Cape to Rio 1976 – Blue Shadow of Mauritius

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Blue Shadow at the start of the Cape to Rio 1976 – the footage of her is approximately 2 minutes into the video

Yves Betuel with supporters and crew shortly before departing for the Cape to Rio regatta.

  • Left to right:
    Gerard Maujean president of Grand Baie Yacht Club at that time. (Gerard and his wife Odile flew to Cape Town for the start of the race, and later flew to Rio to spend some time with the crew there. )
  • –  Dennis Taylor of Taylor Smith and Co. Ltd – partially sponsored the team. (Not a crew participant.)
  • –  Guy HUMBERT ( Cape to Rio team member, now deceased )
  • –  Philippe MONTOCCHIO ( team member, now deceased )
  • –  Yves BETUEL wearing white cap (captain, now deceased )
  • –  Michel DE SPEVILLE (not a member of the Rio crew but was on board Blue Shadow with Philippe , Guy, Yves and brother Eric to sail from Port-Louis to Cape Town.)
  • –  Jean MERLE ( team member)
  • –  Eric DE SPEVILLE ( team member)
  • –  Rio Team members not in group shot above: Paddy ROUNTREE and Alain ROUILLARD

Memories of this event from crew member Alain ROUILLARD

(Alain Rouillard Interviewed by Jennifer Griffiths)

AR: It was a great pleasure for me to read your mail as it brought me back to the year 1976 when we all were so very excited to compete in the Regatta Cape Town to Rio on ” BLUE SHADOW ” with Yves Betuel as our Captain. We shared wonderful moments together. I only have these three pictures to forward to you, hoping that they will meet your expectations ?? (pics of 2 plaques and one of launch day)

JG Was it true that you did such a fast time to Cape Town that Yves was expecting to win but then attempted a too direct course to Rio and were de-winded for a few days by a high pressure system?

AR: Yes, Yves had such great hopes. And at the start of the race in Cape Town, instead of heading north west to catch the wind and turn Saint Helena island, Yves took a risk and chose a more direct route to reach Trindade island, but that didn’t work and we were de-winded for almost a week. But later, in Mauritius, Blue Shadow won so many yacht races in 1977 that she was awarded “Boat of The Year ”.

JG: Thank you so much for your first hand confirmation. What was the mood like in the boat during this week of mid Atlantic „lockdown“ ? Did everyone respond similarly? How many days did it take before you all surrendered to your fate?

AR: When Yves realised that we were entering a ‘ de-winded zone ‘, he told us that the situation would become very difficult and that we should control ourselves. We were sailing at 2 knots and had not much work to do on board…but, we had no problems as we were seven good friends and had an excellent and friendly captain. We took 23 days to reach Rio.

(JG: to get an idea of the extent to which the crew were dewinded, Blue Shadow took more or less the same number of days to cover a similar route while cruising not racing in 1981.)

Team : Yves BETUEL ( deceased )- Guy HUMBERT ( deceased ) – Philippe MONTOCCHIO ( deceased )

JG: I heard that Blue Shadow was shipped back in a container. Did the crew and Yves all fly home or also go home in the ship?

AR: Philippe Montocchio, a member of the Mauritian crew, was the skipper on board – with 2 guys from Rio, to sail from Rio back to Cape Town after the race. Then, from Cape Town, Blue Shadow was shipped back to Mauritius on the Rogers Trader, a cargo belonging to the Rogers Group, a Mauritian Company, and then Philippe flew back to Mauritius . Yves and the rest of the Mauritian crew flew back to Mauritius from Rio.

JG: Who sailed her from Mauritius to Cape Town in record time before the race?

AR – Yves Bétuel, Michel and Eric de Speville, Philippe Montocchio and Guy Humbert.

From the log book of Yves Beutel 1976.

It is 1330 on Saturday the 10th of January in Cape Town. The sun is shining and there is a moderate wind blowing. The public address system seems to have been hijacked and strange voices come bellowing forth: ‘’ Good bye Suidoos, see you in Rio, good luck Junior Kaap, bye bye Daboulamanzi… Yachts leave their berths one by one and motor out through the anchored boats full of well-wishers. The marina is starting to look empty and in front of us Gum Drop is casting off. 1340! It is time to go. The last visitors leave the boat and wave from the quay. Fore and aft lines are slacked and Blue Shadow is moving. As we leave the yacht basin, Pen Duick VI is just ahead of us and Eric Tabarly is busy with his camera.

