Indomitable Spirit – #LungiSails

 

#LungiSails

I’ve always been quite an odd child with an innate sense of wonder. I still stop and pause when I see a bird fly above me; yes I sometimes envy how they flap their wings against the wind. They do it with so much ease and confidence.

I light up when I see a butterfly and chase it while chatting to it for a minute before remembering that somebody might call the mental institution on me *laughs*. I greet and talk to fishes when sailing, I’ve had photo shoots with unknowing seagulls by at anchorage telling them to strut their stuff.

Over the past 8 months, I’ve done things that I never even dreamed I would last year this time. Truth is I’m just as surprised at my decisions, thoughts and dreams as the next person. Usually something would spark an idea in my head followed by a mental “yes” and it’s done.

Deciding to sail was by far the bravest and the best decision I’ve ever made, it even beats buying a house lol. As I’ve said in my earlier posts, it showed a side of me that I didn’t know existed.

At the beginning, the plan to live the dream was simple…learn to sail, get to know my new fraternity, find a crew, sail, sail and sail. So I found SSB in Bretagne to learn, applied for the VOR OBR position as starting point to use my media skills whilst getting to know my new fraternity and perfecting my sailing art. I worked at it every single day and I’m still at it.

I always knew that there would be challenges; rejections and that didn’t phase me. If anything, it made me more determined. It was all okay until the OBR dream fell into a million pieces and by pieces, that rejection ripped me apart.  I realise now as I write this that I wanted it with all my might, it would’ve been the perfect meeting of two worlds (sailing and photography).

I had a series of breakdowns over a month; it took me a while to even tell people closest to me. I felt like such a failure….the odd and most profound thing was that amidst all the emotions, I would open my sailing theory books and study.

After a couple of weeks, it eventually became evident to me that even though the OBR dream may have not materialised, there was always a deeper yearning beyond VOR. It took me a while to remember that but I’m glad it happened when it did because it saved me from negative thoughts which were not helping at all.

I watched a lot of motivational clips during that time, Inky Johnson’s talk helped make sense of why I was waking up every other day and continued to study and cry later that same day. His father said these words to him whilst helping him train towards his NFL dream.

“Son, I want you to pull that other person outside of you. No matter how hard you work, there is somebody inside of you that works even harder. No matter how committed you are, there is somebody on the inside of that is more committed. You think commitment is “Yes, I’ll do it”. But commitment is staying true to what you said you would do long after the mood you have said it in has left meaning on the days when you don’t feel like it, you get up and do it anyway. That’s what builds character.”

That other person on the inside of me carried me…

I continue learning, the dream is still as vivid as before I took my first step towards it. On days like today, I’m reminded that I’m born from a family of warriors, that blood runs in my veins. I need to remember that in times of weakness 🙂

My heart is open to all lessons and wins…eternally gratefully to have these moments.

To my family and friends, thank you.

Living, Learning, Growing through #sailing

When I started this journey, it was solely for me so I saw no need to tell anyone except for Mom’s ofcourse who was surprisingly incredibly supportive considering she knew absolutely nothing about sailing.
I knew it was a foreign concept/sport to pursue especially to my immediate community and I didn’t want to deal with the question ‘Why sailing?’ because I wasn’t ready to answer that and to be honest I’m still not ready to answer the ‘why’ because it’s too deep to explain, I relate to Cousteau’s words perhaps I’m under a spell 😂😂😂.

“The sea, once it casts its spell , it holds one in its net of wonder forever.” — Jacques Yves Cousteau.

While I’m yet to answer the why question, I have shared pieces of my journey to a few. The reaction has been that of shock and eye-opening at the same time.

Shock, merely because it’s unheard of and the fear of the unknown sort of blinds people to see beyond their immediate environment. Eye-opening because it’s been a confirmation for many that we all have the ability to overcome our fears and live our dreams so people start re-looking at their lives and tell me stories of situations where they were crippled by fear hence the endless list of dreams deferred. So in way, it’s like, if Lungi can be this determined and daring so can I.

These reactions are exactly the same from my 12 year old niece to the elderly that I have conversed with.

