The 2016 470 African Championship was a ground-breaking moment for sailing in Africa, as the event marked the first ever 470 African Championships and first Continental Olympic Qualification Event.
Eleven races and five days of competition saw Asenathi Jim/Roger Hudson crowned the inaugural 470 African Champions and Angola claim it’s place on the starting line at the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition. Jim/Hudson jostled for the title with team mates Sibusiso Sizatu/Alex Burger who put up a goodchallenge, continuously pushing the Olympians around every step of the race track. The overall lead exchanged hands between these two teams who between them dominated the leaderboard.
Jim/Hudson went into the final day with a 2 point advantage, and their clean win of the 25 minute Medal Race put victory nicely in the bag.“It’s pretty special for us to win,” grinned Jim. “And for our other teams that we train with almost every day to come 2nd, 3rd and 4th means a lot to us. They are some of the many people supporting us. It shows how much training we do as a team, it makes us feel proud, it shows a lot of progress in terms of what we’re doing, and trying to do, here in Cape Town.”
“We feel fantastic!” chipped in Hudson. “First of all, we are really pleased that the inaugural 470 African Championships has been hosted here and that it was such a fantastic sailing event, that we had such a great variety of weather and so many people pulled together to make the event possible. From a personal point of view, we are extremely pleased to have won the regatta, and it was really wonderful to see our training partners push us all the way to the end. That’s something we could only dream of a few years ago, and we’re so pleased that they’re doing so well. As we set off to go back on the international circuit tomorrow, we’re just so pleased to have had this wonderful event in Cape Town.”
Teams from Algeria, Angola and South Africa competed in the 470 African Championship, which saw the race course set right off Cape Town’s popular waterfront area and in front of the iconic Table Mountain.
Jim/Hudson secured South Africa’s place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games during the 2015 470 World Championships in Israel last year, so the battle to claim the one African continental qualification place unfolded between the teams representing Algeria and Angola.
Angola’s Matia Montinho/Paixao Afonso opened their assault with a strong 3rd place in race 1 and soon held their advantage over team mates Francisco Artur/Edivaldo Torres and the Algerian pair of Hakiim Djoulah/Samir Ksouri. A consistent scoreline rewarded them with a sixth place overall to give Montinho/Paixao Afonso’s the honour of securing their nation’s place to Rio and a massive celebration of success for Angola. Their achievement marks the first time Angola has competed in the 470 Men event since the 1992 Olympic Games.
“It’s a very important achievement, mainly for all the efforts from the various parties involved, sailors, clubs, coaches etc, over the last 8 years’ programme,” explained Nuno Gomes, Vice-President of the Angolan Federation of Nautical Sports. “It makes us believe it’s possible, as the 1992 Olympics participation was more of an invitation. This will make kids dream and adults believe … and old people remember!”
However, the challenge is a long way from over for the two Angola teams, as they now face off to decide who will make it to the Olympic starting line, as Gomes explained, “The two teams who participated here are now eligible for selection, so they will train ahead of the events in Palma, and then selection will be based on merit. They will prepare hard, train as much in Angola and elsewhere and possibly two other European events, being Trofeo Princesa Sofia and the 2016 470 Europeans. Also, the conditions in Luanda, Angola are ideal for training, as it’s very similar to Rio.”
The Jim/Hudson partnership are already secured to go to Rio, so their training continues to gain pace, with the pair heading off to World Cup Miami where racing gets underway on Monday 25 January. Rio 2016 will mark the team’s second Olympic appearance.
“There’s a lot of pressure inside me,” explained Jim. “I need to achieve what I want to achieve and it’s everyone’s dream to do pretty well at the Games. This time around it’s not about the experience, it’s to see how far I can push myself and us as a team. I think it’s going to be special, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Philip Baum, President of South African Sailing was instrumental in achieving the goal of Africa hosting the African Olympic Qualification Event on its home waters, rather than at an off-continent venue.
“We’ve hosted a very successful inaugural 470 African Championships,” Baum said, “and shown that we can pull it off. In Europe, sailing can become out of sight out of mind, but for us here it is real and tangible, and we’ve managed to get it into the main media streams, on prime time TV news and major newspapers. We are fortunate to have a gem in the RaceAhead Foundation, that is doing really great work, and are helping to produce the next round of Olympic sailors.
Recognizing the critical step along the road to future development of the 470 Class and sailing across Africa, Baum continued, “If we can work together and collaborate across the continent, Africa can become a formidable force in sailing, and can host multi-class international regattas going forward.”