Sampling Kariba by Sail

In memory of Mac Bailey, one of this worlds truly special people.  You will always be there with us at regatta; Radio Sail won’t be the same without your music.

I wake to the sounds of grunting hippos’, singing birds and the intermittent smells of the African bush as well as coffee brewing and bacon frying.  My ceiling is a mosquito net and the wide open sky onto which, the dawn is projecting a display of stunning colours.  Boat rigging starts jangling gently in the morning breeze and I hear the stirrings of our neighbouring yachts inhabitants stirring.

I’m waking up in Bonde Bay, just south of Spurwing and Fothergill Islands on the seventh day of my third Kariba May Regatta.  The regatta started in the early 1980s when John Skinner and John Chadwick thought it a great way for their group of mad sailing friends to have fun cruising in their predominantly home made yachts around beautiful lake Kariba. Every year since then, between 20 and 25 yachts, both multi-hull and mono-hull, have taken part in this exceptional event.  Some years there are some new sailors, but many return annually to experience the adventure, fun, camaraderie, scenery and sailing that defines the regatta.

The event’s route changes annually, last year we went as far west as Chalala.  This year we took a more southerly route from the start to Gache-Gache and so we only made it as far west as Musango, where we were given, yet again, excellent moorings, great facilities, super hospitality and a fantastic dinner.  The nearby Bumi Hills Lodge have also provided us with a great three course lunch and a welcome wallow in their stunning pool with its breathtaking views of the lake.

Six out of the seven days are line starts, which sees all the mono-hulls starting at 7.30am, followed ten minutes later by the faster multi-hulls.  On the ‘stern chase’ the slowest boats leave first, followed by the faster yachts, the theory being that the boats cross the finish line on actual places rather than handicap ratings.  Both boats and captains are given handicaps, which means that slower boats can often win an individual days racing.

Post race, yachts drift along in the breeze whilst the sailors partake in a spot of R&R.  The more energetic use the time to fish, or choose to cruise the foreshore where this year some were rewarded with lion sightings near Fothergill.

As the days heat dissipates, yachts congregate around the evenings chosen mooring spot to swap stories, catch up with friends, share a few drinks and watch the sun set. At 7 pm everyone tunes into the ‘Radio Sail’ broadcast, where the days results, stories and gossip are shared.

Crawling into bed I look up and stargaze, listen to the sounds of the bush, and feel quietly smug that I’m involved in this fabulous event in such a stunning location.

For more information on the May Regatta please contact CRUZ (Cruising and Racing Union of Zimbabwe) via email on

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