Craig Daniel is a third year mechanical engineering student. He’s a member of both the Wits Yacht club and the Hockey club. He plays hockey for Wits and hopes to climb Kilimanjaro one day.

How did you get the nickname ‘Sven Handel’?

My friend Brennan gave it to me when I joined the Yacht club in first year. My name backwards is Daniel Craig which is James Bond. So as a joke he called me 700 – which is 007 backwards. After that he wanted to find a name that sounded like 700 so he started calling me ‘Sven Handel’.

Cool kid2

If I looked in your fridge right now, what would I find?

I have two brothers so there’s lots of food and a lot of mouths to feed. If I think about it, lots of left overs too. It’s not complicated – just the basics!

Who’s you favourite musician?

George Ezra is the man. Also enjoy Coldplay and old stuff like from the 70’s and 80’s music.

What song do you sing in the shower?

I don’t sing in the shower. This is the stupidest question in the world. I think I’ll pass.

What’s the most exciting thing you’d like to do in the future?

I’d love to bungee jump and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I do stuff for the fun of it. It’s important to do things for the experience you know?

Tell me about your yachting and hockey playing?

I have learned to sail and I really enjoy it. But I take hockey a lot more seriously. It’s my main sport – I play link on the team.

Do you ever use yachting or hockey jargon as a pick-up line?

No! I don’t even know that much yachting jargon and I hardly ever use the hockey jargon I know.

Wits sailors back at home

MEMORIES MADE: Team members (from left to right) Alexa Brown, Alistair Moodie and Patrick Chappel share a lighthearted moment as they view a slideshow of their experience. Photo: Tracey Ruff

MEMORIES MADE: Team members (from left to right) Alexa Brown, Alistair Moodie and Patrick Chappel share a lighthearted moment as they watch a slideshow of their experiences. Photo: Tracey Ruff

From subliminal sunsets at sea to late-night samba parties, the Wits Cape 2 Rio sailing team have experienced it all in just a few short months.

The team finished 6th in one of the world’s most gruelling yacht races and was officially welcomed back to home turf  by the Wits Yacht Club this past week.

Getting raucous in Rio

“We took Rio, smashed it in its face [and] ripped it to shreds,” joked Alistair Moodie, who was the watch captain on board. The team spoke of their experiences through a slide show at the welcome party and even brought along their CapetoRio trinkets to show off.

Patrick Chappel, bowman on the yacht, was no less emphatic: “To pull it off and really accomplish it … [Cape 2 Rio] is the longest ocean-crossing race in the world … it’s a huge accomplishment.”

Wits deputy vice-chancellor (finance and operations), Professor Tawana Kupe was glowing in his praise of the team’s achievement: “It confirms one thing; [their achievement] gives Wits the edge. Wits was the only university in the race and we came sixth and won a medal. [The team] definitely did Wits proud. It is an inspirational performance.”

The Wits Cape 2 Rio team was the only student team in this year’s race and the first Wits team to race in the competition since 1984.


Wits VuvuzelaWITH VIDEO: Cape to Rio Witsies talk sailing. February 16, 2014.

Wits VuvuzelaWitsies sail in sixth in Cape to Rio. February 6, 2014

WITH VIDEO: Cape to Rio Witsies talk sailing

Earlier this month seven brave sailors from the Wits Yacht Club embarked on an epic sail to Rio, Brazil from Cape Town. Exactly 23 days and 53 minutes later they had reached their destination and managed to be the sixth boat to arrive at their intended destination.

Now that they’re back…

Two weeks after their victory, the crew that was on board the Amtec Wits Aladdin are getting back to their daily routine – which means lectures at Wits for most. Wits Vuvuzela talked to skipper, Bradley Robinson and crew member Alexa Brown, both only 22 years old.

One would imagine that being the only woman on board might have been a daunting experience for meteorologist, Brown but she took  it in her stride. “I’ve known all the guys for a really long time and have three brothers at home, so it’s not unfamiliar for me to be surrounded by testosterone,” she joked. Brown said that she got used to the guys “behaviour” and ignored what she needed to and only participated in conversations she felt comfortable with.

Getting to the finish line required much more time, effort and money than making it safely across. Months of planning and fundraising were needed beforehand to get the campaign going.

The money

[pullquote]“We wanted to give people a reason to donate, that’s why we came up with the R50 a mile concept.”[/pullquote]

Initially the idea to take part in Cape to Rio originated from the four “pioneers” of the team, who later recruited three more members, Brown being one of them. The four were Robinson, coach and manager, Brennan Robinson, trimmer Ricardo de Carvalho and watch captain, Alistair Moodie. The three “newbies” were navigator, Staurt Purchase, bowman, Patrick Chappel and Brown.

“It’s not a cheap campaign, we needed a large budget,” said Brown. The pioneers each contributed a substantial R30 000 each for the campaign and the other crew members R20 000.

