Sailing with Travis Taylor on the Governors Cup Yacht Race: “Only the seas can quantify that for a man.”
For me, the most powerful part of the journey was spending time with my father and finding comfort in knowing that, even though I’m a tiny creature in an endlessly vast ocean, there’s a purpose in my life far beyond what I can ever contemplate. Only the seas can quantify that for a man.
On 27th December 2014 seventeen yachts set off from the False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town to compete for the title of the 2014 Governors Cup. This race is a 2736 km (1477.26 nautical mile) yacht race from Simon’s Town, South Africa, to James Bay on St. Helena Island. Seventeen yachts set off for the race with heavy sea swells and winds gusting up to 40kts helping them on the downwind dash over the Atlantic rollers.
Amongst these 17 yachts was “Cool Runnings” a Baltic 42’, Masthead Sloop designed by Doug Peterson and constructed in 1986 by Cenmarine in Cape Town. This lovely 28-year-young lady weighed in at a nimble 8,5 tons. Her latest achievement had been a very good third in her class in the Cape2Rio after being battered in a storm for the first two days with her owner and captain Carel Jacobs at the helm.
What was particularly special about the crew on Cool Runnings is that the six souls taking part in this journey happened to be from 3 families:
Owner/Skipper Carel (52) and his son Pieter(26) Jacobs (Sailed the Cape to Rio and Med.(Croatia) Cape Town to Saldanha, Round the Island Vaal dam), Husband and wife, Franz(56) & Marina(54) von Moltke (Sailed Durban to Maputo, Med (Croatia, Greece, Turkey), Cape to Saldanha, Round the Island Vaal dam) and Father and son, Peter(57) & Travis (20) Taylor (PE to Cape Town, Cape to Saldanha, Coastal sailing, around the cans)
We asked Travis Taylor, the youngest crew member, what made him join this crew.
“My dad was offered a place as a crew member for the Cape to Rio yacht race in his matric year (about 40 years ago) but it fell through right at the end. Since then, it had been his dream to do Cape-to-Rio or an equivalent race, and at the start of last year (2014), both he and I were offered an opportunity to sail Cape-to-Rio on Cool Runnings. Shortly before, however, Nelson Mandela passed away, meaning that his leave was withdrawn while he helped to organise the processions. He was extremely disappointed about this, so when Carel offered he and I a place as crew for the Governor’s Cup, we jumped at it.”
Travis shared some of his epic journey insights with us.
“The majority of my sailing experience has been day races around Cape Town, so I’m used to highwind sailing and really enjoy the feeling of knowing what we’re doing is high-paced and dangerous. It didn’t cross my mind that the Atlantic could be absolutely still for days on end. One of my most frustrating and most awesome experiences on the race was a day when the sea was so flat and there was so little wind that you couldn’t tell the sky from the sea just because the ocean looked like a mirror.
Another big thing for me was that I have never had to sail with a harness on. In Table Bay, I run around on deck to do things as quickly as possible while racing, and have never seen the need for strapping myself to the deck, but I realised on the second morning that you’re in trouble if you fall overboard. You can see no boats, not lights and no land, and it hit me just how dangerous it can be at night when you can’t see more than 10m in any direction.”
Although it has always been customary for the yachts returning from St Helena to be transported, along with their crews, on the RMS St. Helena, Cool Runnings was one of the few crazy boats to sail all the way back home to Cape Town.
The return journey was not without challenges especially when the engine packed up on day three, meaning that the crew had to veer much further South-West than they had wanted to, extending their trip back by five days. Communication was cut down to one hour a day and the crew needed to tighten up on food and water rations towards the end.
We asked Travis if one needed to be an athletic or particularly involved in other water sports to be part of a sailing race like this, he shared some of his physical attributes and specialties of some of the crew with Amanzi Magazine- showing an obvious preference for water sports and the aquatic realm.
“I play waterpolo for UCT men’s 1st team and sailed 420s competitively for three months at school before having to stop when being elected Head Boy, but am finding the time to slowly get back into it. I’ve unfortunately never really had the time to get into surfing, but I’m going on a surfing roadtrip over Easter to Victoria Bay, so a friend is teaching me between now and then. This year’s bucket list also has a diving course on it, so I’m hoping to get some more time in the ocean in general this year. My dad, Carel and Pieter have sailed for years, Roger is the chairman for the South African Sonnet Association, and Franz is a diver who owns a mussel farm in Langebaan.”
Travis Taylor is clearly a guy who takes on physical and mental challenges. Not only does he study actuarial science at UCT, but he plays water polo for the best men’s team in the country, spends days running in the mountains, riding motorbikes on 4×4 tracks and just pushes his comfort zone in general. He however confessed that the Governor’s Cup was far and away the toughest challenge he has ever taken on. From the inexplicable feeling of being woken up at 2am to helm in wet, windy conditions after getting 2 hours of “sleep” whilst being thrown around in bed, to the long hours and inability to move more than 20m in any direction where keeping busy for all 24 hours of the day is just not possible.
Travis however says:
“But it was an incredible experience. I have a renewed appreciation for the small things in life. The sunsets were beyond incredible and the night skies danced to a tune I’ve never heard before. An amazing sense of comfort comes from knowing that you are – quite simply – in God’s hands for every minute of every day. I have a much stronger respect for the seas, and appreciate just how quickly the wind and weather can change, putting you in an extremely difficult situation. The bottom line is that an experience like this is only partly about the memories. For me, the most powerful part of the journey was spending time with my father and finding comfort in knowing that, even though I’m a tiny creature in an endlessly vast ocean, there’s a purpose in my life far beyond what I can ever contemplate. Only the seas can quantify that for a man.”
Co Author: Lisa Leathes