he has won the coveted cup as skipper on several occasions.

Like Nankin there are others with a rich vein of success in this regatta, but simply too numerous to mention.

The big question is who will win? That’s simply too close to call, and which is why its going to be a ‘must follow’ regatta this year with interest already aroused throughout the sailing world.

Follow the Lipton Challenge Cup as follows:



The regatta will take place from Sunday 4 August to Saturday 10 August in Table Bay. The first race is on Monday 5 August. The host Club is the Royal Cape Yacht Club.


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