South African Sailing (SAS) has taken a significant step in the transformation of the sport in South Africa with the appointment of its first full-time CEO and a dedicated transformation councillor, with Greg Smith and Golden Mgedeza appointed in these positions earlier this month.
Their goals are to substantially grow the number of participants across all disciplines of sailing, open the sport to all South Africans and develop the future athletes such as Olympians Asenathi Jim, Roger Hudson and Stefano Marcia.
Philip Baum, SA Sailing president said: “It is critical that sailing reaches out to a wider community. Its very survival depends on it.
“‘Without significant growth and a dramatically transformed body of sailors we will cease to exist as a sport. The exciting consequences of success include building a cohesive country at a time when many are missing each other, as well as attracting substantial sponsorship to fund our very ambitious strategy.
“Of course a goal is to achieve success at major international competitions. However, that is only one of a continuum of ambitions. The prime focus is to grow the numbers and transform the sport. With 100,000 sailors of all backgrounds, with gender equality and being strongly representative of all, including disabled sailors, sailing will be a driver of national achievement. Happily we have already made a start on the journey.
“Greg’s key attribute is his passion for people and his absolute determination to give a diverse group of South Africans the opportunity to work and play together. He also brings a demonstrated commercial capability and leadership skills to the next crucial stage of the development of South African sailing. We are very fortunate in having attracted a person of his calibre to take on this full-time role.
“Golden’s passion for the sport and the opportunities it offers for personal growth, education and development is obvious and infectious. He has lived the journey. From a background as a naval cadet he was a graduate of the Izivungu programme, became the bowman of Shosholoza in an America’s Cup campaign and an internationally rated match racer with Ian Ainslie.
“A former South African Sailor of the year, Mgedeza has selflessly (at an extremely busy time growing an executive career, starting a family and furthering his academic qualifications) responded to the challenge of giving back to the sport which has given him so much.
“At its foundation the SAS strategy is both to professionalise the management of the sport and to transform it. These appointments are the essential building blocks in the execution of the strategy.”
Greg Smith, the new CEO of SAS said: “It’s immensely exciting because I think the opportunity with sailing is that it’s not age reliant. You can sail from when you’re little until you’re way into your years.
“I think that’s the appeal that probably hasn’t been put out there. There’s probably also a whole lot of perception that has to be revamped around sailing and that it is actually very accessible. It’s a very nice bunch of people and I think maybe they’ve gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years in terms of a bit of an elitist positioning.
“There’s a strategy that’s in place already. I think the recognition was that in order to deliver on that, South African Sailing, obviously being a largely volunteer environment, needed someone permanently on the ground to get the traction that’s required.
“I’m not coming in to change the strategy or come up with weird and wonderful ideas. The strategy is in place, it’s sound and there are very definite deliverables around increasing participation, around transformation of the sport and around the visibility of sailing in South Africa as a desirable pastime and sport."
Golden Mgedeza (pictured), the new transformation councillor at SAS said: “Golf has changed its own face in Gauteng where there are a lot of upcoming black people who are golfing a lot on weekends. Why can we not have black sailors?”
“We’re not only looking at sailing from a development point of view as I can see a lot of yacht clubs – when they look at a black person and sailing it’s thought to be development. However, we need to get away from that point of view. We need to create an environment where it’s possible for any black person to be able to enjoy sailing as a sport – like enjoying soccer or rugby or golf. ‘There are quite a lot of middle-class black people who are now into the trend of enjoying nature and being outdoors and if we can sell it in that manner I’m sure it will grow as an outdoor family sport.
“We already have lots of development programmes in place, but we have not looked at the market that can actually afford to go sailing and we need to delve into that.
“There are clubs that want to transform but I need to understand what their challenges are and I would like to take time to absorb and understand what the real issues are before I can comment.”