Skilled, determined and professionally managed, Gryphon is certain to be the crowd favourite come the start on January 1. Photo: Brenton Geach
Skilled, determined and professionally managed, Gryphon is certain to be the crowd favourite come the start on January 1. Photo: Brenton Geach
Photo: cape2rio2017.com
Photo: cape2rio2017.com

Young, determined and from parts of Cape Town known for gangs rather than yacht clubs, seven sailors will leave their hometown Sunday on an epic ocean race to Brazil.

The crew of the 43-foot Gryphon boat are competing in the Cape2Rio race - a 5 600-km adventure across the South Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro.

A total of 28 yachts will take part in the race, which mixes professional sailors with enthusiastic amateurs on a testing continent-to-continent passage.

The Gryphon team was put together by the Hout Bay Youth Sailing Development Trust as part of its work with disadvantaged youngsters.

"The sailing training is to keep some of the kids off the street," Theo Yon, Gryphon's skipper, told AFP.

Read: Yachtsmen get the sails primed

"We have kids from the disadvantage communities and then some kids who have money, so it's a mix.

"We plan to train the guys up and get them on the high level of sailing (so they can) compare themselves with everyone else."

Yon, 27, who is from Hangberg, rose up through the training system himself and now helps bring on other youngsters.

"I'm very proud of the guys of what we have achieved so far... I think we have a really good team together and we can do it," he said.

Tough streets

For months, the crew have been training off the Cape Town coast for the race, which could take about 20 days of relentless work, little sleep and constant danger.

The Gryphon crew recently competed well in a race to Mossel Bay, east along the South African coast, boosting team confidence.

"We came first in our class and we competed against the top sailors of South Africa," said crew member Le-Roy Rudolf, 29, from the notorious Cape Flats area.

Among those on board the yacht - which is sponsored by Ullman Sails - will be Theo's 17-year-old brother Lorenzo Yon, also from Hangberg.

"I love sailing because it's a competitive sport and I love the water and the adrenaline of going fast and keeping the boat up there (in the race)," he said.

Cole Davids, 16, who is not in the race crew, said the Hout Bay sailing trust offered an alternative to life in some of Cape Town's most violent and poverty-stricken areas.

"It keeps me from the bad things that happen on the streets – the drugging, the killing, the stabbing," he said.