The Wits Amtec Aladdin arriving in Rio. Photo: Provided

The Wits Amtec Aladdin arriving in Rio. Photo: Provided

Along with this the team had three main sponsors namely, Wits, Amtec Engineering and PPS Insurance. Additionally the crew started a something called “R50 a mile”, whereby they secured donations from ordinary people. “We wanted to give people a reason to donate, that’s why we came up with the R50 a mile concept,” said Brown. She explained that people could donate R50 for one of the estimated 4000 miles they would travel. “We printed all the names of our donators in the Wits emblem on the side of the boat, so in essence they came all the way with us,” said Brown.

Training beforehand

“They (the recruited members) knew nothing about sailing when came to Wits. It’s incredible that after just four years later they travelled across the sea,” said skipper Robinson. The training for the race started almost a year ago and happened in an incremental manner, but luckily all members had been sailors for a while and more than half had been sailors or years.

By November of last year most of the crew travelled down to Cape Town and lived on the boat for five weeks in preparation of their journey.  In those five weeks the crew was preparing the boat, cleaning it, checking its safety, fixing it up and so on. The Aladdin was a yacht generously lent to the crew, it is now at sea once again being delivered to its owner.

Along with being placed in sixth place, the crew won the Youth Ocean Sailors Award, which commended them for being the only student boat in the race and recognition for doing so well in the race.

While the crew was at sea they had a “stig” who was taking care of all their social media, to update people who were following their progress, see the journey on their website: witscapetorio2014.


Nerve wrecked novice wins Vasco da Gama

AN inexperienced Wits sailor was one of the crew onboard a yacht that won one of the toughest ocean races in southern Africa last month.

The gruelling Vasco da Gama is an established sailing event and was “a baptism of fire” for Patrick Chappel, who took part in his first ocean race with a crew of seven other members.

Chappel was one of five young, inexperienced sailors on the Skitzo, a South African built and manned yacht that won the race.

Chappel joked about Skitzo being appropriately named, because of the way it “seemed to respond” to the changing weather conditions during the race.

The crew experienced early trouble when the spinnaker halides (the rope used to attach the sail to the mast) came unstuck, causing the yacht to lose ground to its rival competitor, the BMA.

Appointed to climb the mast in winds of roughly 55km/h to untie the spinnaker halides, Chappel said: “It was a harrowing but awesome experience in 30 knots of wind and the mast shaking like a tree in a storm.”

The crew experienced more issues throughout the night as the winds reached up to 50 knots with swells of up to 20 feet and currents reaching 5 knots. According to Chappel, what made the winds even more intense was the winds were just short of being classified hurricanes at 60 knots.

Chappel said having the Skitzo broach (fall on its side) several times throughout the night was a “nerve wrecking” experience.

The crew experienced other difficulties that meant they missed out on a record winning time by just an hour but still managed to claim handicap and line honours.

Chappel said he learned a lot from this experience. “If you are going to do this extremely dangerous stuff, you cannot take enough precautions in terms of safety and expecting the unexpected.”

Another lesson he learned was that one needs to be able to deal with one’s own fears and emotions while not doing something to jeopardise another crew member’s life.


(Appeared in print, May 11, 2012)

Wind taken out of Witsies’ sails

Wits Yacht Club took part in the largest inland yacht race in the world last weekend but results were “a bit disappointing”.

SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) Round the Island, as the race is officially known, is an annual event hosted by Lake Deneys Yacht Club (LDYC) on the Vaal Dam, and it took place on Sunday, February 5 this year.

Wits’ boat Ciao Bella finished in the 31st position and took about two hours and 40 minutes to cross the line. The club’s “Commodore” (chairperson) Brennan Robinson says the final result was a bit disappointing: “It was not bad but we were hoping for better.”

They entered the race with three boats and 14 members. About five other club members participated independently. Robinson says the weather conditions were less than ideal but a nearby storm brought some wind helping sailors at the back.

Round the Island has held the Guinness World Record in the category “most yachts in an island race” since 2007.

Robinson says they were privileged with a good view of the fleet before the race started. “We looked back and could see hundreds of boats lining the whole dam.”

The event ran throughout the whole weekend.  Besides sailing activities, which included practicing races on Friday (Commodores Cup Race) and Saturday (Sprints and Tune up Race) and the main race on Sunday, visitors were also entertained by parties and air shows.


Robinson says it was a complete weekend, “sort of a festival”. Wits Yacht club members set up tents at the camping site, had a braai on Friday night and enjoyed the “massive parties”. They are now looking forward to a sailing weekend at the Vaal on February 18.

The Vaal Dam is home to many yacht clubs, and the largest one is LDYC. The race is LDYA’s biggest fund raiser, and this year the entrance fee was R50 per person over 16 years old, and open to all sailing classes.