A 30-year-old skipper from Masiphumelele hopes to lead his crew to victory when they take part in one of the most prestigious and challenging yacht races next year.
Sibusiso Sizatu, 30, will captain the Alexforbes Archangel in the iconic Cape2Rio race and will be making history by participating as the first complete crew from marginalised communities to do so.
The sailors, hailing from Masiphumelele, Khayelitsha, Grassy Park and Athlone, have been trained by the Royal Cape Yacht Club (RCYC) sailing academy and are sponsored by Alexforbes.
The sailing crew comprises skipper Sizatu, first mate Daniel Agulhas, 29, Renaldo Tshepo Mohale, 29, Thando Mntambo, 23, Azile Arosi, 22, and Justin Peters, 21.
Their yacht leaves Cape Town for Rio on Monday January 2 next year, sailing 3 300 nautical miles across the south Atlantic ocean.
Sibusiso was first introduced to sailing in 2005 through the sailing project Izivunguvungu – MSC foundation for youth based in Simon’s Town but did not enjoy it at first.
“I grew up in the Eastern Cape and was used to swimming in a dam. The ocean was frightening for me, it was very big, and it got deeper and deeper. I also got seasick when I was out on the water, and decided to just stick to walking and playing soccer,” he told the Echo.
Two years later, seeing his friends travelling the country and attending races, he took up the sport once again.
“My friend needed a teammate to sail with him at nationals – I didn’t even know what a tack or jibe was, I just wanted to have fun with my friends.”
The duo came third, and Sibusiso soaked up the glory of being on the podium and winning prizes. Soon he was sailing three days a week, improving as the years passed and sailing ever bigger boats.
In 2013, he was chosen to sail at the 470 junior world sailing championships. The only problem was that the event was in France, and he would require a passport to get there.
Sibusiso spent the first nine years of his life herding his family’s livestock and hunting with his siblings in the rural Eastern Cape. Without a birth certificate, he was unable to start school until aged 10, when he moved from Qumbu, outside Mthatha, to Masiphumelele
In Grade 10, he was forced to drop out of school due to financial problems at home, but also because he had no ID book.
“I was sailing for an organisation called Race Ahead, and my coach’s father took me to home affairs numerous times. It took a month, but finally, at the age of 20, I was recognised as a South African citizen. It was an amazing feeling.”
At the event, at La Rochelle in France, he and teammate Asenathi Jim finished 16th out of 89 boats. Since then, he has competed in Wales, France and Greece.
In 2017, he volunteered as an instructor at RCYC academy and today he is the senior instructor responsible for 45 youth from township communities who sail on weekends.
“I had a lot of coaches and people who helped me in my sailing career and I wanted to do that, to give back and help those kids who wanted to learn. My coaches inspired me and encouraged me, and now I get to introduce other kids to the sport and teach them how to sail,” he told the Echo.
General manager at RCYC, Toni Mainprize, said they saw the potential in Sibusiso to grow and flourish and embarked on a plan to invest in years of training, starting with his SAS skippers course, then on to his safety training, instructors course, senior instructors course and now his yachtmaster offshore.
“He has embraced it all and thrived, and he is a pleasure to have on the team. Yet again he has impressed by embracing this new challenge of skippering a boat and team in the Cape2Rio race. We are exceptionally proud of him,” Ms Mainprize told the Echo.
Racing this iconic race is a long-held dream for Sibusiso, one he was unsure would ever happen due to lack of sponsorship.
“My dream was to race Cape2Rio with a 100% academy sailing crew, and our team stood strong throughout the one-and-a-half-year search for a sponsor. When we heard Alexforbes was backing us, I just wanted to go out and celebrate,” he said.
Viresh Maharaj, executive for strategy and customer experience at Alexforbes, told the Echo that Sibusiso’s character is an embodiment of grit, determination and refusing to let circumstances define his future.
“In him, there is humility, leadership and a sense of purpose that aligns with our company’s vision of being impactful on the society in which we operate,” he said.
On the team’s chances in the race, Sibusiso said it would all come down to the weather. “If we have good conditions, we have a good chance of being on the podium. The first achievement will be to get there – winning will be an extra bonus.”
Originally published by False Bay Echo