By SYDNEY MORWENG
An estimated 4000 plus sailor enthusiasts came to experience the popular and well marketed Round the Island Race at the Lake Deneys Yacht Club in Deneysville, Vaal Dam recently.
Patrons and tourists came from all walks of life, including international participants who had to endure the sunny weather and serendipity that Vaal has to offer.
Sailing sport is reported to contribute millions into the Growth Domestic Product (GDP) annually in the country, and it has potential to grow beyond that.
Local tourism for the residents of Vaal has grown amazingly having hosted the event as far back as 53 years ago by the Lake Deneys Yacht Club. At the time of publishing there were no estimation given for this past weekend’s figures.
The three-day event received financial muscle from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), which as part of their national campaign to teach sailors and public about water and importance of safety used this platform to engage and explain what the organization stands for.
Sharing his enthusiasm with SPORTS FOCUS, Commander and Chief Executive at SAMSA Tsietsi Mokhele, articulately said the organization’s involvement is to use this opportunity to introduce the campaign to the public.
“The core message behind the campaign is, and will, be to educate the public about water and safety of marine, be it boats or ships,” says Mokhele who is a Sailor by profession.
The former exile and MK who was trained in Russia as a Navigator in 1980’s returned to South Africa in order to pursue Navy’s work after realizing that blacks were not keen in pursuing Marine career.
“This is one career with many opportunities, and we hope with this campaign we will have interest from young South Africans.”
SAMSA is an organization which reports to the National Department of Transport and its core mandate is to promote South Africa’s maritime interests, development and position the country as an international Maritime Centre while ensuring maritime safety, health and environmental protection.
Asked whether transformation in sailing sport is evident, he did not mince his words and said it’s not.
“What we need to do is introduce or establish academies which will be catalyst to the situation. Currently, we have handful of such establishments but they’re not visible as one would have anticipated,” said the Vaal born.
Sailing sport draws large international interest, and this augurs well for the country in terms of spin-offs, tourism boost and international confidence.
He also made a mention that, talks are under way with stakeholders to establish a sailing academy school within the lake for next year.
Confirming that he could also show-boat and impress the visitors’-although he did not after much persuasion- the Commander had a chat with youngsters who had gathered to air their interest in the sport.
As for transformation, sport should be inclusive of everyone, and we as custodians should conscientious other races into this kind of sport, the right-way of course, he lamented.
Asked what would be the tight way, he simply said by “introducing them to manuals, workshops and establishing academies.
Yes, it’s a fact that this is an expensive sport, however, that should not deter other people not to follow it.”
On their working synergy with the department of Tourism, the Commander opined that the Marine/Cruise Tourism is growing fast, and should be considered one of the best employers in the country by our youngsters.
“We’ve created a good rapport with the National Department of Tourism, and our future plans is to grow beyond the borders, and identify this sector as key in tourism in the southern Hemisphere,” says the bespectacled Commander.