SA Navy’s Project Tshintsha highlight fast approaching

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In just over two weeks the SA Navy will unveil a new name for Naval Base Simons Town headquarters – the highlight of commemorative events by the maritime service to mark 25 years of democracy in South Africa.

Ahead of the renaming on 19 September there will be a fleet review in False Bay. At the time of publication no information was available on which SA Navy vessels would be in the fleet review or on the new name of the building in the east dockyard at Simon’s Town.

Friday, 20 September, will see the final commemorative events with a remembrance ceremony and medal parade.

The maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is, as far as can be ascertained, the only service marking 25 years of democracy in South Africa. It is marking the occasion under Project Tshintsha, a Xhosa word meaning “modification of a value” according to a Navy statement. It was selected by Flag Officer Fleet (FOF) Rear Admiral Bravo Mhlana.

Events around the 25th anniversary started in June with the first Admiralty House garden concert in eight years. A second concert was presented at the same venue in August.

Last week saw the revival of another naval tradition when the first fleet pulling regatta in 14 years took to the Simon’s Town naval harbour waters.

“Various ships, shore units and division whalers lined up at the starting point on 26 August ready to compete. The crews met cold breezes and cloudy skies as they lined up race for race with mixed feelings of excitement, eagerness and nerves,” Chief Petty Officer Jean-Pierre Grant reports.

“Base Operations Officer Naval Base Simon’s Town Commander Wayne Combrink, steering the regatta as overall co-ordinator, complemented the enthusiasm of fleet units, sections and departments who contributed to the event.

“The dockyard filled early with excited sailors, buzzing as older salts recalled their races and curious younger sailors interested in the buzz and supporting their teams. SA Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane joined festivities taking the salute of the first boats towed out from SAS Mendi (F148).

“Spectators ashore heard the echoes of crews screaming ‘two six….heave’ as they swept through the water with their oars, leaning back and pushing down hard. With precise timing rowing teams race by race contested for the Cock of the Fleet Trophy and the Champion Cup while support teams closely watched the scoreboard.

“Cohesion, team spirit and stiff competition between the Frigate Squadron and SAS Simonsberg, the SSN training facility, was noticeable as bow rowers kept the boat stable and balanced, with midship rowers providing strength and power. Astern timing echoed through the air as stroke rowers set the time from the Simon’s Bay heading to the finish line.

“The regatta finished with a prize giving ceremony at Naval Base Simon’s Town’s Fire Station. All regatta teams were congratulated by Hlongwane, who officiated at the handing over of medals and trophies.”

Cock of the Fleet trophy was won by the Frigate Squadron with the Submarine Squadron second and Mine Counter-measures Squadron third. The Championship Cup for overall results was awarded to SAS Simonsberg with Armscor dockyard second and the Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) third.