RSA’s Most Talented Young Team Start the 470 World Champs Today

Asenathi Jim & Sibu Sizatu going through the measurement process.

Sibu Sizatu and Asenathi Jim.

by Richard Crockett

South Africa is well represented at the two-person 470 dinghy World Champs in Greece from 7 – 15 July, with a team in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

Asenathi Jim and Sibu Sizatu are competing in the men’s division. They are the backbone of the RaceAhead Foundation, and an exciting new sailing combination, with Roger Hudson as the coach.

Tammy Holden (19) and Leah Smit (16) from Mossel Bay will also be competing in the 470 women’s category.

After a disappointing result in the Rio Olympics where both Roger Hudson and Asenathi Jim felt they had let down not only themselves, but also their supporters, there was a period of reflection which ultimately resulted in new structures and directions for the RaceAhead sailing team.

“Olympic sailing revolves in a 4-year cycle and you can’t do much in the short term to fix such a problem” said Roger Hudson.

“The first real opportunity to make amends is this year’s world championships. I am now dedicating my time and effort to helping the future talent of South African sailors. As a result I have spent around 150 days since Rio coaching young SA sailors between the ages of 11 to 25. I am looking to identify and develop sailors with Olympic potential.”

Asenathi Jim at the helm and Sibu Sizatu on trapeze.

“Asenathi and I remain eager to succeed in Olympic sailing for South Africa, and we remain committed to the original ideal of achieving transformation and performance simultaneously, and finding smart ways to fast-track young sailors.”

The duo is now approaching Olympic campaigning slightly differently, whilst being aware that their methods in the 2016 Olympic cycle produced consistent performance improvements – especially at world championships where they were 11th in 2016.

Hudson makes it very clear that South Africa has some of the very best rising young sailors that the country has ever seen – who happen to be black. They are talented, hungry to succeed and ready to commit to Olympic sailing. But without proper support structures it becomes a matter of hoping against the odds that these sailors will somehow perform against the best in the world.

The RaceAhead Foundation has charitably provided the organizational backbone of the RSA Olympic 470 campaigns of 2012 and 2016 and is committed to doing so through the 2017 470 Worlds Championship in Greece (July 10-15).

The RaceAhead Foundation has developed a new generation of diverse would-be Olympic sailors by building a training squad around their Rio 2016 campaign and steadily exposing the members of that squad to international and Olympic class sailing events – with good results.

Asenathi Jim and Sibu Sizatu, for example, competed together at the under-21 World and European Championships back in 2013, finishing 16th and 7th at the events – outstanding results at age-group international level, especially by SA standards. Numerous other strong international results have been achieved by this group each year since 2013. RaceAhead has also provided coaching, funding and support to many other promising young sailors to compete at international championships. These processes have proven to generate young sailors who are diverse, motivated and full of potential, and this support will continue throughout 2017.

Hudson’s key mission in Greece is to achieve the best possible result at the 470 World Championship with Asenathi and Sibu (both 25).

Sibu has been training with RaceAhead since 2012. He is a versatile sailor who has good skills in both helming and crewing on the 470. In January this year Hudson decided to push Sibu’s development specifically for the 470 crewing role at the Worlds in Greece. He spent a lot of time with Sibu on the boat in training, directly coaching him in the techniques and skills of 470 crewing.

After a long post-Rio break, Asenathi re-joined the training squad in March and since then they have both been working hard at developing their synergy in the boat. Asenathi is a very skilled and experienced sailor by international Olympic standards. He has the potential to go all the way to the top in the long term, and as a result he and Sibu have the potential to achieve a good result.

“Irrespective of where they finish, they will grow as sailors through this experience” said Hudson. “Sibu will gain top quality international racing experience and Asenathi will benefit from taking on more tactical responsibility and leadership within the new partnership”.

There will be around 80 teams at the event. According to Hudson a top 40 finish would be an acceptable result, a top 20 finish would be very satisfying and a top 10 would be outstanding. Plus a top 10 result would have a big impact on South Africa’s sailing prospects at Tokyo 2020.

The future looks bright for young South African sailors – especially if Roger Hudson and the RaceAhead Foundation can continue to nurture them and prepare them for the international stage and the rigours of tough international competition.

RaceAhead needs the support of every South African sailor who would like to see our talented up-and-coming youth sailors succeed against the best in the world.

Championship Website HERE