Match racing star Philip Bendon has been nominated for the prestigious Sailor of the Year award by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA).
He may not compete under the South African flag right now, but Bendon grew up in Knysna and Cape Town and learned the ropes on SA waters. And come 1 March, the 20-year-old could be capped Ireland’s finest sailor for 2013.
ÔÇ£I spent most of my life in South Africa. When we started spending more time in Knysna I used to do quite a lot of sailing and I got my first Oppie from Redhouse Sailing Club in PE,ÔÇØ explained Bendon.
ÔÇ£Sailing in South Africa was awesome. I grew up sailing every day with my best friends and it instilled a love for the sport in me. Today some of my best friends are people I grew up sailing Optimists with,ÔÇØ added the Cork-born sailor.
ÔÇ£From a sailing point of view I think sailing in South Africa gives you a wide range of conditions from heavy winds and big waves in Simon’s Town to no wind and big wind shifts on the Vaal dam. There is just such contrast which, when you are younger, you don’t really take notice of but as you get older you realise how much those experiences help you.
ÔÇ£For example the European Championships this year was at a place called Constance in Germany and it was the exact same as Midmar dam from a sailing point of view. It was really light and shifty all event and my team and I felt really comfortable in the conditions.ÔÇØ
Currently based in Southampton, England, Bendon is studying to be a naval architect but he has big plans for his sailing future.
ÔÇ£Long term it is to be on the World match racing tour. Our aim is to be on the tour within the next two years. We will hopefully be doing some tour events this year as wild cards with an aim of being ranked inside the top 15 teams in the world by the end of the year,ÔÇØ he said.
ÔÇ£My biggest ambition is to win the Americas Cup in particular for either South Africa or Ireland.ÔÇØ
In the meantime, Bendon returns to South Africa at least once a year and sees himself settling in Cape Town somewhere down the line. ÔÇ£I wish I could go back more as I miss being home a lot but being in Europe is pretty fun too, so I am just enjoying it as long as I can. I would love to move back to Cape Town at some stage in my life,ÔÇØ he reckoned.
Picture: Claudia Somm