Midrand Gautrain Station to RCYC, by Lindani Mchunu
The closest I ever got to the ocean was going to the beach in Durban as a kid. The one thing I always knew about the Ocean, it’s a place of spirituality. At least that is what my grandmother taught me. There was reverence and fear in her voice when she spoke of the ocean and its healing powers. For me I think the fear was more prominent in her communication. Yet I saw my grandmother use the ocean as a place of intense prayer and connection to a higher power. And I saw people believe her. With both my parents being lawyers, my path was laid out for me before I could even think about the future really.
I idolized my father as a kid. He would take me with him to his lectures at the University of Natal and I would sit in the audience and watch this young black man, command a room of very attentive, white and Indian law students. I would listen to him speak in English and think to myself why is he so different from all other men in my community. I did not understand then, that my father’s education and exposure, having completed his Masters in Law in Bristol, made him different from the masses of uneducated black people in the late 80’s, in South Africa.
So I idolized him and wanted to be like him in every way. Little did I know, that I would be so different from him that at times I wondered if indeed he was my father? Such is the journey of the Son. He must find his own way. To find your own way when your father casts a huge shadow is almost an impossible task. Unless of course the impossible is exactly what you are pursuing. On a train ride from Midrand Gautrain station to Rosebank. The impossible found me. It was 2012 and I was 29. Life at that period in my life had been a series of missed opportunities and wasted time. I was at the point where I intrinsically knew, that I had not lived up to my full potential. I had a deep sense of not belonging in the concrete jungle of Joburg.
For some reason, even though I had been a city boy all my life, I just couldn’t find my legs on the slippery surface of the corporate world, of big ambitions and fast living. Considering the fact that I was at the time making an attempt to revive my pursuit of becoming a pilot, I knew deep down that I was looking for an escape somehow. I just didn’t know where I wanted to go.
The white middle aged gentleman who would show me the way, met me as I had finished writing my Air Law exam, as one of the exams for my private pilot’s license. It was pure coincidence that placed us there together on the train station heading in the same direction. It was proximity that made us sit opposite each other on the train as we got in. it was the pilot’s book in my hand that made him utter the first word to me. We spoke about aviation and SAA and the country, and of course as usual about politics. I have never understood why white people generally think that black people have inside information on the happenings inside of the upper echelons of the ANC or government. When a white person speaks to a black person about politics you would swear they are talking to one of the ANC NEC top 6.
Once we waded through the boring political stuff, he mentioned something that peaked my interest. He said, “Lindani do you know anything about sailing”? My mind froze for a minute, trying to compute the word. Imagine its origin and delineation. Nothing came to my mind. I was blank. Here I was flying planes on weekends and thinking how exposed I was, yet this word “sailing” had just taken the wind out of me. I parted ways with my stranger in Rosebank but not before I took his business card and he promised to send me a link to a sailing school in Cape Town for me to go check out.
He sent the link and indeed I did go to Cape Town in August of 2012. The Sailing School that he referred me to was Alex Cousin’s Yacht Master Sailing School, situated at the Royal Cape Yacht Club. Alex taught me so many things. So much more than Sailing, Alex taught me how one builds confidence in oneself when you are confronted with something completely new and you have to have enough confidence to conquer it and do it with grace.
I sat in the Flag Officers room in 2012 for the very first time to write my Coastal Skippers exam. I didn’t know then, that 5 years later in 2017 I would be the Academy Manager at the Royal Cape Yacht Club, and that 5 years after that in 2022, I would be saying goodbye, only this time I would be leaving behind so much of myself.
Life rarely gives one the opportunity to find a job that very quickly turns into a calling and then defines your purpose with such clarity, that irrespective of your circumstances, you never doubt the fact, that this is what you are supposed to be doing with your life.
Sailing has taken me around the world and back. I have had experiences that will make me unique forever. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to give a list of my achievements at RCYC. The Academy is a living testament of my efforts. Saying goodbye is not my strong suit. Saying goodbye is not possible in this instance anyway. There is no escape from the Ocean, and sailing is what takes me there. So I will always be at the Club as much as possible trying to get on a boat.
Sikele Mente. Ovayo Myira. Azile Arosi. Sibu Sizatu. Renaldo Mohale. Athi Vena. Momelezi Funani. Zipho Peters. Vitor Medina. Joe Heywood. Howard Richman. Toni Mainprize. Jennifer Burger. Thando Ntombela. Lebogang January. Justin Peters. Cameron Peters. Mathew Cloete. Yonela Mkaza. Yonela Temela. John Levine. Hanri Loots. Paul Morris. Pete Sherlock. Luke Scott. Hilary Ackermann. Kerry Pryde. Natalie de Gois. Mickey. Belinda. Elliot. Sazi. Zolani. Chad. Zulu. Alan. Brian. Christa. Tammy. Damian. Andrew Collins. Nick Leggatt. Boet. Gerrie. Dave Hudson. Phillip Baum. And so many more….
I could keep going. This is what my time here has meant to me. People. Different people, from different backgrounds, all showing me different ways to see the world.
Many have said I have done incredible things and changed the Academy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The committee members that supported me over the years did incredible things by believing in a complete stranger with crazy dreams. The Academy kids who have stayed with us for the whole five years of my tenure and went on to achieve amazing personal achievements through our program, have done incredible things. The Academy changed one thing and one thing only. It changed me. And for that I will be forever grateful. Love you all. See you on the water.