Interview with Siyanda Vato

  • Interview with Siyanda Vato

    Interview with Siyanda Vato

    Siyanda Vato is pictured at Point Yacht Club just before he made his way to Palma.

    Point Yacht Club

    Interview with Siyanda Vato

    A whole world awaits Point Yacht Club’s Siyanda Vato as he takes his first big steps into the highly competitive European sailing circuit this June.

    Vato departed his homeland enroute to Palma in Spain at the beginning of May where he met the boat that he would be crewing on for the next five months. The yacht that he will be sailing on is the sleek, magnificent Highland Fling 15, a 115 foot Swan design superyacht.

    The rising sailing star spent the first month extending his navigation skills, “Training includes learning boat duties from the Boat Captain Xavier Mecoy and the team, but also an intense navigation training from the race navigator Matt Wachowicz during regattas, this includes a week’s training in the Solent to experience tidal navigation.”

    After spending three weeks in Palma, Highland Fling 15 checked into Valletta, Malta after a three day sail east. “We are gearing up for the first regatta that starts on 5 June in Porto Cervo, an Italian seaside resort in the north on the island of Sardinia. This is all a wonderful learning curve, and as my mentor – Michael Kavanagh said, ‘Be the hardest worker on the boat and you will do fine’.”

    The first event is the Loro Piana SuperYacht Regatta that has ten SuperYachts entered. The four day event is hosted by Yacht Club Porto Cervo. From Italy, Highland Fling returns to Palma for The SuperYacht Cup. The SuperYacht Cup is the oldest superyacht regatta in Europe, and the big boats will be racing for three days around the Spanish island with racing kicking off on the 21 June.

    Vato will then have two months training where he will be focusing on weather, race navigating and performance analysis. “I am required to be competent in these three aspects at the end of my Highland Fling season as I gear up for the Cape Fling season. This opportunity is a two year commitment which I am really excited for.”

    In September, the crew then will participate in another two superyacht events. Both in Porto Cervo, the first is the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup from 2 – 8 September and then the Rolex Swan Cup from 9 – 16 September. Then Vato will weigh up his opportunities as the summer sailing season wraps up and the Cape Town sailing begins. “I would love to travel a bit and see a bit more of Europe while I am here but will see if I have a gap in my training. My first priority is of course the Fling team!”

    Royal Cape’s Academy Chairman, Joe Heywood made Vato aware that Lord Irvine Laidlaw was looking for a young South African sailor to train to be a navigator / performance analyst on Cape Fling, a 52 foot yacht in Cape Town.

    “I am deeply appreciative to Lord Irvine Laidlaw and Xavier Mecoy for selecting me for this amazing opportunity. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, so I would like to thank The Royal Cape Academy, Sail Africa Youth Development and Phil Wade from Marine Inspirations for trusting and nominating me. I would also like to thank my family, friends and the sailing community for their support.”

    For the longest time Vato, a well respected sailor on South African waters, has eyed out the European sailing season, with dreams of hoping to break into the competitive scene. Having competed in the epic Cape2Rio race with Kavanagh on Ray of Light, sailed a number of Vasco da Gama races and various other local prestigious regattas and events, he is finally chasing his dreams.

    “I am loving the challenge, learning new things in a completely new environment is invigorating and completely foreign at the same time. I mean, they have wild goats in Palma? On the boat, I have an amazing team and we are really hoping to do well this season.”

    Vato is not the only Durbanite on Highland Fling 15, he has joined up with two times Volvo Ocean Race participant, Michael Pammenter.

    Concluding, the humble sailor states, “I hope and pray that I may inspire and reach out to more youth of all back grounds through this opportunity and get more individuals hungry for sailing, as I feel I have been taught many life lessons personally on the water.”

    Smiling, he states, “For now I have to chase Black excellence and greatness!”

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