SA Boating Industry | Strong At Boatica 2023

Boatica Cape Town plays an important role in promoting the burgeoning blue economy, a sector that injects billions of rands per annum into the city’s GDP. Seventy one exhibitors were on display at the V&A Waterfront at boatica 2023, with new launches aplenty proving that SA’s industry is strong and well-respected in the international arena.

Driving growth
The South African boat building industry continues to be a formidable force, demonstrating remarkable growth and resilience in the face of challenging economic landscapes. Spearheading this success are the South African Boat Builders Export Council (SABBEX) and Blue Cape, pivotal organisations driving innovation, growth, and international collaboration within the maritime and boat building sectors.

SABBEX is one of 18 National Export Councils and is recognised by the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC). The Council focuses on the manufacturing and exporting of leisure craft and related manufactured components. With an emphasis on training, ease of manufacture, and export promotion, SABBEX plays a crucial role in propelling South Africa’s boat building industry onto the global stage.

Complementing SABBEX’s efforts, Blue Cape, a Cape-based initiative, serves as a catalyst for fostering growth within Cape Town’s boat building and marine manufacturing landscape. Founded in partnership with the City of Cape Town and the V&A Waterfront, Blue Cape’s focus is on three core pillars – boatbuilding and marine manufacturing, Superyachts and Ocean Sports.

Trading up
The Boatbuilding School at the Westlake Campus of False Bay College now offers a new trade qualification aimed at enhancing workforce capabilities and expertise. Two of Cape Town’s larger vessel manufacturers are registered as Training Centres.

The South African boat building sector has witnessed a significant increase in export volumes, with close to 300 vessels exported annually. Omegaverse recently made a groundbreaking investment of R20 million into cutting-edge technology. This includes the acquisition of a state-of-the-art, 7-axis milling machine and a 3D large-scale printer. These advancements promise to significantly enhance both the efficiency and precision of production processes. This substantial investment supports the industry’s steadfast dedication to technological progress and sustainable practices.

Beyond its economic contributions, the boat building industry actively engages in community development initiatives, emphasising skill development programmes, education, and environmental sustainability while fostering a holistic approach to community upliftment.

Industry facts and figures
Boat building annual contribution to the economy: R3.2bn

Oceans sports/blue economy annual contribution to the economy: R2bn

Number of people employed in boat building: Approximately 3,700. Ocean Sports employs approximately 3,000. Total employment is estimated at 6,000, including indirect jobs.

The industry supports an estimated 8,000 households through direct and indirect employment opportunities within the supply chain.

Growth in the last three years: In excess of 17% per year for the last 3 years, post-COVID.

Number of vessels exported this year: Close to 300 vessels this year. Most marine manufacture operations have full order books for the next 2-3 years.

The sector is internationally recognised with regular award wins, including Boat of the Year Awards with four nominees this year.

South Africa ranks as the second-largest leisure sailing catamaran builder worldwide and is the leading large power catamaran manufacturer.

South Africa is estimated to be the world’s leading exporter of talent, providing over 500 trained Superyacht crew per year with a 95% success rate in securing well-paying jobs in the competitive international Superyacht sector.

Boatica’s showcase

Local manufacturing success
Internationally respected local manufacturers displayed their crafts at boatica. Two manufacturers in particular, both in the performance sailing arena, showed why their boats are popular world wide.

The Cape 31
Cape Performance Sailing showcased the highly acclaimed Cape 31 racing yacht at the boat show. The Cape 31 is the most exported monohull in SA boatbuilding history.

The Cape 31 is built under license from Cape Sailboats. Cape Performance Sailing was established in November 2020 by accomplished sailors Davey James and Elian Perch, and top sailor and veteran boatbuilder Stephen du Toit. Despite the untimely passing of Elian last year, the company has remained resilient under the ownership of Davey and Stephen. The late Uwe Jasperson should be credited for building the first 16 Cape 31s. And since 2021, Cape Performance Sailing have built a further 58 yachts, and are set to launch 25 new Cape 31s this year. An incredible feat!

The Cape 31, a planing sailboat designed by Mark Mills, has garnered global recognition for its exceptional performance as a racing keelboat. With a maximum speed exceeding 25 knots (46 km/h), the vessel’s versatility is further accentuated by its ability to house a large gennaker, allowing for seamless navigation even during downwind sailing. Additionally, the boat’s class rules mandate that it is helmed by the owner, with a minimum crew of five sailors with specific weight regulations

A key highlight of the Cape 31 lies in its global transportability. By meeting the standard high-cube container specifications, it facilitates easy access and transport across different regions. This transport is managed by Erik Bjerring of Cape Town Yacht Services.

The Cape 31 ‘pocket rocket’ as it is known, has seen great international success. The recent Cape 31 Nationals held in the UK offered up a strong fleet of 27 entries. The incredible growth in the UK Cape 31 class can be attributed to 31 North Yachting.

