Modern yachts with their fancy gadgets, auto-pilots, and comfortable cabins are easy and boring. For a real ocean adventure vessel, you need to go back a few centuries.
Take a canoe made from a dugout mango tree. Add a bamboo mast with a sail and some outriggers. Line up alongside a fleet of like-minded crazy souls off the coast of Tanzania. Then point your mango tree canoe towards the Indian Ocean, full of spice islands, deserted beaches, and sand banks.
Welcome to the Kraken Cup. The most extreme sailing race you’ve most likely never heard of.
This treacherous sailing competition is held each year off the east coast of Africa and used to be called the Ngalawa Cup, named after the traditional Tanzanian fishing boats, and the ultimate in adventure sailing vessels. The Ngalawa are the smallest members of the Dhow family of boats, which have been around for almost 3000 years, and the technology is virtually unchanged.
The race may be gruelling and punishing, but the premise is pretty simple. Teams of 3 charter and race a Ngalawa for 7 days and around 300 kilometres across Zanzibar archipelago, pitching camp at each stop. Even though the crews are not allowed to sail after nightfall, the days are still very long and tiresome.
The Kraken Cup is not for just anyone to join. There are some strict requirements, the most important of which, hopefully unsurprisingly, is that you need to be able to sail.
This does not mean that you have been on a sailboat a few times or you have watched the Americas Cup every year on TV. And there is a massive difference between crewing on someone else’s boat and sailing your own. As a rough guide, the minimum qualifications would be an experienced Day Skipper or Competent Crew.
All 3 of your team should be skilled and confident helms, who understand all the necessary points of sailing, especially how to balance any type boat. While the Ngalawas will most likely be unlike anything else you’ve sailed before, they are fairly easy to sail if you understand the necessary principles of sailing.
The Ngalawas are purchased second-hand, sourced from families on the mainland coast of Tanzania and islands from the Zanzibar and Mafia Island archipelagos. The organisers pay a fair price for them too, amounts they certainly wouldn’t get if they sold them within their communities.
When the Kraken Cup teams land their Ngalawas on remote islands, they are welcomed by a flood of excited locals of all ages, who are always ready to help in any way they can. In return, teams generally support these tiny island economies by purchasing food and water from them.
The sea is a harsh mistress, and the Ngalawas will often need repairs and spares along the way. The local Ngalawas Fundi (Swahili for “expert”) will have their traditional tools of an adze and a bow drill ready at each stop, eager to help by fashioning anything you need with fire-forged nails and rough wood. Teams are required to compensate the Fundi accordingly at suggested rates.
Whilst gunning for glory, you can also revel in the fact that you’re helping to save the world. Teams are asked to raise a minimum of £500 for Cool Earth, the Official Kraken Cup Charity. All Cool Earth partnerships are community-owned and led, working to help stop the destruction of rain forests alongside indigenous villages. Any amount raised above this can be donated to a registered charity of your choice.
The next race is in January 2020 with an entry fee of £5,800. This gets you 3 days of pre-race training and a mighty Ngalawa, fully-equipped with all the latest mod cons and technology, like flotation pontoons, an LED flare, a high viz flag, and a paddle. Maybe most importantly, you also get the right to tell your grandkids that you sailed in one of the greatest ocean adventures on the 7 seas.
Please be aware. This is not a glorified holiday. It is an unsupported adventure which by its very nature is extremely risky. You are on your own, putting your lives at risk in the rough, open seas. There is always a high chance of being seriously injured participating in this race, or even dying. You cannot overestimate how hazardous this event really is.
The Kraken Cup is genuinely treacherous and extremely dangerous. But it is also one of the few remaining true adventures left on the planet.
Check out The Adventurists for more information.
Source: The Adventurists