Lungi Mchunu may be the only South African on-board one of the boats in the world’s longest professional sporting event and leading offshore sailing competition, which starts in Alicante, Spain in October 2017, as she hopes to be appointed as an On-Board Reporter (OBR) for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/18.
Sport has always been a passion for the energetic 30-year-old, who describes herself as a humble Zulu girl. Lungi played basketball as a teenager, and following an injury, turned to coaching and mentorship in the sport, which she continues to do today. Lungi is no stranger to the media world either, as she founded and managed a basketball magazine called B-Ball Mag SA. She attended games around the world and reported on them, wrote profiles on players, found advertisers and sponsors for her magazine and development events – all while still maintaining a suit-and-tie 9-to-5 job during the week. Lungi is an avid photographer, often had her eye behind the lens capturing every lay-up, three-point shot, and mid-court break from court-side.
All of this experience would culminate in nine months at sea, after Lungi did the unimaginable – and applied to join the crew of the Volvo Ocean Race. “I’ve always loved the sea but I was afraid of open waters, so for me to even apply for this role was an achievement,” said Lungi. “Everyone who knows me will tell you that I’ve always tried to live my dreams by refusing to be crippled by fear; and knowing that this scared me, I applied anyway,” she said.
Sailing is the only sport that has a dedicated multimedia journalist embedded in the team of athletes, right in the middle of the action. In what could only be described as one of the world’s toughest media jobs, the role of an OBR would be to provide creative content from the boat, around the clock, and provide real life on-board experiences for the millions of followers of the race. She would be required to shoot video footage, capture still photographs, write, edit and transmit content to Race Control, daily, with the occasional live satellite calls. In a nutshell, Lungi would be the eyes and ears of Race Control on the boat, and her responsibility would be to capture the excitement, anxieties, raw emotions, and crew dynamics in their entirety.
As part of the crew, Lungi would cross four oceans – the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian and Southern Oceans in a race that is split into nine legs. Each leg will start and finish in leading cities around the world, known as Host Ports. Cape Town is the 3rd Host Port, and is listed as one of the race’s favourite ports, and Lungi would be glad to see home ground continuing with the remaining six legs of the race.
With a little over 300 days before the race begins, preparation and readiness is already underway. “In order for my application to be accepted, I would need to demonstrate that I would be able to tell the story of the sailors as authentically as possible, and I felt that I wouldn’t be able to share the journey if I had not walked (sailed) a mile in the sailors’ shoes,” she said. This required that she learn how to sail. In addition to adding advance swimming to her already hectic training regimen, Lungi applied to sailing school . . . in France! In November 2016, Lungi learnt how to sail on the choppy waters off the west coast of France, and loved every minute of it. “My instructor gave me the wheel after 20 minutes into the sea! I was nervous but excited. It was so cold and I was shivering with four layers of clothes on, but I took it like a soldier,” she said.
The following days were made up of breakfast at 5:00am and they would set sail at 6:00am; anchorage for lunch and every night was spent at the nearest port. “After two days, the ocean was my home. I had a sense of belonging and felt great. I expected to get sea-sick due to the motion of the boat, but I didn’t suffer at all,” she said. The experience was not without thrills, as the waves were big, and the vessel was often on its side. The temperate of the water was icy cold, which served as great acclimatisation for Lungi, as sailing during the European winter is no joke, especially as South Africa enjoys warmer winters and warmer waters.
Lungi clearly took to sailing like a duck takes to water and impressed her French instructor, who agreed to host her again during the European summer, where she can work towards a Skipper License. Lungi’s focus for the next two months is to spend as much time on the coast as possible, and sail as often as she can.
When asked why she chose this as the next adventure of her life (because there have been many), she replied, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid? I would sail, and I have!”
Follow Lungi’s sailing adventure on Instagram @lungisails Twitter : @Blk_Rose