Making waves: The Sapinda Rainbow Foundation in Sydney

24 December 2015

Thulisile ‘Thuli’ Lekalake had never been on a boat before joining the Clipper Race as an ambassador for the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation.

Now, the 22 year-old from Mpumalanga, South Africa is the first from her province to participate in the race. Having already completed the first of the three races that make up Leg 4: The All-Australian leg on board South African sponsored team IchorCoal, Thuli is now preparing for the famous Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (RSHYR) on Boxing Day.

Talking of her experience she says: “When I heard about the challenge I wanted to take part because I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was the chance to try something new and travel. I didn’t know what sailing was but I like to try new things and I’m a hard worker.”

Thuli is one of eight young South Africans aged 18 to 23 from the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation relay team to take on the challenge of racing across the world’s oceans. The foundation provides the opportunity for youths from a wide range of challenging backgrounds across South Africa to experience new personal development skills that they can bring back into their communities and use to inspire others. Each ambassador is personally supported by mentors beyond their Clipper Race experience to help them pursue their career goals.

After completing her matric in 2013 Thulisile wanted to study journalism but because both of her parents were not working it was difficult for her to further her studies. She then started a small business in hospitality that in return assisted her to support her family. Thulisile has a desire to grow her business in the future and create employment in her community.

“I used to be quite shy before I joined the foundation and began sailing but now I am a lot less shy. I think the race is helping me to learn to work with people and be more patient. I hope to develop communication skills which will help build my business and the race will help me to do this because I’ll be meeting people from all walks of life and different backgrounds.

“I am looking forward to Christmas in Sydney. It will be my first time spending Christmas overseas so the cultural experience is just as important as the racing. I am looking forward to the RSHYR and being more involved, working hard and enjoying the race because the last race was hard for me. This is a special race and many boats will be competing as well so I am so excited, I can't wait to start,” she adds.

It’s the second time a Sapinda Rainbow Foundation ambassador has lined up at the start of the iconic Australian race after the Clipper 2013-14 Race crew made history by being the first to compete in it as part of their circumnavigation. Thuli’s fellow ambassador Masibulele ‘Sbu’ Liyaba made it into the RSHYR’s history books as the first black South African to take part in the classic race in its 70 year existence.

Reflecting on his experience, Sbu, a 24 year old from the Kanana Township, Orkney, says: “Two years ago on the race I saw myself changing in a huge way following what I had been through the year before; my mind set, reasoning, capacity, behaviour, temper, time management and passions all changed for the better. It also helped me to see the beauty of the world, meet different kinds of people and learn how to handle difficult situations. The most important part of my race experience was to learn about myself and who I really am, what my strong and weak points are and how to resolve them, I also learnt the importance of being a team. It made me realise that in this world we do need each other.”

On return to South Africa Sbu, a self-confessed former gangster, registered at a Johannesburg secondary school and is receiving ongoing funding from the foundation to continue his studies in the hope of finding a job.

Wishing his fellow ambassador well, Sbu says: “Be yourself, listen and don't be afraid to ask questions. I know that you will make everyone proud but you must be the one who feels that way first. I want to thank the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation and the Clipper Race for giving us such an opportunity and on behalf of all the Sapinda Rainbow Ambassadors we thank the crew that are taking part in the race. Sail safe and fast.”

To find out more about the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation, click here.

To show your support to Thuli and the Clipper Race teams this Boxing Day watch their departure live on Periscope via the Clipper Race Twitter page @ClipperRace

Don't forget to keep an eye on the race website for the daily Skipper reports and you can also watch the race live stream via the RSHYR Official website here.

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