The day we had to abandon our boat

Text Agathe Armand
From Disney film set to race start for Team Alvimedica
'Never get attached to your boat - it's just a tool'
The day we had to abandon our boat Text Agathe Armand
Andrew Cape has sailed countless thousands of miles with Bouwe Bekking in nearly 20 years but the abandonment of their boat in May 2006 continues to stick in his mind. Now reunited with the Dutch skipper as Team Brunel’s navigator, Cape tells us how leaving movistar behind only made the pair stronger.

Cape and Bekking were sailing on board movistar, a Spanish entry in the then new Volvo Open 70 class, when the keel pivot broke in the Leg 7 from New York City to Portsmouth of the 2005-06 edition of the race. 

For an agonising hour or two, Bekking was in two minds about whether to stay on board and try to salvage movistar or accept to quit the Volvo Open 70. After the Dutch skipper received key data from Cape, already his navigator back then, he made the tough call of leaving the boat behind.

“That sticks in my mind. I think about it a lot,” recalled the quiet, UK-based Aussie. 

“When it happened, I gave Bouwe the information I knew about and he had to make the decision. He decided we had to get off and I fully respected it. 

“Sailing around the world with someone is a long way to go so I didn’t learn anything about him that I didn’t already know when we had to abandon the boat.”

All lives were saved but movistar duly sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Eight years on, Bekking, now 50, had no hesitation in renewing his partnership with Cape, a year his senior, after being confirmed in December as skipper of Dutch campaign Team Brunel for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15.

Cape will be Bekking’s navigator once more and though as usual he makes no fuss about it, you get the impression he’s please to be back doing the thing he loves above all with his old mate.

“Bouwe is a pretty quiet guy. He is great on the boat – a great skipper and a great leader. He has a very good knowledge of what goes on at the navigation table too. If we weren’t right together we certainly wouldn’t do anything together ever again.”

“Capey”, as he’s known universally in the sailing world, has sailed around the world six times and has an America’s Cup victory in 2003 behind him not to mention runner-up on PUMA in 2008-09.

Trying to persuade him to talk much about that record is fruitless. Cape’s gaze is firmly on the future.

He’d much rather talk about the new Volvo Ocean 65 which he’ll be sailing with Bekking come October 4 when the fleet kicks off the 12th edition for the Alicante in-port race.

“A lot of thoughts have gone into this new one-design,” he said. “The boat looks fine and the navigation station looks good, but it’s almost an odd feeling to get on a boat you’ve had no input in. With the new eight-crew rule, nobody knows the demands on the people onboard either. We have to work on that. 

“But it’s the game now and I enjoy the competitiveness of it. I enjoy beating other people, getting out on the water, making sure it all comes together to, hopefully, win. 

“You don’t do the Volvo Ocean Race for the parties or the prize-givings. You do it to sail as a team and be with people at sea. You do it for the race on the water.”

Doesn’t anything frighten him? “I hate gear failure,” he says.

Andrew Cape in the Volvo Ocean Race:

2011-12 – Team Telefónica

2008-09 – PUMA Ocean Racing

2005-06 – movistar / Ericsson

1997-98 – Toshiba

1993-94 – Tokio