Maiden voyage – sailing into a brighter future

Straight from writing her crucial final exam – maritime economics – on Friday, Nqobile Khuzwayo (19) will be embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime journey.  On Saturday she’ll be heading to Cape Town International airport, to fly for the first time ever, when she boards an international flight from Cape Town, via Dubai to Dakar in Senegal, to join the all-female crew on Maiden, to help sail the 18m aluminium yacht down the West Coast of Africa and into the Port of Cape Town.


Maiden is on a 90 000 nautical mile (nm) circumnavigation aimed at empowering women in sailing and raising money for girls’ education.  The yacht and crew will visit upwards of 60 destinations in around 40 countries over the next three years.

Learning to sail

Hailing from the township of Mayville in Durban, Khuzwayo was exposed to a future on the ocean when she joined Sail Africa.  Here she found her passion for the sport and started sailing every Tuesday. Sailing piqued her interest in the maritime industry and, in Grade 9 she applied to study at the Lawhill Maritime Centre in Simon’s Town.  She was fortunate to be awarded a bursary to attend Lawhill by Marine Inspirations, which was steered through the SATS General Botha Old Boys’ Association Bursary Fund.

Affiliated to Simon’s Town School, the Lawhill Maritime Centre is a 100% industry funded programme, which gives learners the opportunity to include subjects such as marine sciences, nautical sciences and maritime economics in their curriculum.  This helps them gain a foothold in the maritime industry immediately after school.

In 2017, the Lawhill Maritime Centre was gifted a 7.6 m (25ft) yacht called Homero, by the Caimari family – avid supporters of Marine Inspirations. Homero provides invaluable opportunities for learners to gain sailing and navigational experience.  Khuzwayo continued to sail in False Bay and, as captain of the sailing team, she logged up many sea miles and recently completed her Day Skippers ticket.

‘I am still trying to wrap my head around the incredible opportunity for me to sail on Maiden, it is going to be an unbelievable experience that will impact my life forever,’ says Khuzwayo.  ‘But it has also made me realise I am a sailor and I’m so excited to sail with these experienced women, from all around the world, to improve and hone my skills.  I still have a lot to learn, both in sailing and life, so am looking forward to being out on the ocean in the open-air classroom. I know it will be a wonderful training ground for my future, which I hope will be in the superyacht industry.’

The Maiden

Skippered by Dame Tracy Edwards, Maiden was sailed by the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989/1990, winning two of the toughest legs on the course and finishing second overall. It was a landmark moment for the sailing world and opened the door for competitive female sailing, for which Edwards was awarded an MBE.

Now, after a major refurbishment, Maiden’s new mission is around raising awareness of the 130 million girls worldwide who are currently not able to access an education. This will be done by interacting with communities in each port, fundraising and supporting community programmes worldwide all to enable girls to get into an education stream and remain there through their teenage years.

Maiden is now sailing the seven seas, again with an all-female crew and Khuzwayo will be on board from Dakar to the V&A Waterfront, arriving in the first week of January.

SA connections
When Maiden sails into Cape Town, Vuyisile Jaca (24) from the township of KwaMashu will also be on board. Jaca has been sailing with Sail Africa Youth Development Foundation since her school days back in 2015. Through this association she learnt to swim and completed a swim instructors’ course. She’s also completed the gruelling Vasco Da Gama Ocean Race, earned her Day Skippers and is on her way to becoming a sailing instructor.

Paying it forward

Marine Inspirations has, over the years, taken young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of them from South Africa, to Spain to introduce them to sailing and the superyacht industry. Their time there includes visiting shipyards, meeting sail makers and naval architects as well as other support service industries. This is alongside them literally ‘learning the ropes’ by gaining sailing experience, practising navigation skills and helping with boat maintenance.  Over the years, Sail Africa has sent 10 young people, four of them female, on this inspirational tour with 32 Lawhill learners also being part of the experience.

After the ‘Maiden’ voyage, the plan is for Khuzwayo to travel to Spain to launch her career in the superyacht industry.

‘As a General Botha old boy, I was fortunate to embark on a sea career which lead me to captaining a number of superyachts and sailing around the world,’ says Captain Phil Wade of Marine Inspirations. ‘This industry provides so many opportunities for young people and our mentoring programme is all about introducing these prospects to youngsters from disadvantaged or less-advantaged backgrounds. We are thrilled that two of our South students are sailing on Maiden, it’s not only a wonderful experience for them but also helps open doors for other females in the maritime industry.’

Caption: Nqobile Khuzwayo with Captain Phil Wade of Marine Inspirations.

To find out more about Maiden and the organisations involved:

The Maiden Factor:

Lawhill Maritime Centre:

Marine Inspirations: 

Sail Africa:

SATS General Botha Old Boys’ Association Bursary Fund: