The African entry competing in the Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race has completed one of the toughest legs of the 2013-14 edition of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, but crossing the finish line, even in the dark, under San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge, is a moment to savour after 5600 miles of ocean racing across the mighty Pacific.
Invest Africa has claimed its first podium position since arriving in Cape Town last October for Leg 2 of the race, finishing in third place in one of the tightest finishes to date, with a yoyo effect at the top of the leaderboard and only a few miles separating the top teams.
Skipper Rich Gould and his team had been holding position in the top half of the fleet for the duration of the mighty North Pacific crossing, only to be overtaken in the final hours after falling victim to lighter airs.
Arriving in San Francisco, Rich says: “For the last 2 days we have had incredibly light winds which was the final part of the challenge. We made a very early commitment to go south which helped our climb up the leaderboard. When we made that push south the guys worked really hard on the kite in some really exciting heavy weather, so testament to the guys for keeping us going like that.
“As the team has developed and I have developed in the way I lead the team, there have been some very valuable changes for me there. We have been through a bad spell, but this proves to the team and to me that we are capable of running the boat hard and fast and we do run a competitive boat. We held onto first for a good long time, sadly not quite long enough, but we climbed up the fleet and onwards and upwards from here.”
Some of the yachts have not seen any other boats for weeks during this leg of the Clipper Race. At times the nearest other humans to the teams were those passing overhead in passenger aircraft or on the International Space Station orbiting roughly 300 miles above the world’s largest expanse of water.
Invest Africa is home of the 17 South Africans that are taking part in various stages of the race. One of those is Nqoba Mswazi, a 22 -year-old from Durban, one of eight young South Africans aged 18 to 23 from Townships chosen to take part in the Clipper Race as part of the Sapinda Rainbow Project, endorsed by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
The unique initiative aims to develop young community leaders of the future who will also raise international awareness and funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.
Completing one of the toughest legs of the race and spending more than three weeks at sea, Nqoba says: “Crossing the Pacific was rough, cold and miserable. Once I started getting used to the cold I started to enjoy the race. It’s been a good race, tough and hard with a lot of hours. We had to give it all we have because we had to get a podium place. We didn’t do too great at the start but then we saw ourselves in a podium position and had to keep it.
“Never give up – that is the main thing I have learnt. Waking up in a warm bunk to put on cold wet clothes and go into the cold was the worst thing, but after a few weeks it was natural. I learnt a lot from the other round the world crew members and from the skipper. It is very different to the sailing I do back home. I take part in round the cans races so all the boats are very close together, and this one for 25 days the boats are so far apart which I am not used to, it was a different environment I had to learn to adapt too and it was a great experience for me.
“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. After my programme I completed my day skipper course, they offered me an assisting coaching programme so that I could coach for other schools which was a bonus for me because I could also coach my school. From there I just kept upgrading my qualifications until I got my Level 1 and became a coach for Sail Africa.
“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 skippers 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. The whole Sapinda Rainbow Project group are trying to set up a NGO programme for the youth in South Africa and we are developing our plans at the moment which is really exciting.”
Nqoba will pass the Sapinda Rainbow Project baton onto ambassador number 7, Mency Modolo a 19 year old from Mtubatuba, Kwazulu-Natal who will be joining the African team in San Francisco. The Clipper Race teams have a short stopover before starting Race 11 to New York via Panama and Jamaica on 19 April in the e PSP Logistics Panama 100 Cup.