Hobie Mid-Winters East Regional Championships

 

Commodores Cup Stories

The Agony and the Ecstasy 1997 and 1998 

By Danny Steyn


Kim and I had just started sailing together and the 1996 Commodores Cup was our first real race together. That year we had a pretty good leg up to the Lighthouse with our 25 year old Hobie 16, Phuza Moya. In fact we rounded the mark in 3rd place to our great surprise. On the return leg we slowly dropped back and couldn't figure it out. At the finish trying to pull the boat up the beach, we found out that our starboard hull was full of water and that the reason we had done so well on the outbound leg was that we were flying the starboard hull keeping it from filling up.

So we prepped the boat really well for the 1997 Commodores Cup. Actually what we really did was sell Phuza Moya and bought a new Hobie 16, Jabula Manzi. With so much boat preparation, what could go wrong?

danny-kim-commodores-cup-1997.jpg (79069 bytes)Well like most Commodores Cups, the awaited Sunday dawned black and foreboding with the usual offshore swirly northwester. Just after the start several boats flipped over in the gusty conditions. Kim and I pitch-poled Jabula Manzi three times in quick succession, really putting a smile on Kim's face. The forth time was the kicker! We buried the hull, pitched forward and Kim went flying chest first into the mast. I got flung all the way past the bridle wires landing about 10 foot from the overturned boat. 

I started swimming towards the boat while Kim, now in great pain, hung on in determined fashion. With all the cold weather gear slowing me down, I wasn't closing the distance between me and the boat fast enough as the offshore wind was slamming into the upturned hulls and driving the boat away from me. After several minutes of swimming I got to within just inches of the mast and made a desperate lunge, just as a gust pushed her out of my reach. For ever! 

From then on I was treading water just beyond the swimming buoys in my foul weather gear hoping the life jacket would do its job and not sink like Phuza Moya the previous year! The wind quickly pushed the Hobie out to sea, and all I could do was yell to Kim to hang on for dear life.

Our antics had not gone unnoticed on the beach. Remember I was treading water only 1/4 mile past the start, and just beyond the swimming buoys, but Kim and my precious new boat were slowly disappearing over the horizon out to sea. Well OK, maybe not the horizon, but they were out beyond the tankers in less than half and hour. 

With the offshore winds blowing in my direction, I started to hear the sirens as several fire trucks, ambulances and paramedics vehicles arrived on the beach determined to wake up the hotel residents with their cacophony. Fat good it was doing me as I treaded water and watched my expensive new boat disappearing from view!

Around the 45 minute mark, I noticed a wonderful sparkly new Coast Guard cutter making its way North on the horizon looking for Kim. Great crew that she is, she told them to leave her and first pick me up and they headed East towards the beach to find me. The polite young guys hauled me out and we turned around to go and pick up Kim. Their plan was to pick up Kim, see if they could tow the boat back in, and if not, leave it out there. So to be polite I nodded my head, climbed up the bridge and enjoyed the bouncing ride. 

As we got close to my shivering crew and precious new boat, I dived off the bridge, surfaced, turned around and waved to thank my rescuers. I joined Kim on the hull, who was by now in fine smiling form, and together we righted the Hobie and clambered aboard the trampoline.

"Sheet her in" I screamed to Kim, "Its not over yet, we can still win this thing!". This was not exactly what she was waiting to hear, and the choice vocabulary that excited that sweet mouth of hers is just not fit for this fine family website.

So like two drowned rats, in complete silence, we limped back to the beach. From what I remember of that race, Willie Stolberg was the only Hobie to make the Lighthouse and returned the winner.

Over the next few days the Steyn household was very quiet. I just couldn't accept that we had quit and lost the trophy. Kim on the other hand, complete hypochondriac that she is, went off to the hospital to find out that she had cracked two ribs and bruised her sternum on the collision with the mast. Like that's an excuse not to finish what you start!

danny-kim-jabula-manzi.jpg (94098 bytes)Over the next 12 months, Kim and I slowly started making eye contact and by the time the 1998 Commodores Cup arrived, we had even begun talking to each other without the use of those choice words of contempt!

Kim and I had actually got married that year and I threatened to divorce her if she didn't crew with me in the Cup. As in 1997, the morning of the 1998 cup was just as dark and foreboding with strong winds. Kim was beside herself. She hadn't sailed much the past 12 months (couldn't figure out why), and wasn't looking forward to the race. I just kept reminding her that she could kiss the house goodbye along with all the other privileges I bestowed upon her, and she finally relented. 

Mark and Lynn Jones were the class of the fleet on the outbound downwind leg and led Willie, Hunter and us at the half way mark. However, on the return leg, double trapped to the max heading into the wind, we slowly started to pick them off one by one, and soon we were second.

We were climbing higher than Mark and slowly gaining on them, but I wasn't sure how much more of this Kim could take. I had promised to sail within our limits (yeah right!), and I was reassuring her all the way with my velvet voice, saying soothing things like, "don't worry Honey, it'll soon be over, hang on there, everything's going to be all right and NO DON'T YOU DARE COME OFF THE WIRE - GET BACK OUT THERE, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!" you know the gentle reassuring coaching that most skippers do.

danny-kim-commodores-cup-1998-02.jpg (66429 bytes)We were gaining on Mark and we were just beginning to think we could actually have a chance of passing them when in a very uncharacteristic lapse of concentration, Mark buried the hull and flipped it end over end. We shouted to check that they were OK (but I am told that in the wind they actually couldn't hear our calls!), and sailed past. 

danny-kim-commodores-cup-1998-03.jpg (89220 bytes)Kim was beside herself at this time. I was now truly coaching her to relax and just hang on in there, but I could see she was on the edge. By the time we rounded the finishing mark and headed for the beach, Kim was sobbing uncontrollably. I had no idea how much courage she had used to stay out on the wire when all she wanted to do was get on the trampoline, snuggle up into a cocoon and be whisked off that nightmare of a boat aboard a magic carpet. 

danny-kim-commodores-cup-1998.jpg (71000 bytes)For Kim, the Commodores Cup was her first and only trophy that she has won, and now her name is engraved on it for perpetuity. There on the trophy reads the plaque - "1998 Kim and Danny Steyn". How bitter sweet was our triumph. You see, you must never give up, you never know what will happen if you hang on in there and give it your all.

Footnote: That was the last time Kim ever raced with me! What's up with that!

Danny Steyn, August 2003.