Seventy-seven year old Gawie Fagan and his crew have finished the Cape to Rio race

For 77-year old Gawie Fagan and his crew the finish in Rio highlighted the highs and lows of ocean sailing. Laying becalmed off Cabo Frio twice, it took the smallest yacht in Cape to Rio fleet, the 9-metre Suidoos 2, almost two days to complete the final 100 nautical miles to the finish line in Guanabara Bay. Fagan sailed across the finish at 18h05 (22h05 SA time) to set an elapsed time of 26 days 7 hours and 5 minutes.

But according to Fagan, it also brought him his personal highlight of the race. “Except for surfing at twenty knots, the beers on arrival brought by the committee boat and having my wife Gwen to meet me in Rio were definitely the best parts of the race,” said a triumphant Fagan.

“The event lived up to my expectations in all respects, except with the disappointment of very poor winds, which made for a slow race. Fortunately our tactics paid off right from the start. Instead of taking the safer northerly route, we took a gamble and risked a marginally shorter southern course. We were lucky in not landing ourselves into too much calm weather, which did happen to most of the other competitors,” mentioned Fagan.

Fagan reported a fairly undramatic 3,400-mile journey, except for bumping into a floating tree and getting the keel and rudder caught in fishing long-lines that were not marked at all. “I missed regular sleep and especially water from a tap as we had to pump each litre by hand using a manual sea water desalinator and obviously I can’t wait for a nice shower,” said Fagan.

Asked whether he would do the race again, Fagan laughed and said: “Only if the committee allow Octogenarians and if I could have the same excellent crew of my son Henry, as navigator, Brandon Smith (who turned 20 during the race!), and Jamie Waters (21) from Port Elizabeth. I was obviously concerned about crew safety and also that the young members might not be able to take the continuous strain. They both turned up trumps.”

Fagan also has words of wisdom for other potential Rio hopefulls. “Our boat is not only the smallest, but certainly also the cheapest in the race. Costing less than the average second family vehicle, I hope we have proven that without sponsors, most young people could afford to fulfill their dreams to sail in the Cape to Rio race.”

Now it becomes a game of wait-and-see for Fagan and his crew. Before the start of the race, Fagan was definitely a local favourite for handicap honours in the IRC class – not only for sentimental reasons, but because he did it before during a Cape to Uruguay race. Sailing experts predicted that a crossing time of under 25 days would make Fagan a serious contender for the South Atlantic trophy.

Should the same fate befall current handicap leader Baleka, Suidoos 2 might well be able to take the coveted trophy home.