When 22-year-old Azile Arosi took up sailing, she knew nothing of the sport, only that she loved water – despite not being a confident swimmer.
Fast forward six years, and the small-town Eastern Cape woman is part of a team taking on the iconic Cape2Rio yacht race, which sets sail aboard the Alexforbes ArchAngel on 2 January 2023.
“I was born in Engcobo near Mthatha but since high schools were far from where I was living, I had to move to Cape Town after primary school,” Arosi said. She still lives with her aunt Nomanesi in Khayelitsha.
It was through the Emagqabini Education Academy, which assists high school learners in achieving their highest potential, that Arosi was introduced to sailing. “When I was told about this sport called sailing, I knew nothing about it. To this day, I am scared of the ocean and I can only swim in a life jacket, but I love water.” Arosi is part of the Royal Cape Yacht Club (RCYC) Sailing Academy, established in 2012 with the purpose of exposing youth from marginalised communities to the sport of sailing and developing careers in the maritime industry. The academy has touched the lives of hundreds of young people by providing technical skills as well as developing teamwork and fair play as life skills.
“We were taught how to swim, spent six months doing dinghy sailing lessons and then the real fun started, sailing in the bigger boats called L26,” said the sailor, who likes the position of being a Foredeck.
Arosi is extremely excited about the prospect of competing in the Cape2Rio. “I am so grateful to Alexforbes for coming on board because I had already lost the hope of getting a sponsor, it feels amazing and I cannot wait to get on the boat and sail to Rio.”
The team, under skipper Sibusiso Sizatu, hopes to complete the race in 24 days. Arosi’s longest sail to date is a day-and-night journey to Knysna, via Mossel Bay, and she feels ready after doing a solo night watch on this trip.
“It won’t be easy – it is going to be tiring and cold, and on stormy days we will get wet, despite the gear we wear to protect us from getting cold.” She admits sailing is not always enjoyable, especially if the wind is pounding, but says “if there is no wind, there is no fun!”.
“Even though I’m the only woman on the crew there will be equal tasks for all, we will share the cooking and the cleaning. I’m expecting a lot of canned food! There might be some arguments but I don’t think it will get tense, as we have known each other for more than four years.”
Currently completing her final year of a diploma in Entrepreneurship at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Arosi spends her days working the reception of the RCYC and helping with admin and events, as part of her three-month in-service training.
Arosi admits she is extremely competitive, saying the “thrill of racing is what I like most about sailing”.
Viresh Maharaj, Executive: Strategy and Customer Experience at Alexforbes, said Arosi and her five team members were South African heroes in the making, defying their backgrounds to participate in the race. “Alexforbes stands for the connection between tomorrow’s reality and today’s aspirations. The crew of the Alexforbes ArchAngel connects all of us with the possibility of tomorrow despite the challenges of today, and this is why we are fully on board,” he said.
Originally published by News24