Viper USA 2019

SA Team hoists our flag in Viper 640 World Championships


California here we come


Three Gauteng-based sailing teams with a total crew complement of nine have set their sights on the country’s first participation in the 2nd international Viper 640 World Championships later this month. The event will be hosted by Alamitos Bay Yacht Club (ABYC) in Long Beach, California from 17th to 24th August 2019. Of the 49 International entries thus far, South Africa ranks third after the USA and Canada in the number of national crews represented. The team’s sailors are all members of local inland club Lake Deneys Yacht Club (LDYC) located on the shores of the Vaal Dam. Established in 1958, the club is the region’s largest in size, facilities and membership.

LDYC’s Commodore Luke Quinn elaborated, “Vipers are the new kids on the South African sailing block; all the country’s four craft were imported during 2018 and are based at our club, LDYC on the Vaal Dam. In spite of public perceptions, we inland sailors regularly participate in Durban and Cape Town-based offshore sailing regattas and often give our coastal competitors a good run for their money.” The international Viper 640 fleet numbers about 300 and is growing rapidly. Of all the single hulled keelboats raced in this country, relatively few are classified as sport boats. The Viper joins the ranks of the Thompson 27, Melges 24 and Pacer 27’s.


Competing internationally is a costly business. Vice Commodore Anthony Engelbrecht explained, “Although LDYC has raised a sizeable donation, the majority of the costs will be covered by the competitors.” Of the nine sailors there is one woman, Yolanda van der Vyver. The crew range in age from 14 year old Alex Weiderhold accompanied by dad Richard, to well-known veteran 55 year old Alex Schön.


The crew line up is:

1. Nevan Lucas (Skipper), Steven Haywood and Yolanda van der Vyver

2. Alex Schön (Skipper) Marco Seitz and Robert Edwards

3. Richard Wiederhold (Skipper), Greg Plunkett and Alex Wiederhold


When quizzed on what would be considered a commendable achievement one of the skippers, Alex Schön responded, ”We are all novice sailors by international standards. We would be absolutely delighted if any of our teams place in the top 20 overall. But just being there, racing against so many other Vipers promises to be unforgettable!” 


The best of both


The Viper 640 is a two to four person, high performance, one-design sports boat. At 6,4 meters long and weighing only 340 kg the craft displays the steadiness of a keelboat with the acceleration and planing abilities of a dinghy. The relatively affordable cost coupled with high-performance sailing on the most comfortable boat in its class, makes the Viper an achievable option for most sailing enthusiasts. The ideal combined crew weight is between 230 and 275kgs.


Raced to one-design class rules, the boat delivers a precise and exhilarating feel on the helm from the spacious 3-person cockpit.  The sturdy carbon mast and wide cockpit, combines into speedy and secure sailing in a big breeze. Safety is paramount – the 100kg keel bulb ensures the boat qualifies in the stringent self-righting test according to the European Recreational Craft Directive and international stability buoyancy standard ISO 12217. Safety lines built in under the gunwale prevent “Man Overboard” (MOB) situations.


Tow easy


The Viper can be towed by a medium size vehicle and manoeuvres easily on land. Launching and recovery is simple down a slipway or shoreline and requires only 60cm of water to float the boat off or on to the trailer. The mast splits into two pieces. Rigging can be accomplished by 2 people in minutes (approximately 40) rather than hours.


Brian Bennet designed the original Viper to a maxim of “Simple, Clean and Effective”. Ronday Raceboats in the U.K. took over construction, producing new moulds and applying their high-performance dinghy building experience. The result is an immensely strong boat that is light weight, affordable and immensely safe.


Viper 640 is a recognised world sailing international class .There are several regular racing circuits worldwide; Pacific Coast, Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, Great Lakes/Canadian and a winter series based in Sarasota Florida are all USA-based. International events include the imminent Viper World Championships in Long Beach California, Pan American Championships held every March in Miami Florida, the Euro Cup every second year on Lake Garda in Sirmione, Italy and a full regatta racing circle throughout Australia.


The local Viper 640 dream is to host the International Championships within the next decade.

Viper - MSC 2019.jpg

Viper 640 ‘Antidote’ flying its purple spinnaker during a race in Durban's MSC Week last month 1 – 6 July, hosted by Point Yacht Club. Nevan Lucas (Skipper) with crew Steven Haywood and Colin Becker won both races in which they competed.

One of the Viper 640 crews (L to R)  Nev
One of the Viper 640 crews (L to R)  Nev
A Viper's nest.jpeg
Big breeze in North American Championshi