Specialist builder Uwe Jaspersen reflects on a dismal lockdown for Cape 31

Uwe Jaspersen is not one to mince his words. “The virus screwed things up,” he growls.

Finish and klaar.

Jaspersen is talking about the Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the Cape 31 project which up until a few months back was soaring ahead, the poster child of South African sailing. Now the Cape 31 is becalmed, Jaspersen mutters, just a short distance from the finishing line.

As if the current ban on ocean sailing wasn’t bad enough, the two men who could potentially push the Cape 31 centre stage are unable to travel to South Africa under current lockdown restrictions.

The two potential US clients could conceivably tip the balance in favour of the Cape 31 ‘going global’ and achieving its own world championship circuit.  “They are keen to go ahead but only if it would be considered fully professional,” said Jaspersen, adding that other US sailors would almost certainly follow suit. “They both want to test sail the boat but with restrictions it is very difficult. At the moment we are sitting in No Man’s Land.”

“What we would like is to establish a Cape 31 fleet in the USA and in the UK. Then we could have a real World championship,” Jaspersen said.

The pandemic paralysis snapped a winning streak for the Cape 31 sports keelboat, the brainchild of UK philanthropist Lord Irvine Laidlaw, with Jaspersen driving production as the specialist in high performance composite boats. The project received a shot in the arm last year with confirmation of a global sales and marketing agreement with Cape Town-based yacht brokers Abromowitz Sharp. To date more than 15 vessels have been built.

There is a silver lining to Jaspersen’s lockdown experience, however. The never-say-die builder has landed the first sales of his newly developed 34ft sports fishing boat, the Hammercat, as Jaspersen sets his sights on penetrating the lucrative US fishing market. “Last year we built the tooling and the first boat has just been sold in the US,” he explained. “It is an exciting project—we are world first in having a 34ft sport fishing boat where you can lift one of the two engines up and still get on the plane.”

“The reason we can achieve it is because we built the boat with the same technology we use to build a race boat, and the end result is that the design is half the weight of its competition,” Jaspersen said.

As for the lockdown, Jaspersen is sick of it — and the economic mess it is makes: “The virus won’t go away. If it kills you it will kill you in a year’s time.”

Vintage Jaspersen. Straight to the point.

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