Checking the boxes for success

Published on May 23rd, 2022

The Cape 31 is a one-design yacht originally created for racing in South Africa, designed by Mark Mills back in 2017. While it got local traction in South Africa, it is now expanding with 25 boats sold into England and Ireland in little more than a year.

In a report by Andy Rice for Yachting World, he checks in with Dave Swete who is part of the small team promoting the Cape 31 in the UK. Here are some excerpts:


• Asked why the sailing world needed another 30-something keelboat, Swete replies: “I think it’s because it just ticks a lot of boxes. We believe that it’s the only class boat that’s winning on IRC and other rating systems at the moment. You can get this boat straight out of the box and go and win races. The Cape 31 won overall in Les Voiles de St Tropez last year, as well as a whole host of local events in the Solent.”

• Aside from the high-performance and handicap appeal of the boat, Swete and his partner, Dave Bartholomew, have pushed hard to establish a strong class ethos that focuses on having fun first and foremost. It’s an owner-driver class with a maximum of three pro sailors permitted on the crew, although Swete encourages teams to sail with fewer. “We’re all about matching the fun on the water with fun off the water, and we’ve taken it back to the yacht clubs.”

• Keeping it fun includes avoiding an arms race where teams might be tempted to tweak their boats up to – or beyond – the limits of the class rule. Swete says there is a strong policy in place to keep that in check, and he’s not afraid of chasing the wrong sort of owner out of the fleet if it threatens the overall ecosystem of good, clean Corinthian fun and sportsmanship.

• Swete acknowledges that launching a new class is in some ways the easy part. The greater challenge could come in maintaining longevity well beyond the honeymoon period that the Cape 31 is currently enjoying. “It’s about looking after the bottom third of the fleet and keeping them happy. We don’t really want teams to all sail with three pros. When you see team coach boats out on the water, I think that’s a very bad sign. It’s not something we’ve banned, but it’s highly discouraged.”

For the full report, click here.

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