The time is now 1515. We have been out past the breakwater and its tiers of spectators, past the pleasure boats full of camera-clicking occupants. Now we have gone about and are heading back to the start line. All is ready; each one of us has been told his task. Ahead to port is S.A.S. Fleur the committee ship and over there is Protea the guard ship. Ahead is the red buoy at the end of the start line. Ten seconds to go. Five, four, three, two, one, BANG! We are off to an excellent start.

Ondine is at the end of the line to starboard and Pen Duick VI to windward and a little astern. As we race to the first mark, spinnakers are broken out to port and starboard and we break our own ‘’all white’’. Here is the mark! Down spinnaker, leave the mark to port and haul in the sheets. We are carrying too much canvas; down reacher, up number two. We are a bit slow and loose a few places. On a visual count we are about 16th. A last wave to our Mauritian fans Gerard (Maujean) Odile (Maujean) Martine (?) and Mico (Sauzier) who were on a pleasure boat.

The wind drops at about 1730 and so, up goes the genoa and a staysail. Night falls and so does the wind. Down genoa and up drifter and we move nicely. A green light to port, two red ones to starboard. The one nearer drift past and recedes behind us. Another two follow; we are moving up again in the fleet.

La suite du récit est sous forme de journal de bord avec mention de quelques dates. Pour les besoins de ce petit blog, certains textes ont été raccourcis.

Sunday 11th: It is cold and wet in the cockpit and the sea is a little rough. Philippe and Guy clocked up 35.2 miles during their watch, thus establishing a target for the others.

Monday 12th: We hear on the radio that Passat has been dismasted and is short of fuel. We appear to be well up the fleet at the moment. We will learn later that in fact we were 4th overall.

Wednesday 14th: It is getting warmer. Great joy on board since we learn that we are 10th overall and 12th on handicap.

Saturday 17th: Very little wind since Wednesday. It is hot day and night. We have erected an awning over the helmsman. Alain and Jean spring cleaned the galley. This morning Philippe caught a big dorado which provided two excellent meals.

Tuesday 20th: Wind at last! We are making 7 or 8 knots again. We have tried every possible sail combination: floater, blooper and mainsail; Floater and blooper; Number 1 Genoa and mainsail and finally Floater and mainsail when the blooper was torn by a wave. Eric, Paddy, Philippe and Guy patched it up. We have now dropped to 52nd overall and 77th on handicap. The skipper has altered course to find more wind up north.

Tuesday 22nd: Alain and Jean achieved a 36.2 miles during their watch. A new record. At 0930 spinnaker halyard parted. Soon flying again on spare halyard. And soon parted again! Genoa poled out. Philippe went up the mast at daybreak and sorted out the damage.

Monday 26th: Variable winds in strength and direction since yesterday morning. Slight panic early this morning when we broached under spinnaker. (Unnamed crew member at the helm!) The skipper hurt his knee going out of his bunk in a rush. Alain saw a sail and Paddy another one. Turned out to be Red Amber and Cloud Nine. Nearly broached again courtesy of another anonymous crew member. All part of the game.

Wednesday 28th: We learned that Ondine arrived in Rio in record time. Peri Banou not far from us hit a whale and a crew member on Nibama had to be transferred to the South African Navy guard ship Protea. Suspected stroke.

Friday 30th: Passed 60 miles north of Trinidad island. The Nibama crew member died on board Protea and messages of sympathy are coming through over air waves. Paddy spotted a light ahead of us during the night. In the morning it was behind us and it turned out to be Mainstay and the skipper immediately christened her Backstay. Mayday call received from Italian yacht Awa. S.A.S. Protea and Brazilian navy ship Gustavo Martino converging on latest position.

Sunday 1st: Strong winds since Saturday. Good progress. Last night Eric and Paddy broke the watch record with 36.3 miles. Philippe and Paddy left all soapy while showering under a rain squall which suddenly stopped. As of Saturday we were 32nd overall.

Monday 2nd: Sighted Cabo Frio lighthouse at 2130. Wind dropped nearly completely but with many sail changes we keep moving. The South African yacht Daboulamanzi is just 50 yards behind us. Here at last is Point Apuador and the finish line. We get a gun and work out that we must be 31st overall. The crew is all smiles; we cheer and congratulate each other. 23 days, 0 hours, 3 minutes and 24 seconds to cross the Atlantic.

Thanks to Pipo Lenoir, manager of GBYC, for contact addresses of surviving crew members, Betuel’s log and press photos.

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