In the sailing community, the Lipton Challenge Cup is regarded as the most prestigious sailing event in the South African calendar. The history of the Challenge goes back to 1909 when Sir Thomas Lipton, well-known tea merchant and avid yachtsman, donated the sterling silver trophy and the Deed of Gift of the Lipton Challenge Cup to the Table Bay Yacht Club – now the Royal Cape Yacht Club. Lipton Challenge Cups were donated to many yacht clubs around the globe where Sir Thomas had trade interests.

The Lipton Challenge Cup in South Africa

The first Lipton Challenge Cup was raced in South Africa in 1911, and this year marks the 64th time that the regatta will be sailed. It is an inter-club event, with yacht clubs across the country entering teams with the aim of winning and bringing the Challenge home to their nominated coastal waters the following year. Since 1984, the regatta has been sailed on 26-foot yachts called the L26, designed by South Africa Naval Architect Angelo Lavranos.

Sailing in South Africa has traditionally been an elitist sport for the privileged white class, but in recent years, a heart-warming development, especially evident in the Lipton Challenge Cup, has been the participation of juniors, women and sailors from previously disadvantaged communities, many of whom have joined the ranks of South Africa’s top sailors through their initiation into the sport in many development sailing initiatives. Sailing is a sport in SA that has worked hard to make the sport accessible, with good results. This is especially true of the Lipton Challenge Cup, which boasts many sailors of colour, as well as an all-woman team.

An example is the Hout Bay Yacht Club entry, LTC Phoenix, which is one of the favourites to take the coveted Lipton Challenge Cup title this year. Skipper Theo Yon, 29, grew up in the poor fishing community in Hout Bay, and has been sailing at Hout Bay Yacht Club since the age of 12. Today, he is one of the directors of the Hout Bay Youth Sailing Development Trust, whose aim is to make sailing more accessible to previously disadvantaged communities, particularly in Hout Bay, and use sailing and the love for the sport as a tool to transcend social barriers. Theo is the sailing manager at the Hout Bay Yacht Club and has skippered a successful Cape to Rio Yacht Race, as well as a long string of impressive sailing achievements. This year marks Theo’s 12th Lipton Cup.

Theo’s crew is made up of Andrea Giovannini from Hout Bay, Marco Tobin and Sieraj Jacobs from Grassy Park, Ryan Pentolfe from Parkwood and manager Andre Julius from Elsies River – all of whom are respected as talented sailors in the SA Sailing Community, with an impressive list of national and international sailing events on their resumés.

Sunday 20th August 2018 saw the first of six days of yacht racing in the Lipton Challenge Cup Regatta, which was sailed in Table Bay. The race finished on Friday 25th of August.

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All images are courtesy of photographer Alec Smith –

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