The Pioneer Ngalawa Cup - Interview with the Champions

The Lemur in Lemur's sail looking pretty sexy at sea. 

In January, we launched the second edition of Ngalawa Cup. Czech team Lemurs Sail Delorean came first by a quite a margin. We thought we'd ask them the secrets to their success? They claim to have no idea, but whatever they did, it worked a treat. 

It’s pure sailing. You do what you can do and hope that it will be enough.
— Michal

As we gear up to the January edition of the Ngalawa Cup we asked this team of Czechs what they would do differently.

 In a couple of lines, how would you describe the race?

Filip: No Problem. I say "Go to you-tube. Look for in The Ocean Is Calling You...." Just kidding! I have no idea. If you come up with a way of describing it - let us know.

Michal (skipper): You know there is a funny difference between how you describe the race before and afterwards. Before, I generated sort of a story for my family and friends that it was going to be easy: wooden canoe boat, wind coming from the same direction, always within sight of the shore, no storms expected 1-2m waves. I started to believe it myself. Afterwards? The story's not the same.

Ha! Ok, so, was the race what you expected it to be?

Filip: No. And that was the best part. The best way to illustrate our attitude is the story of buying life jackets. We asked for the cheapest ones since "we won't need them at all" and "we will throw them away right after the launch". We got to a point when the shop assistant suggested we tie a bunch of empty plastic bottles around our waists. Well, fast forward into the first hour of the race and you can’t imagine how happy we were that we can put them on. Since then we kept them on even when not on the boat. 

Láďa: I expected we are going to fly to Tanzania, sail a bit, do some cool pictures to show off to ladies in a bar with a humble; “it wasn’t that hard”. I couldn’t be more wrong - but I wouldn’t change a thing. 

I wouldn’t change a thing
— Láďa

What was the best bit then? The first story you tell?

Filip: Every day on Zanzibar was unique and, I think the guys will agree, that a few more race holds and we would never have left. 

The whole race amazing. For more or less two weeks you live in a different world, your perspective about things changes mixed with the adrenalin of sailing and the exotic setting makes a cocktail that you just can't enjoy enough.

Láďa: Arriving on the small island near Zanzibar after two days of very long sailing, one rough landing and one very tough take off which almost saw our Ngalawa turned into submarine as we crossed the high waves forming over reef break. That was amazing.

Let's talk about Day 1. You made several attempts to get the right line out of the harbour. Why was that?

Michal: That first day was a hard test because it was the first time we sailed it all alone. First I didn't know how fast the current and low tide together would be and second I didn't have set any timer. The only possible plan was to go upwind almost behind the start line boat tack go back close to the shore and again go upwind/sidewind through the start line. We eventually made it just because Filip was stubborn and said something like "we gotta start if we want to finish this race." 

Day 1. 

Filip: Actually that was lucky. Because we left a good hour behind the others eventually worked in our favor since we could have crossed the channel earlier due to the high tide that covered the shallow water. Anyway, the difference at the start-line was massive.

Did you have any particular racing tactics?

Filip: No. The one thing we tried to do was to be gentle with the boat. Michal always paid attention that we do not push the boat too much. Another good thing to do is not to be lazy. Every time we did not do something because we were lazy, it hit us hard afterwards.

Láďa: Some tactics might have helped - we mismanaged our daily route twice and had to land in bad spots. With better planning (and map-reading), we could've saved ourselves some tough times.

Filip: And lose some good memories!

What would you say to the next bunch of teams taking on the race in January?

Filip: Nothing. That was the cool part, that you have no idea what to expect? It was lot of fun when, before the trip, we discussed what to take, where will we sleep, what will we eat. We played the teaser dozens of times trying to figure how much space will be there, what size of dry bag to take with us. That would be a shame to withhold this from the next teams.

Láďa: This is probably going to be the ride of your lifetime. 

What were the Ngalawas like to sail?

Filip: Like Michal said the first day, "you know this is a real sailing, not like on 40 feet piece of plastic in Croatia where if you don't feel like doing anything you just turn on the engine."

Michal: I don't remember saying that! But it's true. Sailing the boat is so fun, all you need is to understand the principles and you can go far.  It would be dangerous to give out too much advice, but loads of different kinds of rope was helpful. We got ours in the market at Kilwa Masoko.

How did racing the Ngalawas compare to the sailing you do back home?

Filip: You mean a sailing on a pool mattress on a Czech lake? In the end, there you are just as wet as on ngalawas. The anchoring is much easier though. 

Láďa: Two very important things are still the same: 1) there is a wind 2) there is a water. But everything else is somehow different.

Michal: It's pure sailing, raw feeling of connection between man and the nature. You do what you can do and hope that it will be enough to go further when it doesn't seem to last long.

A newly repaired stack of stubborn little boats are ready for their new custodians. 

We've fitted them with custom designed "inflatable buoyancy aids" which will bring the boats to the waterline when they capsize so teams will be better able to right themselves. The lashings on the spars have been replaced with brand-new imported braid and we've got new sheet rope to save sailors hands from nylon induced blisters. 

The January race the reverse route to July. That means new sailing times different anchoring spots. 

We're anticipating a spine tingling race.

You can follow the sailors here on the blog.

Perhaps you fancy yourself a sailor? There are still limited spaces in July 2016.