Trans Agulhas Challenge fetes 35 years of world’s toughest inflatable boat race

It’s an institution on the beaches of Southern Cape coastal towns: every year on December 28 at 8am, the Trans Agulhas Challenge (TAC) kicks off with sonorous and colourful fanfare. And this year will be no different, albeit with the added festive bonus of the race’s 35th anniversary.

Officially titled the Six Gun Grill Trans Agulhas Challenge powered by Iconic Mossel Bay, the race is recognised as ‘the world’s toughest inflatable boat challenge’. As per the previous 34 occasions, contenders will set off from Hobie Beach in Plettenberg Bay for the first of four action-packed race days, before finishing at Strand Beach on December 31.

The six-stage 700km course leads from Plett to Mossel Bay (Stage 1 total distance: 188.5km), Mossel Bay to Stilbaai on Day 2 (Stage 2: 86km), Stilbaai to Struisbaai on Day 3 (Stage 3: 161km), and then on to the Strand finish line. On Day 4, the total distance covered is 223km (Stages 4-6) and the day’s three-tiered challenge will see boats racing via Uilkraalsmond and Gansbaai en route to Strand Beach.

First finishers are expected to arrive around 12 noon, and then the balance of this year’s 35-odd crews will moor their ducks for a well-deserved breather and closing ceremony. Apart from stage and class winners, the overall winner of Six Gun Grill Trans Agulhas 2023 will be the crew finishing the entire race in the shortest time.

But let’s backtrack a bit to the harbour town that serves as first stop on December 28: Iconic Mossel Bay has come on board with all guns blazing, and is gearing up to welcome TAC participants, their support crews and families with arms wide open.

After having left Plettenberg Bay at 8am on the 28th, all boats should take about 2.5-3 hours of serious surf time before hitting Mossel Bay’s shores at Santos Beach. According to TAC organiser Stefan Lindeque, several fun activities are planned to entertain spectators in the run-up to the racers’ arrival.

“We’ll have gas braais on the beach so invite Mossel Bay locals and visitors to join our Braai-off from 8.30am onwards as we await the boats’ arrival. Around noon, we will start with the King of the Waves competition – a high-speed race sure to throw up lots of spray in the bay, and therefore an excellent spectator sport!”

Iconic Mossel Bay will also pull out all the stops on the day, with Mossel Bay Tourism teams on the beach to welcome onlookers, a hospitality tent for Very Important People, and merch giveaways to make sure you’ll have something to remember the day by.

In fact, says Lindeque, many of the competitors and organisers will be based in Mossel Bay from December 26 already, having settled in at the Van Riebeeck sports grounds in preparation for registration and sundry pre-race checks.

“Registration will officially take place on the 27th before an opening event at 1pm, when we will welcome all the teams and do the official race briefing,” he explains. Some teams will drive to Plett that evening to avoid the early trek before the 8am race start.” He adds that the Van Riebeeck grounds will serve as hub for campers from December 26-28, before the boats hit the surf again at 8am on the 29th, direction Stilbaai.

But before going on their roaring way, crews and spectators will be treated to a delectable taste of Iconic Mossel Bay. Mossel Bay Tourism promoters will accompany their Trans Agulhas colleagues all the way from Plett and Nature’s Valley beaches, past Knysna, Swartvlei and Wilderness, to Glentana and Hartenbos.

At all these venues, the Mossel Bay Tourism team will encourage beachgoers to step up and spectate the boats’ arrival, and get up close and personal with crews of the most experienced kind, as well as the rookies tackling this world-toughest challenge for the first time this year.

Among them will be Wilco du Preez – a true son of Mossel Bay, and skipper of a craft sponsored entirely by local businesses, and co-pilot Christiaan Stopforth.  Visit www.trans-agulhas.com for everything you need to know about the Six Gun Grill Trans Agulhas Challenge, powered by Iconic Mossel Bay.

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