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Where does the Cape 31 come from?

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

In November the 31 North team went down to Cape Town to visit Cape Performance Sailing, our Cape 31 boat builders. With some great images from the factory we thought it was the perfect time to give you a little Cape 31 History.

Lord Irvine Laidlaw came up with an idea to build a 30-foot keelboat that could handle the notorious Table Bay South Easter. Irvine’s brief was simple, design and build a 30-foot sailboat that is strictly one-design, has the performance and stability of larger keelboats, is fun to sail and is built in South Africa.

2019 C31 Invitational - Cape Town

Well known yacht designer, Mark Mills, based out of his Wicklow office in Ireland was tasked with this interesting challenge. The original mould and hull #1 were produced in Newport Rhode Island and delivered to South Africa. Irvine Laidlaw contracted the late Uwe Jaspersen to construct boat #2 out of his Carbo Tech factory in Bellville, Cape Town. There was an instant interest in the project with local sailor’s filling up the order book with five builds, which quickly escalated to another five. This made from some great racing in Cape Town and brought the first C31 Invitational which attracted teams to try the boat out. In the meantime, Uwe Jaspersen’s company, Carbo Tech, went on to build fifteen boats before he unexpectedly passed away in July 2020.

By then the first Cape 31 had been delivered in the UK and with Mike Bartholomew’s Tokoloshe, tearing up the Solent, it became apparent that there was something special. The Bartholomew's competed in the 2019 C31 Invitational and decided to buy one for the UK thinking it was just what the Solent needed.

Tokoloshe - first boat delivered into the UK

The team in the UK made a few tweaks to make the boat more competitive under IRC making it attractive to owners who liked the idea of one design racing but could take the plunge and race under IRC until critical mass was met. The search was then on for a new builder, using the same principles as set out by Irvine, that the company must be South African based, without compromising the strict one-design rule. License holder Hylton Hale, along with Mark Mills published a tender detailing building requirements and construction capabilities to take over the moulds and take on the order books.

Elian Perch, ex shareholder and previous Director of Robertson and Caine, the company well known for their Leopard Catamarans, stepped into the ring with a well laid out plan to build the Cape 31. In 2021, Cape Performance Sailing was founded with shareholders Elian Perch, local Cape Town sailor and businessman Davey James and long-standing boat builder Stephen du Toit. The new premises were setup in Capricorn Park, Cape Town. Subsequently Cape Performance Sailing has moved into a factory premise under one roof which includes an investment into a new spray booth and a more efficient assembly line.

Cape Performance Sailing Factory

The UK market has exploded through the efforts of UK based Kiwi sailor, Dave Swete, South African David Bartholomew and Scot Tor Tomlinson Cheney who almost single-handedly have secured a healthy order book as well as managing the UK Cape 31 circuit, providing marketing support and assembly services of new Cape 31s. Their company, 31 North, quickly established new markets and orders for Ireland, the United States and Italy, with individual sales to Holland, France, and Turkey. With David Bartholomew heading up operations, Swete heading up Sales and Tor working on marketing, media and the Cape 31 brand the team are expanding bringing on 31 North agents in France, Italy, USA, Spain, Portugal and Hong Kong.

31 North team with Cape Town Yacht Services team

2022 Cape 31 Nationals, Royal Yacht Squadron Cowes, 21 teams

The dream is to have Race Circuits up and running around the world allowing owners to enjoy epic one design racing wherever takes their fancy. This high performance one design yacht packs a punch that makes everyone come back for more. Watch this space.

See our global agents here.

CPS spray booth

Thanks to Hylton Hale for his input in this article.

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