JOHANNESBURG – A top-five finish against the best in the world and an experience he’ll never forget have inspired South African sailor Dave Shilton to set new goals.

Shilton has just returned from his first-ever Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. The Knysna sailor was part of a two-week Emerging Nations Programme before competing in the championships in the Finn class. He was invited to join a group of sailors from Bermuda, Cuba, Iran, Hong Kong, Serbia, Namibia and Venezuela, who all benefited from coaching and support before and during the championship.

“Ever since I started sailing I heard about the Gold Cup and the legendary Finn sailors. I watched videos and read about it,” explained Shilton.

“Since then it has always been a dream to sail in it. But I thought realistically it would never happen. The Emerging Nations Programme has made it possible for me. I still can’t believe it, I was crossing tacks with some big names in the sport.

“The boats were great and the training and coaching was just the greatest thing for me. Mads, our coach, got me up to speed, he told me exactly where I was going wrong and showed me where I can improve.

“I learnt so much so quickly. By getting me up to speed, this programme has made me believe in myself, has made me confident in my own sailing ability. I’ve proven to myself I can actually be up there. I am really grateful,” he added.

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The former navy diver claimed an impressive fifth place in his first race, and while his subsequent results weren’t quite as good (finishing 56th out of 90 sailors), he was still thrilled with his overall performance.

Now Shilton is dreaming of taking this experience and making it count, starting with the national championships at the Vaal Dam from September 21 to 24.

“I’m most excited to race the South African nationals. I have once come second, but never won it. I reckon this is my year for sure. The training continues as soon as I’m back. I’m just going to sail as much as I possibly can and get really strong for next time.” 

African News Agency (ANA)

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