Ukuwela: The Crossing is a story that just had to be told. 

It is inspiring and will open the eyes and minds of young South Africans and anyone else, anywhere in the world who face extreme life challenges to see opportunity and hope where they believe none existed. It is also a powerful story of crossing between worlds, not just oceans. 

When I first met the team that would be competing in the 2023 Cape2Rio yacht race, it was at the Royal Cape Yacht Club. Knowing the life each of these six youngsters were born to and where they now call home – the poverty-stricken townships of the Western Cape in South Africa – the yachting community they found themselves in was such a contradiction to their everyday life. That was the first thing that impressed me, that they were forging their place in a world so different… up against social, economic, and racial barriers.

Sibusiso Sizatu, the team’s skipper and from whose perspective we wanted to tell their story, is a leader with purpose. An instrumental character in Sibu’s life, Roger Hudson, captures the kind of person and leader Sibu is when he recalls meeting him: “he comes with a kind of built-in wisdom”. And the story to be told is of his journey from being a rural herd boy in the Eastern Cape to Skippering a team from marginalised communities in an iconic and gruelling trans-Atlantic race.

I am not a sailor. In fact, I have a deep reverence and fear of the open ocean. Anyone who takes it on, regardless of station in life, has my respect. So much more so these youngsters. 

They are heroes – not just because they completed the race and finished on the podium, but because life could have been so different for them if they had not taken opportunities when presented, that they persisted relentlessly despite their world working against them, and that they want their pioneering success to give hope and opportunity to many more youngsters just like them. Their crossing, their victory is not just theirs, but everyone’s.

Now that’s a story that will keep on giving.

Leigh Pohl

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