Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bending Angola's Wind

The Bay of Luanda, shielded by the long arm of the Ilha peninsula, makes a near-perfect environment in which young people can endeavor to pursue a new-found watersport. The recent growth in popularity of sailing is just another sign that normality is now quickly returning to the life of Angola, with its hundreds of kilometres of beautiful and relatively benign coastline.

Despite its image as an elite pastime, the interest in sailing among young Luandans is stretching across all economic levels, showing a steady growth in the numbers joining sailing clubs and learning the skills of bending the wind to their pleasure.

José Junça, the president of the Angolan Sailing Federation, says that as a rule the children are only allowed to sail if they succeed in school – but no matter what the family income, they have the opportunity to join a sailing club. “The kids quickly form a strong bond, no matter what their skill, social level or school grades,” he says. “I have noticed that this is a very character-building activity at their age.”

“These are two principles that we intend to keep up, but it’s hard,” says Mr Junça. “This connection with the sea is important for Angola. It is quite possible that some of the kids, somewhere in their future, may thus be  directed to study marine biology, naval engineering or something else related to the sailing environment which they now find themselves in.”

Altogether, more than 100 Angolan children are signed up as members of the three most popular classes:  Optimist (one crew, hull weight: 35 kg, sail area: 3.25 sq.m), Laser (one crew, hull weight: 59kg, sail area: 7.06 sq.m)  and Vaurien (two crew, hull weight 95 kg, total sail area: 16.2 sq.m).

Almost all of the young Angolan sailors are eager to go abroad and show to the world their enthusiasm for the sport. “Their first wish is really to compete outside the country and meet other people,” says Mr Junça. In  fact, most of them are sufficiently experienced to take part in international competitions, and have made many foreign friends with whom they share their interest at every level.

Eighteen-year-old Osvaldo Tati, sailing in the Laser class, has been three-times national champion, and says that the top places in the international competitions are well within Angola’s reach due to its young sailors’ dedication and enthusiasm. (Sonangol Universo Magazine)

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