Young Kwazulu-Natal residents set off on challenge of a lifetime

Two Kwazulu-Natal residents have set off on the challenge of a lifetime, to sail almost 5,000 miles from New York, USA, across the North Atlantic Ocean in the final, Homecoming Leg of the world’s longest, toughest ocean challenge, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Having never sailed before taking part in the race, 23 year-old Siphamandla Ngcobo from Durban, and 22 year-old Sakhile Khulekani Makhanya are two of eight young South Africans aged 18 to 23 chosen to take part in the Clipper Race as part of the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation.

Siphamandla and Sakhile joined the IchorCoal entry, one of twelve teams, which eft London more than eight months ago. Racing across the Atlantic, they will experience fog banks, changing winds and will pass close to the wreck of the Titanic before heading up over the Flemish Cap – the setting for the Perfect Storm. The route will take the teams well south of the icebergs that are expected to be in this area.

After arriving in New York to meet his team mates, Siphamandla said: “”My family have been so supportive and happy for me. I am the first youngster in the family to leave the country and represent our community. The community is proud that one of them is representing not just in South Africa, but internationally. They are very supportive in every way.”

“I am looking forward to having fun and learning new things about people and their different ways of living. My friends are happy and sad about my adventure. They are happy that I’m going to New York and actually going to do something totally different which is sailing. They are also sad that they will miss me.”

Siphamandla was raised by a hard working single mother who insured that the family survived. After completing his matric in 2010 he enrolled for Civil Engineering studies and currently doing internship provided by SETA to acquire experience in Civil Engineering field. He has a desire of opening a construction company that will create employment for young people who dropped out of school. “Young people from my community often think they have a future but I believe I can be a source of change for my community, creating employment will keep them away from drugs and crime.

“I’m hoping to learn a lot on the race but most importantly, find a character in me that I do not know about. Learn to be able to deal with situations in the moment. In one way or another, the race will impact me a lot in future since I want to one day have my own company. So living people with comes in a lot because I will be working with different people. I want to achieve a lifestyle of living with everyone around the world.

“My motivation to work in the Engineering industry and own a company one day is through my mom and dad. My dad motivated me with what I saw with his company when he still had one. He got the community together and opened job opportunities for people. So I also one want to help someone by granting them with a job in my community. It is hard and you so not just make it, but with hard work and determination, I think I can make it.” The Clipper Race was set up by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-9. His vision was to enable people, regardless of their sailing history the chance to take part in ocean racing no matter what their background.

” The ten ambassadors were shortlisted to take part in the race from nearly 200 applicants, aged 18-23, by the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation and come from a wide range of challenging backgrounds across South Africa. The opportunity, funded by the Foundation, aims to provide new personal development skills to the ambassadors that they can give back into their communities and use to inspire others. They will be supported by mentors beyond their Clipper Race experience to help them pursue their career goals. The Foundation chairman, Dirk Van Daele, participated in the 2009-10 edition of the Clipper Race and saw a similar project make a profound difference for young people from deprived inner city areas in Europe. He launched the first South African initiative in 2013 and created the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation last year to provide longer term support and development opportunities for the selected candidates from challenging backgrounds in South Africa.

Each ambassador is taking part in a leg of the race and this year the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation crew members are helping to raise awareness and funding for innovative research into the long term effects of HIV treatment by the Ndlovu Care Group in Limpopo, South Africa, where one in five of the population is infected with the virus. Preparing for the race in New York, Sakhile says: I want to put all of my heart in the boat and my focus on the team and how we are going to work as a team, we are promoting teamwork. I am a team player and I am looking forward to working as a team and giving it my all.”

Sakhile, from Mtubatuba, was raised by his grandfather and worked with his grandfather to fix the tractor that was used to provide food for the family. The experience and the involvement with his grandfather grew his love for fixing cars and after his grandfather passed on he took the responsibility of managing the tractor to continue to put food on the table. “I have been reading the other ambassadors blogs and it gave me a revived interest I have been waiting almost a year to join the boat. It makes me think Sakhile, you can do it, get out there and do it. I enjoy all the roles on board and want to try and do a little bit of everything if I can, however a frustrating thing for me is the cooking on board. I never cooked before training for the race, when I am at home my sister always cooks for us so it has been a learning curve, I never thought that an opportunity to learn to sail would also be the opportunity to learn how to cook!

Race 12: The LegenDerry Finale departed New York for Derry-Londonderry, NI on Monday 20 June and is estimated to arrive in the Northern Irish city of Derry-Londonderry between 7-11 July. ”

To find out more about the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation, click here.

For further information about the Clipper Race please visit