An active Cape 31 International Class Association organises racing events, which has helped establish a formidable presence in South Africa, Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

Cape 31 European Championship Photographed by James Tomlinson

Davey James and Stephen du Toit

The Evo 18
Cape Racing Yachts unveiled the Evo 18 S (S denoting ‘solo’) at Boatica Cape Town, a yacht which embodies the pinnacle of innovation in short-handed inshore and inland sports racing boats. Time will tell how the boat is received in the market place.

Cape Racing Yachts is renowned for producing Class 40’s. The company was founded in 2017 by experienced South African sailor, Andrew Thomson. The company’s exceptional journey began with the construction of two unique Class 40 yachts, both Owen Clarke designs. The first yacht, under French ownership, secured victory in the Class 40 category in the renowned Caribbean 600 race.

In 2018 he successfully built another Class 40, which clinched an impressive sixth place in the biannual TJV transatlantic race. Andrew was commissioned to construct two more Class 40s, both Bertrand designs. The unveiling of the first of these vessels took place in 2020, followed by the second in 2021. Both yachts are currently participating in the 2023 TJV race.

Andrew then ventured into the creation of a smaller, more adaptable vessel tailored for inshore and inland racing, with a specific focus on short-handed sailing in the way of the Fluid F180. He implemented several modifications, including repositioning the mast and coachroof by half a meter, which has optimised the boat for short-handed sailing

Doing good
Boatica showed what doing good is all about by giving organisations the platform to showcase their initiatives. From saving lives at sea, to inspiring youth to sail and raise funds for worthy charities, to putting smiles on children’s faces – we are grateful for their selfless efforts.

Safety first
South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is a charity organisation that saves lives on South African waters – both coastal and inland.

Operating from 75 locations along the SA coastline, and on inland dams, NSRI rescue volunteers and lifeguards are on call, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. These volunteer rescue crew receive no payment and the NSRI does not charge the people they rescue. The NSRI has a total of 50 rescue stations in South Africa – five on inland waterways and 45 on the coast.

The NSRI is currently the only maritime rescue service operating in South African territorial waters. Although most rescues are coastal and inshore, an increasing number of these operations require search and rescue vessels with an advanced capability in technology, and the ability to safely increase the endurance of the crew further out to sea.

Out with the old
It’s for these reasons that the NSRI’s current fleet of 10m and 12m rescue vessels (known as Class 1 rescue vessels) are being retired.

The NSRI is replacing the current Class 1 rescue boats with craft that are well suited to search and rescue missions – including deep sea operations, medical evacuations, and mass rescue incidents. The vessel that was chosen to fulfil this role is the 14m SAR (search and rescue) ORC (offshore rescue craft).

Mark Hughes, NSRI Executive Director of Capital Projects, has driven the project for the past seven years. He and his team spent three years researching a tried and tested rescue vessel that fitted the NSRI’s requirements, visiting sea rescue organisations and marine manufacturers abroad in search of the perfect vessel. They found this vessel in the form of a 14m SAR ORC in France, designed by naval architects Pantocarene and manufactured by Bernard Shipyard in France.

The new self-righting and purpose-built rescue vessel is designed for rescue operations in extreme conditions. At 14.8m long and 4.8 m wide, she can be deployed on rescue operations as far as 50 nautical miles (over 92km) from land and has an expected lifespan of at least 40 years. She can easily handle force 6- 8 seas.

Photographs: Simon McDonnell

Modern features
The new ORCS are plaining hull vessels, and self-righting. They can handle much rougher sea states than the old fleet. The new ORCs can carry around 6 crew and 29 survivors – the old Class 1 rescue vessels could only carry 6 crew and 10 survivors. The ORCs have a suspended wheelhouse, significantly reducing noise and vibration in the cabin. They are significantly more fuel efficient and have a range of 250 nautical Miles at 20 knots, versus the range of the old Class 1 rescue vessels’ range of 140 nautical Miles at 14 knots. Crew comfort is significantly increased by the higher functionality, handling ability and shock-mitigating seats. The new vessels are also fully air conditioned. The new vessels have an outside helm position, which makes handling in close quarter conditions easier. Maintenance and checks on the engine room are made easier by the ability of the crew to walk around in the engine room. Medical equipment onboard includes all standard first responder equipment, a stretcher, oxygen, full basic life support kit, and an AED.

Several changes/customisations were made to the original ORC design by Pantocarene. Most notably is the addition of a flybridge. The original design has a tender on the aft deck that is launched on the transom. The NSRI replaced this with a big aft deck to load/offload and to work on patients/survivors. The aft deck also assists helicopters to pick up and drop off survivors easier. And there’s a suspended wheelhouse on a polymer mounting.

Top quality local build
The decision was taken to build the first ORC to completion in France and the second vessel was built as a hull, deck, and bulkheads in France, to be completed locally in South Africa.

For the NSRI, it was critical that the ORCs, with the exception of Hull#1, were manufactured in South Africa, and an extensive selection of a suitable marine manufacturers followed, with Cape Town’s Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing being selected as the boatyard to carry out the builds.

Founded in 1989, Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing specialises in custom and semi-custom power and sailing catamarans from 27 to 150 foot. Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing has 34 years of experience building power catamarans. The company has manufactured many commercial vessels for use as patrol boats, research vessels for various organisations, and oil and gas corporations on the African continent. Two Oceans easily transferred this experience and knowledge to the building of the ORC.

10 vessels and counting
After a two-year long build project in France of Hull#1 and Hull#2, they were successfully delivered in Cape Town at no charge by local NSRI partner, Safmarine, on 28 March 2019.

Hull#1 was commissioned and launched, and Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing immediately began construction of the moulds for Hull#3 from the hull, deck and bulkheads of Hull#2, and they completed the build of Hull#2.

Two Ocean’s first 100% locally manufactured ORC (Hull#3) was launched in November 2021. Hull#4 was launched on 1 June 2022 and Hull#5 in April 2023.

Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing is scheduled to build ten vessels, completing the build programme by 2030.

“The NSRI are extremely proud to partner with Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing in our Class 1 Rescue vessel replacement program”, says Dr Cleeve Robertson, NSRI CEO. “They are truly a fantastic company to work with, with them going the extra mile to help us in achieving our Class 1 fleet replacement programme”.

The Great Optimist Race
The 4th annual Great Optimist Race took place at boatica at the V&A Waterfront and raised R250 000 for charities including A New Breath, Project Flamingo, CANSA and Jumping Kids to name a few. The 70 skippers included celebrities, children, disabled men and women, development sailors, cancer patients and transplant survivors.

For the first time since its inception in 2018, the race was held in a relay format, with three skippers per team each needing to complete a solo lap of the course in very windy conditions. 2020’s race was virtual due to Covid and 2021’s event was cancelled.

Founder of the Little Optimist Trust and Great Optimist Race, Greg Bertish, says, “What an awesome day! We ticked all the boxes in crazy conditions. So much support, so much inspiration, so much fun! For the first time in sailing, a race was fully represented by different groups of people from all walks of life. Differently abled, at-risk youth, previously disadvantaged, CEOs, celebrities, doctors and medical survivors all sailed for charity and to inspire the world.“

The Italtile boat crewed by 420 SA champs Amir Yaghya and Shane Joseph, along with Josh September, won the Great Optimist trophy. Amir, from Grassy Park, began sailing when he was still at school. He now works for The Little Optimist Sailing Academy, where he shares the joy of sailing with children growing up in difficult circumstances like his own.

Yaghya’s teammate Shane Joseph, says, “I would like to thank the Little Optimist Trust Academy for everything they have done for myself and my best friend Amir Yaghya. Upskilling us by putting us on instructor courses and super yacht courses has had a massive impact on our lives. We are now able to inspire kids and serve as role models for others from heavy and difficult backgrounds where drugs and gangsterism is involved. It was just the best feeling winning the race and I would like to thank Greg and his team and sponsors from the bottom of my heart”.

In second place was the Ullman Sails team (Hamilton Slater, Megan Robertson, Wesley Daniels) and third, was the Southern Wind team (Elisa Falcon, Stefan Falcon, Ashley Rudolph).

Also putting on a noteworthy performance was the Yoyo team made up of differently-abled sailors Caleb Swanepoel (who lost his leg in a shark attack), Darren Thomas (was shot at point-blank range in a robbery leaving him in a wheelchair), and Antoinelle Hartze (who lost her leg in a train accident).

Swanepoel says, “It was an unbelievable experience racing alongside side such awesome humans. A huge thank you to Yoyo for sponsoring our boat and to everyone who helped us raise funds and awareness”.

In addition to fundraising, the event focussed on bringing hope and happiness to children in need. Over the course of the weekend 50 children (divided into 4 groups) were invited to attend a sailing lesson and visit the Two Oceans Aquarium, which was followed by lunch at Bootleggers.

Additional international donations and funds raised by The Little Optimist Trust off the back of the event will be used to build and renovate the bathrooms at Astra Special School, upgrade the Youth Centre at Heideveld Baptist Church, send development youth on training courses, and to start a multi-week Sailing through Life Program for at-risk youth.

Paddling for smiles
Richard Kohler‘s craft, Osiyeza, which means The Crossing after Johnny Clegg’s song drew attention at boatica. Richard successfully completed his Atlantic Ocean crossing solo and unsupported in the Ocean X kayak adventure from Cape Town to Brazil. His adventure raised funds for Operation Smile South Africa.

Several years in the making, Richard first attempted the crossing in December 2021 but had to make a detour to Walvis Bay after just two weeks at sea.

Richard departed from Granger Bay in Cape Town on 19th December 2022, finally touching land a few days earlier than his estimated 70 days to complete the crossing in an incredible 63 days and 7 hours.

To claim the record of paddling solo and unsupported from South Africa to Brazil, Richard had to touch dock or land unsupported. There was no place for him to dock at the yacht club, so Richard had to swim ashore to fulfil the requirements to successfully make his Ocean X crossing official.

“The crowning glory must be the phenomenal success of the fund raising for Operation Smile South Africa. We have raised over half a million Rand, which will ensure that more than a hundred children will receive corrective cleft surgery.”