Ngalawa Cup: The Nuclear Option

Published on July 10th, 2017

The regatta is held in ngalawas, which are traditional fishing boats whose hulls are carved by hand from mango trees with outriggers lashed on. All modern technology is stripped away. The race snakes around the Zanzibar Archipelago for more than 400km off the coast of Tanzania

A reaction to an overdose of windward-leeward racing? Has the cost to compete gone too far? Is the evolution of our sport impacting its future? Is this race the nuclear option?

After two days race training, six teams pushed off on the 27th of June for the fifth edition of the Ngalawa Cup. Nineteen competitors, from seven different nations, pushed off from the Kilwa district in Tanzania, which you won’t find in many guidebooks, with the winners finishing on the 3rd of July in Nungwi on Zanzibar Island.

The Ngalawa Cup is what happens when you watch too many episodes of Survivor and The Amazing Race.

Success is a mix of sailing skill, grit, determination and improvisation; having to deal with broken yards, torn sails, capsizes and, in one instance, a rudder being washed away, not to mention the obligatory blisters, sand fly bites and sunburn that come with wild camping on deserted dessert islands.

The result was a thrilling race with a close finish, the second placed team coming in just over an hour behind the winners, after nearly 50 hours of racing. The third placed team came in seven hours later, despite having to haggle for a new sail mid-race, with the remaining teams sailing in the following day.

Each team had a story to tell about locals helping them fix their boats, offering invaluable advice or simply sharing a beer, and everyone was enthralled by some of the most incredible beaches and snorkeling on the planet.

“We came as regular people, now they are sailors and warriors,” said competitor Alberto Martinez. “We will never forget the people and this adventure, always in our memories, for the rest of our lives.”

 

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