Youths from local outreach programmes in San Francisco, the main hub of American sailing, gathered at South Beach Yacht Club to find out what life is like on board a Clipper Round the World Race ocean yacht and to swap experiences with Sapinda Rainbow Project Ambassador, Nqoba Mswazi.
Seven months ago, the 10 young South African ambassadors of the Sapinda Rainbow Project competed against 20 other hopefuls to be part of the project and take on the challenge of the Clipper Race. Coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, they wanted to push themselves and learn new skills to develop as influential young people within their communities.
In Durban, Nqoba is a part-time sailing instructor at Sail Africa Youth Development Foundation and part time sail maker. He has crewed in teams participating in professional regattas, including the prestigious Lipton Cup.
Nqoba said: “Living in the townships and doing a white man’s sport, a lot of people treat you differently. But now being part of the Sapinda Rainbow Project and taking part in the race, I have the respect from people in my community as well as from other sailors. I first got into sailing when Craig Millar from Sail Africa and a former Clipper Race crew member - came into my school to talk about sailing and starting a youth development programme, as there was nothing in Durban for youths in sailing. I went along and fell in love with the sport.
“The first thing I want to do when I get back is tell my school and the people in my community about what I have just achieved, and hopefully I will upgrade my skipper’s licence because I want to get my Yachtmasters so that I can apply to become a Clipper Race skipper in the future. It is quite a big move for me.”
Swapping stories on sailing experiences and culture, Nqoba and scholarship youths from the South Beach Yacht Club outreach programme and Exploratorium High School Explainer Program took a tour of the Clipper 70-foot ocean racing yacht, Invest Africa. Nqoba was then presented with kit from the America’s Cup team ORACLE, donated by America’s Cup Head of Community Outreach, Kelly Cowden.
Kelly said: “"Many other younger sailors such as Nqoba have set out for greatness in sailing, and have achieved it. Just as it is one of our missions of the America's Cup to grow the sport of sailing, we hope Nqoba takes his enthusiasm back to his community and continues to do the same. Inspiring youth to take to the open waters is an amazing and unique gift to share. On behalf of America's Cup, I wish him the very best of luck as he pursues his goals."
The Mighty Pacific is one of the most challenging legs of the Clipper Race and is a test of endurance for the entirely amateur crews in one of the earth’s most hostile environments. On board Invest Africa, Nqoba has sailed over 5,600 miles spending over three weeks at sea.
South Beach Yacht Club outreach coordinator, Patti Mangan said: "Every opportunity we have to share the sport and adventure of sailing with our youth is rewarding. Our Junior Sailing program provides summer scholarships and this opportunity to meet a true adventurer like Nqoba was inspiring. Meeting a young man who has sailed acoss an ocean connects the kids dreams to reality. Nqoba exchanged Club burgees with Commodore Bill Adams - a tradition expressed worldwide and lasting reminder of our Clipper Race connection."
The fleet will leave Pier 40 at South Beach Yacht Club San Francisco on Saturday to race the 5,240 miles in the PSP Logistics Panama 100 Cup to Panama, Jamaica and New York. The fleet will slip lines at 10:00 and the race will start from under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge at 13:00 local time.
Image: Ellen Hoke photography