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The Gangs Of New York: News From The Dennis Conner Invitational

The Gangs of New York: News from the Dennis Conner Invitational

RCYC currently have a team that were invited to attend the Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge

We are very proud to have Andrea Giovannin, Markus Progli, Duncan Matthews, Shane Elliot and Henry Daniels representing Royal Cape Yacht Club in this one design invitational regatta in New York. The Regatta starts Friday 15th August through til Sunday 17th August. All the 20 teams attending are provided with a J24 for three days practice and to take part in this international competition.

Our first words of news from the team arrived on Tuesday, thanks Dre! It prooves to be some good reading …

The Gangs of New York: News from the Dennis Connor Invitational

It’s 6:30am and I have found a chance to fill all our supporters and sponsors in on our on goings in New York as we get ready for the 2014 Dennis Conner International Invitational.

The guys have gone for their morning run, leaving the hostel where we are staying quiet for the first time in a couple of days.

The entrance – where there is an empty bar and 4 or 5 TV’s hanging on the wall in a lobby that is only 6m x 4m – is an odd sight. Why is there a bar that doesn’t stock beers? Why are there TV’s strewn up on the walls where clearly 1 could entertain everyone who can fit in the lobby? And why is there such drastic video surveillance everywhere? These questions were answered when we found out up until 5 months ago the hostel was a brothel that was shut down by complaining residents!

The other guests in the hostel have adopted our accents and slang phrases. We thought it was because our delightful way of talking was contagious. However we realized that the Mexicans and other 3rd world countries that frequent this fine establishment thought our actual names where “bru” and “pal”.

Every evening we cruise down to the basketball court across from our brothel to hang out with the locals. There are these unofficial games that go down where money changes hands and intense games of basketball are played by local gangs from Harlem and the Bronx. Of course we didn’t know they were hardened street gangs and also that quite a lot of money changes hands when you play. To us it just looked like a fun game of touch rugby between friends. We started out shooting hoops with our new friends and joining teams. They didn’t believe we had never played b-ball before and you take it for granted in South Africa where ball skills are just part of growing up. They were amazed when we joined teams and can hold our own in this game of hustle and street rules. Duncan has become one of the favourites when he took a 6ft 6″ African American guy, who apparently played College ball, clean off his feet! This earning the team who had adopted Duncan and myself a cool 100 dollar bill! We maybe should not be playing with these guys when money and blood changes hands regularly. How are we to know that these guys are hardened gangsters, maybe the tattoo’s on the one guys face was a clue or the fact that when the police came for a routine drive buy half our team jumped over the fence and ran away? We were a bit disappointed to be left on a court by ourselves now and they took the only ball we had to play with. Maybe we shouldn’t be playing with these guys, but to be honest it’s such a cool game we carry on going back every night to shoot some hoops. And tonight I am sure our team mates “shafreek”  and his friends “toothpaste” and “biggy” will be expecting our help to defend the court!

We have been doing some sight seeing and tourist stuff on the way to the sailing. The yacht club is based right next to where the twin tower buildings were. We have hung out at Time Square and spent a morning at the Museum of Natural History. Central Park is a cool place to eat lunch from the local hot dog suppliers. Chinatown is pretty crazy and the pizza in Little Italy seems better than the one we had in Milan on our lay over flight. This place is a melting pot of all the various cultures from around the world. It is also the most expensive place we have ever been to, with a beer costing a smooth 8 dollars, which is basically R100 a pop.

The sailing side of things is tough, we have been allowed only 3 training days, as there is a rule on how much each team can use a boat. We have used up 2 of them, and our last one is scheduled for Thursday, which will also include a practice race.

We race on the Hudson River, where there is 4 knots of current that takes some getting used when rounding marks and choosing lay lines. The training on a boat we have never sailed on in a venue we have never raced at is all about absorbing as much information as possible in the least amount of time. We have made some massive finds that will stand us in good stead when the event starts on Friday.

The international teams have all started arriving. This event they invite 20 international teams from every corner of the globe who are amateur sailors. The term amateur is quite a loose term and according to the notice of race you may not be paid to do the event. However, this event has a star studded line up. The current J24 world champion is the favourite, with the 2012 European champion also described as a hot shot. There are the national champions from Germany,  Australia, and obviously the USA national champion is representing the host club. There are a host of other top teams from Asia, and us representing Africa.

We started out trying to copy the top J24 sailors, who hoist out of the back hatch and with the helmsman who trims the jib upwind etc. However, we have decided to turn our J24 in to an L26, as this is how we know how to sail. So we are the only team who hoists out the front hatch, we also cross sheet the jib, and a host of other L26 systems and techniques on this J24.

The current is our main focus, as when you have 4 knots of current surging down the course you end up going upwind at 2 or 3 knots in real distance and doing about 13 knots downwind. You constantly feel like you flying until you look up at the incredible New York skyline and realize you are still 100 meters away from the Statue of Liberty, which is where you started. When the current turns the other way. Doing 10 knots upwind makes the beats quick, and the racing feels like a majority downwind race.

The boys are back from there run now, so we going to head off to see some sights and grab a bagel.

Best regards from the team of Vulcan Racing, powered by Choose Life High Performance Sailing, representing RCYC and the 9 club members who donated to us to get us to New York!!!

We thank you for your support and contributions that allowed us to go and compete in this event and hope to do you all proud.


To our families and girlfriends,  with 8 dollars a beer, we will be home soon!


Dre, Markus, Henry, Shane, Duncan


We eagerly await some more news and wish the guys great sailing!

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