by Roy Dunster
With skipper Roger Hudson, helmsman Asenathi Jim was the sole South African entrant at the 2012 Olympic Games. This was in spite of starting their campaign just 18 months earlier and the 470 having no history in South Africa.
From that early success, the team now has Brazil 2016 firmly in their sights. The team took Silver in the 470s at Sail Melbourne at the end of 2012, and qualified for the Gold Fleet at the Palma World Cup and at both the European and World Championships in 2013. Asenathi, sailing with fellow-Under 21 sailor SibuSizatu and with Roger as coach, also placed 16th at the 470 Junior World Championship and 7th at the 470 Junior European Championship.
Outside 470s, Roger (tactician) and Asenathi (bowman) joined Geoff Carveth (helm) and Lesley Dhonau (UK) to win the 2012 SB20 Worlds in Australia. Asenathi then helmed the South African entry at the 2013 SB20 Worlds into third place – he was joined by Roger Hudson (skipper), and SibuSizatu and WadiXayimpi.
Asenathi is just 21. He’s a natural, extremely fast helmsman, and is SAILING Magazine’s Sailor of the Year for 2013.
SAILING: What have you been doing since the Olympics?
Asenathi: After the Games, we took one month off to rest. At the end of 2012, we did Sail Melbourne on the 470 (came second) and then the 2012 SB20 Worlds with Geoff Carveth (UK) at Hamilton Island, which we won.
We’d always planned to focus on the 470 under 21 Worlds for 2013. With this in mind, Roger has been driving the building of an Olympic programme in RSA and training youngsters to be part of it. We set up in Simon’s Town and ran trials for several really talented young sailors.
We also wanted to improve our ranking in the 470 Class and that has gone well. In January 2013, we were 27th in the World and that improved to 14th in October, after reaching a peak of ninth in April.
SAILING: What have been the highlights of 2013 for you?
Asenathi: It’s been an incredible year. Parts of the racing have been ‘okay’ because we really tried hard for the SB20 and 470 under 21 Worlds and didn’t win either. We got good results but we wanted to do better.
However, both Roger and I have had children this year and both of them are boys. It’s great that we’re producing the next generation! We’re now really focused on doing better with the racing in 2014.
SAILING: What are the most important things you’ve learned from the Olympic 470 campaign?
Asenathi: A lot of it has been how to operate in life and get my lifestyle right, how to treat my body and be more organised. I have a good teacher because Roger Hudson is one of the most organised people in the world!
I think a lot of people don’t understand that doing well in sailing isn’t just a case of being fast through the water – there’s a whole lot of other stuff that gets you ready before you even arrive at the regatta venue. You obviously need to have confidence in your manoeuvres and speed but you only get to that point if you’re prepared properly and have gone through a proper equipment selection process – and that’s hard when you’re competing against countries that have massive sailing teams and huge budgets. Roger is really good at putting a whole campaign together and I’ve seen how hard he works at it. It’s been his area of the campaign so far and I’m not responsible for it yet, but I’m trying to learn from him.
SAILING: What are your plans for 2014?
Asenathi: Both Roger and I have a bit more responsibility now, but we have the Miami ISAF Sailing World Cup at the end of January and then a lot of training in Cape Town with the youngsters and some international teams after that. The big thing is to build a pool of local sailors that can sail against each other so we all get better. In the Northern Hemisphere summer, we’ll do some European regattas like the Princess Sofia in Palma, the Spring Cup in the south of France, Hyeres (also in France) and the Europeans in Athens. Our major focus is the Santander ISAF Worlds – the top 14 countries secure early qualification for Rio. It’s a massive ask for us but we’re going to put a 100% effort into attempting to qualify.
SAILING: What are your plans after Brazil in 2016?
Asenathi: I want to keep being a full-time sailor so I definitely want to keep sailing. After 2016 I’d like to continue doing the Olympics, ideally in the 470. I’d love to do other racing but my goal is definitely to be an Olympic medallist. Obviously, big regattas like the America’s Cup would be a good challenge, and I enjoy match racing, but the Olympics is the main focus for me.
SAILING: Anyone you’d like to acknowledge?
Asenathi: A lot of people. Team Race Ahead has been a huge influence on my sailing and my life in general, and my team mate, Roger Hudson, has done a huge amount of work to get me to where I am now. Dave Beresford Hudson is a wonderful mentor to our team and I am also really grateful to our supporters and sponsors MACS Shipping, Musto, OpenBox Software, Southern Charter Wealth Management, and Synergy Income Fund, as well as Operation Excellence, SASCOC and, especially, South African Sailing and Rob M’Crystal.