North Sails LOFT NEWS
Story Contributors: Shane Elliott
TNT DEFENDS CAPE 31 TITLE
Tactician Gareth Blanckenberg Shares His Winning Perspective
The fourth edition of the Cape 31 Invitational Regatta took place in the stunning venue of Table Bay in Cape Town, South Africa. Gareth Blanckenberg, tactician onboard the defending champion TNT, first sailed on with Tina Plattner and Tony Norris in early 2018, soon after the boat was launched. “They are quick and super fun to sail,” he says. “Since then, the fleet has grown considerably in numbers and ability. The speed differences are much narrower, and boathandling has progressed considerably.”
Only six points separated TNT from second place Nitro. “The boats are very evenly matched,” Gareth explains, “which keeps the racing tight and brings the excitement. I can’t remember not enjoying a day’s sailing on them!”
“The boats are very evenly matched which keeps the racing tight and brings the excitement. I can’t remember not enjoying a day’s sailing on them!”
The first two days were sailed in a 10-15 knot westerly and flat water, which made for a very one-sided race course. “That can be tricky to manage. It puts a premium on starting well and managing your lane out of the start, and similarly downwind—managing your lane and not getting locked out in a corner.” Though the team struggled a bit on day one, consistent finishes on day two moved them from third to first. When the final day of racing had to be called off due to 30+ knots of southeasterly breeze, they were declared the winners.
Local class rules specify the use of paneled sails only and forbid the use of carbon. Along with nine of the boats in the ten-boat fleet, TNT’s inventory was entirely North Sails using the standard setup of Mainsail, J2, J4, A2 and A3.
Though TNT won the Cape 31 Invitational in 2019, the team had a different mix of crew this year. “Tony Norris and Matt Whitehead were part of the winning 2019 team, so it shows the value of having a strong core and surrounding yourself with capable people that you have confidence in and enjoy. We have all been friends for 20+ years, so it was an absolute pleasure to spend time with these guys, doing what we love; massive thanks to Tony for putting it all together.”
The class sails once a month in Cape Town, so the TNT crew is looking forward to the next day of racing. Meanwhile, for all the new Cape 31 teams eager to ramp up their game, Gareth recommends spending as much time together on the boat as possible. “Refining your maneuvers and getting to know the boat will pay dividends. There seem to be a few different ways of thinking across the fleet in terms of setup and trim, yet we all arrive at the top mark at the same time!”