Smooth sailing for Dunoon teen

Rivaldo Arendse has been chosen to represent South Africa at the Youth Sailing Championships in China next month.

A Dunoon teenager is setting course for an international sailing competition in China, scuttling the myth that the sport is only for rich white folk.

Rivaldo Arendse is only 14, but he has been chosen to represent South Africa in the prestigious Youth Sailing World Championships in Sanya, China, next month.

The Inkwenkwezi Secondary School Grade 8 pupil will be one of six South African sailors competing. Rivaldo is one of four children from the Western Cape who will compete in the championship. The others are Elsje Dijstrsa, Sonya Stock and Calvin Gibbs.

Nine years ago, Rivaldo was one of six children who started sailing at the Milnerton Aquatic Club (MAC) when it ran a state-sponsored training course for children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

MAC member and Rivaldo’s mentor, Andre Wollheim, said the only requirement for children who had wanted to do the intensive four-day course was that they could swim.

After the course, Mr Wollheim took Rivaldo under his wing.

“It has been a dream of mine to get Rivaldo noticed. He trains hard, and he is very dedicated,” said Mr Wollheim.

South African Sailing (SAS) is paying the team’s travel costs and entry fee, but there are other expenses – things like new shoes and clothes, toiletries, sailing gear and spending money – that aren’t covered, and Mr Wollheim has set up a crowdfunding page to help Rivaldo cover these.

“The problem is not getting the kids to start sailing. The problem is keeping them sailing,” he said. “It’s not cheap, and, unfortunately, this makes it difficult to keep it going.”

The Youth Sailing World Championships are seen as a stepping stone to the Olympics. “There are an elite few chosen from all over the country. They pick youth sailors to groom for future Olympics,” said Mr Wollheim.

If the South African team performed well, it would not only be a good reflection on the club but it would catch the attention of the government for future funding.

Rivaldo admits he is nervous about the competition but is excited about getting the opportunity to travel.

“It’s my first time going overseas. I’m very excited about it,” he said.

His mother, Elizabeth Arendse, is very proud of her son.

“Even academically he is thriving, and I feel he is a big example for the kids in Dunoon. Without proper parental guidance, it is so easy for the children in Dunoon to become involved with drugs and gangsterism.”

* Visit if you would like to help Rivaldo get to the China.