Enterprise Worlds 1995 in Durban

When working as a volunteer in Zambia I became a member of the Zambian team for the world championchip of Enterprise sailing. Here comes the narration of those stormy days at the Indian Ocean told by Franc Duking, another voluteer in Zambia who crewed for Aage Bentzen.

Swimming with the Dolphins ...

I was looking forward to having a few quiet weeks, relaxing, visiting some friends, tackling those piles of marking...when disaster struck. A week before the start of my well deserved holiday I received a phone call from a friend of mine, a pleading and somewhat panick-stricken tone in his voice: "We're going to Durban to participate in the World Sailing Championchips - and we are short of one crew! Please, please can you come? We'll pay for everything, of course". I had to think hard about this, for a few seconds, but you know me - never turn down a good offer! (That's VSO spirit!).

The trip down to Durban was without incidents, except getting a speeding ticket travelling in a clapped out camper-van with a maximum downhill, wind in the back speed of 80 km/h, having our left wing mirror ripped off by an eagle, getting lost in the centre of Johannesburg on a dark, moonless night...

The first two days in Durban were spent preparing the boat we had chartered. All boats have to conform to the same standards, and if your rudder is 4 mm too long - well you just have to saw it off! I can't imagine what you do, if it is too short... Fortunately I've never experienced that problem. The Zambian sailing team (1 Laplander, 1 Cheesehead, 2 Krauts, 1 Pom and two token Zambians) three boats, was complete by the second day. Ruth and Charles, the only real Zambians present, had never seen the sea before - "Do we have to sail on this? I want to go home ..." The teams' mental preparation for the regatta was therefore very rigorous, and mainly performed in the local bar; it's called supporting the economy, I believe.

The Zambian Team in Durban, left to right: Neville Ravensdale, Ruth Kapaya, Klaus Kuhl, Stewart Cowell, Charles Kapaya, Franc Duking, Aage Bentzen, Dieter Hunger

The third day we completely missed the practice race, because after 10 metres of sailing our rudder stick broke. As a result, in the first real race we didn't have a clue where on that big ocean the starting line was supposed to be - and finished 45th (out of 45 boats). On the second race day the wind was really hard - waves as big as double decker buses. For the laymen amongst you, an Enterprise is a two-man boat, not unlike the tub I have in my bathroom. The spectators must have thought we had a death wish!

Miraculously we managed to start nicely in the pack this time. Not for long, though - soon we decided, that manouvering is a lot easier, if you don't have too many boats behind you. I don't know what made us capsize that first time, but I soon learnt that trying to get a boat going again in those waves is asking for trouble - especially if you normally only sail on a duck pond! After the 15th capsize we were too tired to worry about the sharks, and decided it would be tactical to retire from that race to spare our energy for the next day - only to find out that the next race was rescheduled for an hours' time! The wind by then had picked up to gale force - very good for our self-confidence. Yes we went out there, and yes we managed to cross the starting line. An achievement, I can tell you. We had the sense to retire after the first capsize this time. Learning fast!

Luckily on day 3 and 4, the waves were a bit smaller. We managed to finish both races intact, and there were even 5 or 6 boats behind us! Really great fun, and a great sense of achievement.

And then day 5, the last day of the regatta. I knew something was wrong when I woke up with the tent in my face. The wind had turned and was even stronger than on day 2. This was the most spectacular day - gigantic waves, and hanging on to, and out of that boat for my life to keep it upright. The first lap reminded me of travelling by minibus to Siavonga (small town in Zambia, Klaus Kuhl) - seeing all the skeletons of the less lucky busses in the ravines at the side of the road. I think we must have passed at least 10 capsized boats. By the third lap we were completely exhausted, but still upright!

Then when we were speedboating on the crest of the waves from buoy 2 to buoy 3, we were joined by 5 dolphins. They played with the boat, left, right and diving under it - distracting our attention so much, that the first gust just blew us out of the water! Luckily by then we were the most experienced capsizers in the field and we managed to get the boat going again soon. Thirty minutes later we went screaming over the finishing line - an enormous kick. We were over the moon, because we didn't even finish last - and later we heard that 9 of the boats had retired. This result meant, that we finished 40th in the overall standings. The other Zambians: Neville/Ruth 41st and Klaus/Dieter 34th. Charles and Stewart both crewed for South African boats and came 27 and 41 respectively.

Of course we did not only spend our time sailing - Durban is a great city to spend a relaxing beach holiday. It has the same skyline as some of the holiday resorts in Spain - a beach front lined with all these huge hotels. When coming from Zambia the atmosphere seems a bit strange....

Last updated 14 December 2011

  • Work-group of former development workers >>
  • Results of the work-group >>
  • Development cooperation pojects in Kenya and Zambia >>
  • How does a child experience life with development workers >>
  • Slide show 'child of volunteers' >>
  • Experiences of an accompanying spouse >>
  • Sailing for Zambia >>