Clipper Race. Young South Africans complete intensive UK training

Sapinda Rainbow Ambassadors for 2015
Sapinda Rainbow Ambassadors for 2015

Ten young South Africans, some of whom have never seen the ocean before, are celebrating the completion of an intensive four week training programme in the UK to compete in the world’s longest ocean challenge: The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

They were shortlisted from nearly 200 applicants, aged 18-23, by the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation. They come from a wide range of challenging backgrounds across South Africa and have been put through their paces in preparation for a leg in the 40,000 mile life-changing experience.

18 year-old Zanele Mweni from Mtubatuba is taking part in the first leg of the race starting from London, UK this August. She says: “It was my first time overseas. I have learnt so many things, like I can’t drive a car or bicycle but I can drive a boat helming! I now have the confidence to teach people to hoist a mainsail and how parts of the boat work.

“The highlights have been the times when I haven’t been seasick. For me the most challenging part has been the seasickness and the watch system sleeping four hours on and four hours off. I have learnt the importance of teamwork, sailing is nice but sometimes it’s challenging, it requires everyone to work as a team to keep the boat moving and it’s inspired me very much. Now I feel I have found myself and I know what I want to do with my life.”

The opportunity is fully funded by the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation. Its chairman, Dirk Van Daele, participated in the 2009-10 edition of the Clipper Race when he saw a similar project make a profound difference for young people from deprived inner city areas in Europe. He launched the first initiative in 2013 and created the Foundation last year to provide longer term support and development opportunities for the selected candidates from challenging backgrounds in South Africa. The aim is for participants in the project to take their new skills back into their communities, inspire others and will be supported by mentors beyond their Clipper Race experience to help them pursue their career goals.

Dirk says: “These young people have been removed from their daily routine in their local communities and out of their comfort zones. They have all embraced the experience and already achieved something extraordinary completing the intense training. I know the race will broaden their horizons and grow their confidence and leadership skills as they continue to be exposed to the world around them. We a witnessed a big impact on our participants in the last race and anticipate a similar life-changing experience again.”

In this edition of the race the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation crew members will help raise awareness and funding for innovative research into the long term effects of HIV treatment by the Ndlovu Care Group in Limpopo, South Africa, where one in five of the population is infected with the virus.

“I have visited the Ndlovu Care Group in Limpopo with a number of our young people to see the great work carried out there,” added Mr Van Daele. “Their new research project will study the long term effect of anti-retroviral drug treatment which will enable the development of new strategies for long-term care, treatment and dealing with associated chronic conditions. It has the potential to make a huge impact on people living with HIV infection and to unlock the new challenge in managing the AIDS epidemic Worldwide.

“This creates another dimension of responsibility for the young people participating in the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation project and gives them a valuable insight into the challenge of AIDS and HIV in South Africa.”

The candidates have now been allocated to a professional skipper who will lead their team which includes people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities. They will each complete a single leg of the race and learn to work, live and compete together in challenging yet highly rewarding situations against everything that Mother Nature has to throw at them, as well as having the opportunity to travel to exciting destinations as they race across the world’s oceans.

The ambassadors will be lead around the world by their Clipper Race team skipper, Darren Ladd, following training, Darren says: “The ambassadors have been training for four weeks back to back and each level of training is physically and mentally challenging. During their training they have spent many days at sea, working on shifts and they’ve done really well. They are thriving on the challenge and it’s great to see a group of young people with no background in sailing from a diverse culture come together and work well as a team. They have all embraced the sailing and should be very proud of their achievement.”

The Clipper Race has long been recognised as a powerful personal development challenge which provides learning and leadership experiences in a very challenging environment. It is uniquely aimed at amateur crew and sailing novices from all walks of life. It’s divided into eight legs comprising a series of global races and is the only race in the world where the organisers supply a fleet of twelve identical racing yachts, each with a fully qualified skipper to safely guide the crew.

The Clipper Race was created by its chairman, the UK yachting legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who became the first person to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in 1968-69. He has been involve in many youth development projects through sailing and sits on the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation Advisory Board; he is also personally mentoring some of the young people participating in the initiative.

The eight crew and two reserves selected are listed below. The tenth edition of the Clipper Race starts in the UK on Sunday 30 August 2015 and will visit Cape Town in late October 2015.

Sapinda Rainbow Project Ambassadors for 2015:

Khulekani Ben Makhanya (23). Mtubatuba, Kwazulu-Natal
Leg 5 – Whitsundays, QLD, Australia to Qingdao, China via South East Asia – 7,400 miles/ 11,900 km around 53 days

Rveida Lungelo Mthethwa (20). Mtubatuba, Kwazulu-Natal
Leg 2 – Rio, Brazil  to Cape Town, SA – 3,390 miles/ 5,455 km around 18 days

Zanele Mweni (18). Mtubatuba, Kwazulu-Natal
Leg 1- UK to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 5,630 miles/ 9,060 km around 33 days

Siphamandla Ngcobo (23). Durban, Kwazulu-Natal
Leg 8 – East Coast America, Derry-Londonderry, NI, UK – 3,750 miles/ 6,050 km around 22 days

Lerato Bridgette Masombuka (20). Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng
Leg 7 – West Coast to East Coast USA, via Panama Canal – 5,100 miles/ 8,200 km around 38 days

Sewisa Lawrence Magane (23). Groberlsdal, Limpopo.
Leg 3 – Cape Town, SA to Albany, WA, Australia – 4,700 miles/ 7,560 km around 23 days

Boitumelo Charlotte Maila (22). Dennilton, Limpopo
Leg 6 – Qingdao, China to West Coast America – 5,600 miles/ 9,000 km around 33 days

Thulisile Vanecia Lekalake (22). Kwamhlanga, Mpumalanga.
Leg 4 – All Australian, Albany WA, Sydney for the Rolex Sydney – Hobart Race, Whitsundays, QLD – 4,200 miles/ 6,760 km around 28 days

Sakhile Khulekani Makhanya (22). Mtubatuba, Kwazulu-Natal.

Rowanie Waldhausen (19). Durban, Kwazulu-Natal.

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