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Holiday 23 MastersBy Allan Rosenberg

Today is the 28th April 2021. One day after the Holiday 23 Vaal Dam Masters event, and I have empty nest syndrome, after a 3 months build up to one of the best annual sailing events on the dam.

This year we had 20 boat entries and 48 hungry mouths to feed. The itinerary had to be designed with Covid in mind so all socializing was planned outdoors.

I arrived at Stilbaai Yacht Club at 7:00 am of Day One thinking I'd get there early to launch my boat. It looked like someone had shaken up a bee hive, there was so much excitement and action with 8 boats lined up ready to be launched. Elbow greetings turned into hearty hand shakes and hugs were done with caution but that's what family do.

Our Bridge boat was a small 3 meter rubber duck with a 40 horsepower motor. Roger and Jenny Saunders volunteered to do the Bridge and by the time they reached Muster mark, they were both drenched having to contend with 26 knot winds and those dreadful Vaal dam waves. In spite of this, on Saturday 24th April - 11h00 sharp the 5 minute hooter sounded. The long awaited Masters had begun.

Most boats had a first reef in their mainsail and the ones that were macho enough to face 26+ knots with full main,  may have regretted their decision. Our 23 foot boats are as tough as nails and came through unscathed with the exception of Mike Mcwha on Bob who blew a mainsail before the race even began. Russell Bridger on Sands End traditionally holds the title of being the unluckiest H23 sailor "what can go wrong will go wrong on Sands End". He too had his furler sail ripped out of the aluminum channel but was easy enough to feed back after we reached Pennant 9 Club. The downwind blast was fantastic fun, but it kept a number of skippers and crew on their toes, with more than just a few managing spectacular handbrake turns.

The Bridge Boat (duck) which was lent to us compliments of Leisure Marine, also had a fateful ending with one  pontoon colliding with a sharp edge of a moored yacht. As fast as that unfortunate incident happened, Phillip Jones from Leisure Marine arranged to have the duck trailer brought from Stilbaai to Pennant 9 and loaded. The problem disappeared as fast as it happened without any negativity aired.

Jillian Wittstock from Athena was carrying the biggest badass camera I’ve ever seen so she volunteered her professional photography services for the weekend. Thanks to Jillian, another problem was solved.

Good news just kept on falling into my lap. I had a call from Sue Mcwha (Bob) telling me that their mainsail was fixed and they would rejoin the fleet at Muster for the 4th race. Without the swift assistance of Alex Schön from Texwise, this would not have been possible. Thanks Alex and well noted.

A wonderful evening was shared at PNYC with lots of sailing war stories being exchanged. A braai with salads and a desert had everyone content. The over catered food was donated to the local needy community of Vaalmarina. A feeding scheme that the H23 Owners Association have significantly supported for the past year.

A mini prize giving to recognize the first 3 boats over the line followed dinner. Included in the night’s itinerary was a fun lucky draw with sponsored prizes ranging from R350 - R1500.

The fleet summed up the first day as extremely successful with excellent wind being the cherry on top.

Sunday morning everyone was recharged after a hearty breakfast and ready to go.

We delayed the 10h00 start by 15 minutes as we had to wait for Russell (Sands End) to replace two mainsail sliders that popped while hoisting the sail.

The start from PNYC saw a spinnaker run up to Big Bend, then a close reach all the way to Muster Mark in a steady 6-8 knots.

After regrouping we had an interesting 2nd race with a few wind shifts. There were boats stuck in windless holes whilst 20 meters away boats were moving at 4 knots. Alan and Berna Foden on Freya pulled off their signature maneuver by hugging Government Farm shore line, up went the German flag spinnaker and they arrived at LDYC on one tack, way ahead of the rest of the fleet. All we could do was watch that gold medal 1st place chocolate melt away in front of our eyes. Rodney Alport (Shenanigans) was well aware of Freya’s sneaky move and decided to follow their line which gave them an easy second place. Jenny Saunders on bridge took the initiative and loaned the LDYC ferry and driver, to scribe the results.

Dinner was plated at 18h00 and once again, there was an abundance of drinks and laughter.

Then followed another daily prizegiving and lucky draw where sponsored substantial prizes were won.

The itinerary that night included a world’s first – a ‘yacht silent disco’ where each crew member was given a pair of wireless FM headphones to enjoy the livestream entertainment on their own boats, hosted by internationally renowned DJ Tony Brinsford seen here on the right, DJ-ing from his H23 Cockpit.

Many boats followed the disco theme and had coloured flashing lights onboard. It was a unique experience to hear 50 people shouting, singing and clapping in unison from all over the bay – in apparent silence. This was the most appropriate Covid party I’ve ever attended.

Monday morning’s weather seemed designed to suit the itinerary.  We had planned to break another H23 ramp up record by mooring all 20 boats together out on the dam, and then forming a circle. The coordination was pre-planned and the entire maneuver was perfectly executed. 

Photographs were taken from water level as well as some beautiful drone shots.

The majority of the fleet remained moored such for most of the morning and waited for the wind.

The last race of the Masters would start at Muster and head clockwise around the island and finish at Stilbaai. There was a pleasant entourage of speed boats and yachts to cheer the competitors over the line.

Most of the boats found a swing mooring and were collected from their boats by Thys Venter the Stilbaai Manager on a huge barge that could take 18 people, whilst a few Stilbaai boats and the visiting Midmar boat were slipped.

At 18h00 everyone gathered at the Clubhouse for a Curry and Rice dinner followed by the final and main Prizegiving.  

Signs of fatigue were evident amongst some, but the Holiday 23 ‘houding’ and ‘gees’ was very much in evidence with Rodney Alport excelling as MC, and Dennis and Gavin of ‘Lemon and Limelight’ entertaining us royally.

Seen on the right here is the crew of Snoopy Too, winners of the ‘Three Wallies Award’, Neil, Anja and Nathan Edwards, newcomers to the H23 fleet.

Due thanks were extended to the committee for staging a most successful Masters event, covid et al, and those who sponsored prizes and cash for the event, as well as those Vaal Dam Clubs who played host to the event.


1st Overall:      PANDA – Phillip Jones, Aidan Jones, Clinton Cousins

2nd Overall:     SKYLARK – Richard and Anel Button

3rd Overall:      FREYA – Alan and Berna Foden

Pictured Below: Overall Winners of the 2021 Holiday 23 Masters..  PANDA, along with previous Winner Richard in his Tutu, making the award. 

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