Grassy Park sailing champion Amir Yaghya said it still felt unreal that he held the national championship title after winning big at the SA420 sailing class in Langebaan recently.
Yaghya, 23, became the toast of his sailing club when he won the title with 18-year-old Renton Geduld in a double-handed race in which Yaghya was the skipper.
Pouring his passion for sailing into his work as a sailing coach at the Little Optimist Sailing Academy at Zeekoevlei, Yaghya said the title was his biggest achievement yet.
“It still feels so unreal, but it’s also great to know that the hard work that was put in had paid off.
“The title is also a win for all of us at the academy because a win for one is a win for all.
“I got involved in sailing while still a pupil at Grassy Park High School when I was 15 and I have never looked back since.
“I loved it from the get-go and since then my motto has been to inspire other youths to do the same and enjoy sailing.
“I aspire to inspire others who want to experience sailing.
“I eat, breathe and sleep sailing and it’s currently how I make a living.
I enjoy it so much, coming here to the academy every day and inspiring the youth of our communities.”
At the sailing academy, Yaghya has taken three community schools under his wing.
“If I didn’t enjoy what I’m doing here at the sailing academy, I would not be doing it at all, but this is really such a soul-rewarding and heart-warming job to do, to see other youth fall in love with sailing.
“They come here excited, and for me being part of that experience for them is amazing,” said Yaghya.
Geduld said he was over the moon about their win.
“I started sailing at 14 years old, also having been introduced to it through a programme at my school.
“It’s very inspiring taking the lead from Yaghya and being taken under his wing.
“We won provincials and now I want to focus on defending our national title next year,” said Geduld.
Competition day at Mykonos in Langebaan came with its challenges and he had to work hard to achieve the top spot for national championship.
Founder of the Little Optimist Trust, Greg Bertish, said: “Communities like Yaghya’s have had little to no access to sailing in the past ... (he) is helping to change that narrative, to make sailing more accessible and inclusive.
“I am honoured to have walked some of this path with him.”
Yaghya has set his sights on winning the Great Optimist Race, a fixture of the annual Boatica exhibition being held at the V&A Waterfront from October 27-29.
During sailing practice at the academy on Wednesday, Lotus High School pupil Tracy Daniels, 16, said while she knew nothing about sailing earlier this year, she has learnt a lot at the academy with Yaghya and Geduld.
“I used to be very panicked when I got on water, but being coached by Yaghya has been amazing. He helps us a lot and we learn so much when we come here.
“When we heard he won the national championship title at SA420, I was so excited.
“It’s good to know that you have champs among you,” said Daniels.