In 2017, the exquisite Lipton Cup was awarded to RCYC's team after a week of tough racing in Table Bay. Photo: Ashleigh de Villiers

CAPE TOWN – Four local teams from the Western Cape: the Royal Cape Yacht Club (the defending team), RCYC’s Sailing Academy sailing for Langebaan Yacht Club, UCT Yacht Club as well as the all-girls Team Tiletoria, sailing for Zeekoevlei Yacht Club, have entered the annual Lipton Cup sailing competition and after weeks of preparation and training, they will be heading towards Natal next week. 

The Lipton Cup Challenge is regarded as the most prestigious of its kind. The only true ‘national’ sailing competition in SA, with yacht clubs even as far as Namiba and Mozambique being invited to take part, the Lipton Cup boasts a rich history. 

Sir Thomas Lipton – the famous tea merchant, genius advertiser and Americas Cup contender, but most of all, enthusiastic yachtsman and promoter of offshore sailing as a sport for all - donated an exquisitely ornate, huge gold-plated trophy to the Table Bay Yacht Club more than 100 years ago. That club, situated in Cape Town’s harbour and now named the Royal Cape Yacht Club, serves as the guardian of the most valuable sporting trophy in Africa.

2017 winners RCYC in the foreground, with the RCYC's academy team right behind them. In the background, all-girls 'Team Tiletoria' can be seen with their conspicuous black sail. Photo: Ashleigh de Villiers

Held every winter, with last year's regatta sailed in Table Bay, the Lipton Cup challenges teams to compete against one another according to precisely stipulated sailing instructions, contained within a document called the ‘Deed of Gift’, written by Sir Thomas himself. Some of the requirements, as stated by Lipton, are the following:

Every yacht club can enter only one team.

Yachts have to be of a similar design. Currently, the Lipton Cup is being sailed on locally produced L26’s; a robust, though dated, 26-foot boat. Plans to change to a faster, more modern boat are in the pipeline for the future.

The event is to be held offshore in winter, therefore, if an inland yacht club wins the trophy, they nominate a coastal club to host the challenge the following year.

There are no discards – i.e. teams are forced to focus on consistently performing at their best, as every race will count towards the end result. This makes the Lipton Cup not only unique but also extremely suspenseful.

Realising they have won the Lipton Cup 2017, the team from RCYC congratulate each other aboard their boat. Photo: Ashleigh de Villiers

The winning team nominates a coastal club where the next Lipton Cup is to be held. Although the Royal Cape Yacht Club’s team were last year’s winners, they offered Durban’s Point Yacht Club to host this year’s challenge, as one of RCYC’s past victories was scrutinised and disqualified by a jury last year. PYC, the runners up of the year in question, did not get to host the Lipton Cup that year and were thus given the chance to make up for the missed opportunity in 2018.

The Lipton Cup draws some of the best sailors of the country every winter, and the contenders are often youngsters. The event also welcomes diversity in terms of race and gender amongst team members.

All in all, the above elements contribute to render a special, addictive energy to the Lipton Cup Challenge, and every sailor of the 17 teams who have entered will be dreaming of holding the famous trophy on the 13th of July, the final day of racing. 

Back in Cape Town, local sailing enthusiasts will be following the action to see whether the Lipton Cup is coming 'home' again this year.

Sport Reporter

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