When Sibu Sizatu first told his family he was off sailing, they had no clue what he was on about. But just a few years later, the 21-year-old from Qumbu is on the verge of making his international sailing debut.
And who better to have with him in the boat than Olympian Asenathi Jim, who learned his craft at the same Izivunguvungu sailing school in Simonstown?
South African Sailing (SAS) announced that Sizatu has been selected to partner Jim at the Junior (under-21) World and European Championships in France and Wales. The World Championship event takes place from 27 July to 3 August in La Rochelle while the European competition will be contested from 14-22 August in Pwllheli.
ÔÇ£The under-21 World and European Championships will be my first international sailing competitions, so I am really excited,ÔÇØ said Sizatu from the team’s training base in France where they are preparing with the expert assistance of Jim’s fellow Olympian Roger Hudson.
ÔÇ£I got into sailing quite late when I was 16. I was living in Masiphumelele township in Cape Town and through friends at school I heard about the Izivunguvungu sailing school,ÔÇØ explained Sizatu, who had moved from nearby former president Nelson Mandela’s birthplace to the Western Cape by that stage.
ÔÇ£I happened to ask them where they were going after school one day and they said I could come and join them and try sailing. They put me in an old Optimist and I had no control over the boat at all and no idea what was going on. After that I stayed away for two months, but then because all of my friends were sailing all the time and I didn’t want to stay home alone, I went back to it and tried again.
ÔÇ£This time I got into a two-man boat with a more experienced guy and from then on I really enjoyed it,ÔÇØ added Sizatu.
ÔÇ£My family didn’t take it seriously when I mentioned that I joined a sailing school because they had no idea what sailing was. But my friends were happy because we were all doing the same thing.ÔÇØ
Five years later, Sizatu has worked his way up the ranks, training with Team RaceAhead from 2010, to compete at the highest level and credits Jim and Hudson with showing him the ropes in more ways than one. ÔÇ£Asenathi and Roger are guiding me in so many ways. They have helped me learn how to approach things in life and in sailing. They brought the professionalism of their Olympic campaign back to the new SA Sailing Olympic base in Simonstown and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
ÔÇ£It is great to be able to join them and train alongside them. But it really is not easy ÔÇô the way they train and do things is really tough, but I can feel it making me stronger all the time. I’m also lucky to have Roger who has a lot of experience in my position in the boat and he has helped me to understand the role and to improve my sailing knowledge.ÔÇØ
Sizatu also gives credit to SAS for their role in his development. ÔÇ£SA Sailing invested in six 470 boats which have been excellent in our training program since October. They also support Asenathi and Roger in their Rio 2016 campaign and that support has made it easier for them to support and assist other sailors such as myself.ÔÇØ
With aspirations of an Olympic campaign of his own one day, Sizatu believes any time on the water in these tough international conditions is invaluable.
ÔÇ£With the team I have around me there is a great chance of achieving good results and gaining massive experience. But the philosophy of the team is to commit absolutely 100 per cent to what we are doing in terms of preparation, training and performance. As long as we do this we accept whatever results come our way,ÔÇØ he said.
ÔÇ£These opportunities don’t come too often. When I heard that I was going to France and Wales I was singing all the way home.ÔÇØ