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29 January

The Trans Agulhas and Motul King of the Waves: the ‘World’s toughest Inflatable Boat Challenge’

The official ‘Trans Agulhas’ took place earlier this month. For those unfamiliar with this event, you can compare it to the Dakar Rally, even though this time there are no dunes in sight, only huge amounts of water and big waves. We dove deeper into the event with Stefan Lindeque, organizer of the Trans Agulhas and also a former double winner of the event.

Stefan, you are a former winner of the Trans Agulhas, can you explain us what it is and why we should be excited about it?

The ‘Trans Agulhas’ is the ‘World’s toughest Inflatable Boat Challenge’, being held along the coasts of beautiful South Africa. The first race was held 31 years ago. It’s a competition between approximately 40 teams, battling it out in the waves over a total distance of 700km for 5 days. The annual start is at Hobie Beach, Plettenberg Bay, and visits beaches along the coast between Nature's Valley and Gordon's Bay where the finish is.

What kind of boats are allowed to enter?

All the boats must be fully race inflatable. Meaning no rigids or semi rigids. At the end of the race the boats can be deflated and folded away. The floorboard of the boat is mostly produced from wood or carbon and the boats have a fiberglass nose. The engines powering the boat are Yamaha or Tohatsu two stroke 50 horsepower-engines lubricated by Motul.

Is there a difference between the teams?

Yes, we have 3 different classes to participate in. Every boat has the same Yamaha or Tohatsu engine and the classes are Stock, Pro Stock and the top is the Modified Class. The differences are situated in the rev limiter and the biggest secret are the propellers. The lower the pitch, the more drive you have in rough water. The boats are very light, around 90kgs and 83kgs for the engine. Add a team of two pilots and you get a total weight of approximately 320 to 350kgs.

What are the obstacles the teams are facing?

Well, as the boats are quite powerful and lightweight, the wind affects the boats a lot. It requires a good dose of steering craftmanship to keep the boat balanced, with the propellers in the water for optimal ‘drive’.

How popular is the event in South-Africa?

It became a serious event during the last few years. At every beach we receive around 5,000 visitors enjoying the event, in peak holidays we reach up to 80,000 spectators during the whole event.

Why ‘The King of the Waves’?

When the teams arrive at the beach after the race, we create a small circuit in the sea for a short but impressive ‘surf race’. As the waves rise high, the crowd is being treated to some spectacular jumps over the waves during 5 laps. Teams have to race towards the Motul arch on the beach creating excitement to see who wins. Every night the boats and the teams stay over at a beach town and camp there.

And what about the ‘night challenge’?

On the third day of the event we have a night stage. Boats have to navigate without lights to certain points in the sea but are allowed to use small strobe lights. It’s a matter of navigation skills. Like we say, it really is ‘The Toughest race on water in the world’.

Picture credits: © Heinrich Sauer

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