Atalanta – Cap-Martinique 2022, by Liesl King

On the 18th of February Atalanta, a 34’ JPK 1030 was loaded on a ship bound for Rotterdam. From there she will be taken by truck to Lorient in France. Her end destination? La Trinité sur Mer from where Adrian Kuttel and Gerry Hegie will be sailing her double-handed in the Cap-Martinique 2022 race, starting on the 1st of May. It will be Kuttel’s second attempt at competing in the Cap-Martinique. His initial attempt was to be a solo Corinthian effort in 2021, but Covid put paid to that idea, with the race being cancelled. A year later his focus is back on the Cap-Martinique, but the aim has changed slightly to a competitive double-handed effort, with Gerry Hegie coming on board.

“Sailing with Adrian is entertaining and fun. It has been a great learning experience”, says Hegie. Kuttel concurs: “We work well together, and we will be more competitive double handed.” That they are a lethal combination has been clear for all to see, with Atalanta winning the Mossel Bay Race, the Double Cape Race, and the Seajet West Coast Offshore Race.

The Cap-Martinique 2022, a single stage race over roughly 3800 nautical miles from La Trinité sur Mer to Martinique, is however a very different race from the ones they have been so successful in, here at home. Limited to a very narrow IRC band of 30’ to 40’ boats, the race is for single and double handed cruiser racers and each crew member must have completed a passage of at least 300 miles in solo or double handed configuration.

Being open to cruiser racers means that at least some “luxuries” such as stoves, bunks and heads are allowed, although the food will be “freeze dried all the way”, according to Kuttel. The race conditions meant that a fair amount of work needed to be done on Atalanta before she was ready to compete. The only “outside assistance” permitted during the race is Predictwind/tSquid/Avallon/Sailgrib/Zygrib/Dorado with remote routing. Tracking equipment is also specified with only Iridium Go or a SPOT Gen 3 or Gen 4 beacon being allowed. The fleet positions will be recorded and five times a day the sailors will be able to receive a file with all their competitors’ positions.

“We added Iridium comms that feed into a software program called Adrena, which will provide us with accurate weather routing and navigation optimisation” explains Kuttel. While they will be co-skippers, he admits that navigation issues will be mainly his domain, while Hegie is the “jack of all trades”. Valuable skills to have when sailing double handed.

The race is very environmentally conscious, for example, no plastic water bottles are allowed on board and each entrant must have a defined waste management plan, including where the accumulated waste is going on arrival in Martinique. With this ethos of racing environmentally friendly, they added an EFOY generator, that produces electricity by using methanol fuel cartridges, with the waste being mostly water and heat.

Further changes were the addition of a bigger main and jib and a water maker. Kuttel says it has taken quite some time to get the boat race ready with both boat and equipment having to comply with Category 1 of the World Offshore Racing Special Regulations for monohulls. This included a very extensive medical kit and with the language barrier in France, it was decided to source everything here. Finally, Atalanta also had her hull repainted prior to departure. The final tweaks will be done in France, with Hegie setting off shortly to meet the boat in Lorient.

Each competitor is also required to fly the flag of an association that provides community support and contributes to sustainable development. Kuttel and Hegie have chosen the Sentinel Ocean Alliance based in Hout Bay as their association. The aim of the Sentinel Ocean Alliance is to create ocean-based opportunities and environmental education to the previous disadvantaged youth of the coastal communities.

Kuttel and Hegie are looking to draw global awareness to this charity and the amazing work it is doing in implementing multi-faceted youth development programs. These programs address the challenges facing the youth of previously disadvantaged communities by establishing safe spaces for the children to learn, play and feel inspired. Teaching them to fall in love with the ocean, develop leadership skills and introducing them to the importance of making meaning full contributions to society, as well as understanding the ocean economy.

On the 16th of March the RCYC Commodore Neil Gregory handed over a burgee to the pair, as a well as RCYC sailing shirts and wished them and Atalanta Bon Voyage.  All that is now left is for Kuttel and Hegie to head to France. “We tested the boat properly during the RCYC sailing season. It won’t be a walk in the park as the French are experienced at the route and are very good sailors, but we are confident that we are ready”, concludes Kuttel.  Adrian and Gerry, we wish you well and we will be following your progress during the race with interest.

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