Fast forward to a conversation I had this afternoon with a former business associate who said, it’s not fair to keep my journey a secret because it is a lesson and a revelation to many :

  • It’s okay to pursue your dreams, they don’t have to make sense to anyone but you.
  • Nothing is impossible
  • Make fear your motivation, don’t let it cripple you. Rather die trying than live with regret.

I suppose I was so focused on Lungi that I overlooked the possibility of inspiring others in their respective journeys by sharing. Funny because, besides my immediate community I served a global basketball fraternity in development where I actually have a big following and by sharing my new journey I indirectly unlock a stream of self-reflection thoughts which could essentially lead others to pursue their own dreams.

My basketball protege once said to me ‘Lungi your talent lies in your ability to bless others, sometimes it’s the few words you share that resonate with the people you interact with and other times it is through your actions that people question why they aren’t doing more either for themselves or their communities’. I am only beginning to understand what he meant, 5 years later.

Sailing is more than just a sport to me, it literally introduced me to a side of myself that I never knew existed. It feels like I’m getting to know myself and the world around me for the first time, with a new set of eyes. The lessons don’t end at sea. I keep learning every single day, I am thoroughly enjoying the journey as crazy & unheard of as it may be, it’s brought me that deep, quite kind of peace and longing.
Sure there have been moments of doubt, rejection but this time they don’t affect me as they used to, if anything they’ve made me more determined and have become my motivation to do better and perfect my art.

Kenneth – Narinan ES once said ‘In search of individuality I found the universe’ in his short film. I was almost in tears at the Sail In Festival Bilbao because those words hit home, that is exactly how I feel about sailing.

Approx 10 days to the #VG2016 finish line

 

63 days ago 29 skippers set sail and embarked on the 8th edition of Vendee Globe non-stop solo round the world without assistance and the first boat/s are expected to arrive in Les Sables d’Olonne in 10 days. If we see this first boat by the 18th, they would’ve set a new record of 74 days compared to Francois Gabart’s 78 days in 2013.

Only 71 sailors out of 138 have crossed the finished since the start of Vendee Globe. 64 days into the 8th edition, 18 out of 29 sailors are still competing.

This edition has  quite a number of VG veterans but it was great to see newcomers like Morgan Lagraviere -SAFRAN. I remember seeing him weep at departure and some people thought he wouldn’t get very far due to being too emotional that early, I think he did very well despite the damage on his boat. I mean he was giving  veterans a run for their money for a while there. His name is still on the leaderboards for the 2nd Best Distance and Speed in 24hrs since the start of the race.

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Morgan Lagraviere – SAFRAN Photo by Vendee Globe

While my athlete competitive heart goes out to the skippers who had to dismaster within the last 63 days, sometimes situations are beyond our control and that is probably the worst thing to happen to any athlete but I’m glad there has been no casualties. They deserve a standing ovation for the attempt, VG is not for everyone…only the bravest!

When the race started, Dee Caffari mentioned in her commentary that this edition would ultimately be the battle of the hydrofoil boats. Hydrofoils have dominated the top spots of the race with the current Top 4 right now.

It has been a game of Catch-Me-If-You-Can between the race leaders Armel and Alex, Alex is literally breathing down Armel’s neck and this for me has been the best part of the competition or rather what makes race exciting.

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Alex Thomson – HUGO BOSS #VG2016

Armel seems to have picked up some speed but Alex- the comeback kid is still on his tail at 88.63nm and that is nothing to Alex even for an amateur like me. Alex is beasting, he is out for blood and understandably so. This is 4th appearance in the race with a 3rd place in 2013. Whereas this is the 3rd attempt by Armel, he unlike Alex finished 2nd in his last two Vendee Globes.

I think the most exciting part of any competition/race is when a game/race can go either way especially the last day/minute…and something tells me that we’ll see that next week. I don’t Armel and Alex will be sleeping much, if at all for the next couple of days.

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Armel Le Cléac’h – Banque Populaire VIII #VG2016

Whatever happens, it has been a thrilling lesson for me to follow #VG2016. It is actually the first sailing competition I have followed from beginning to end. I learnt a lot, I have been glued to the tracker, newsfeeds since the beginning.

 

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ZULU-GIRL HOPES TO BRAVE THE WATERS IN VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2017/18

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Lungi Mchunu in training at the Gulf of Morbihan, France

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