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Faces : Lindani Mchunu from Yachtsman to Broker

 

Lindani Mchunu, highly respected in local sailing and yachting circles, reflects on his journey that started in Kwazulu Natal, landing him in Cape Town as a newly appointed Associate of well-known brokerage, and sole distributor of Princess Yachts on the African continent, Abromowitz, Sharp and Associates (Pty). Ltd.

This is his story.

Going back to my roots

In Nigerian pigeon-English, Fela Kuti penned an incredible song called “Water No Get Enemy” some of the lyrics to this song go a little something like this. “If you wan’ go wash, na water you go use, if you want cook soup, na water you go use, if your head dey hot, na water go cool am, if your child dey grow, na water he go use. If water kill your child, na water you go use.

In my view this is one of Fela Kuti’s best songs and it speaks directly to that which fascinates me most – water. He makes a very compelling case, that water has no enemy at all – whoever you may be, whatever your circumstances, water cannot be your enemy. It is in part, how a young man from Claremont township in Durban, born of two lawyers, found himself in the yachting and sailing industry.

It would probably be accurate to say I am the first and only black associate of a yacht brokerage on the continent, and hopefully not the last, but the first of many to follow, if I have anything to do with it. Nothing about my upbringing or childhood, except maybe being born in Durban, which happens to be a coastal city, would indicate that I would end up as a sailor, let alone selling high end luxury yachts.

The power of water

The only affinity to water I had growing up was my maternal grandmother’s reverence of water and the ocean.  Black peoples experience and engagement with water is of a highly spiritual nature. So, when I say that many black cultures and religions see the water, and primarily the ocean as a form of deity or a physical representation of God, this would not be an exaggeration. The same is true of my own grandmother, when I was a young boy my grandmother was something of a clairvoyant or oracle all rolled in one. She was not a ‘Sangoma’ but through prayer and meditation, she would connect with spirits unseen and heal her patients or guide them accordingly through difficulties in their lives, through spiritual alignment. So as I was growing up I saw the healing powers of water first hand. In my young impressionable mind, my grandmother imprinted the notion that if nothing else, water is Holy.

It was made clear to me that water and specifically the ocean was something to be revered and almost feared. My relationship with water and the ocean or rivers was indeed one of fear and reverence. I didn’t even think it was possible to sail from Cape Town and ride on the back of the ocean all the way to America. When I later did that in my life it was like being introduced to a new universe. To this day I have a spiritual connection to water and the ocean, and even more so now that water is my home in many ways.

The beginning of my love of sailing

In 1997 my father got a job in Pretoria and we relocated there. I would spend the better part of my youth landlocked between Pretoria and Johannesburg. The next time I would see the ocean again was in 2005 when I enrolled in flight school in Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Part of our general flying area was the beautiful coastline between Port Elizabeth and East London. During this period in my life I would enjoy low level flying along the East coast of South Africa and would marvel at the beauty of the ocean from the air. My journey would lead me back to Johannesburg once more, where I lived and worked for a while in various industries.

In 2012 on my way home from writing an aviation exam in Midrand in my attempts to renew my Private Pilot’s License, a chance encounter would change my life forever. On my train commute home, I sat opposite an elderly white man, who saw that I had an aviation book in my hand. He asked me whether I was a pilot and I told him that I was renewing my PPL and I had just written an exam. We spoke for a few minutes then he went on to ask me whether I knew anything about yachting? I told him no I don’t. He went on to tell me about sailing boats, and how a friend of his has a son, who is a pilot and also delivers sailing yachts around the world. I was blown away and was immediately interested in what he was talking about. He gave me his card and said I should email him when I get home, he would send me a link to a sailing school in Cape Town.

My yachting dream is realised

I called the school and booked my first sailing course. The rest as they say, is history. My passion for sailing would see me get my Yacht Master Offshore qualification, and then go on to deliver sailing yachts around the world for Robertson and Caine for a year. Sailing would take me from Cape Town to the British Virgin Islands, Florida, Miami, Malta, and the Cape Verde Islands where I lived for 2 years. I would see places in the world I didn’t even know existed and meet people who spoke languages I didn’t know of. I would realise that indeed the biggest freeway in the world was water. This was indeed a water planet and just how disconnected we were from it, especially my people, black people.

My passions

I have been Royal Cape Yacht Club’s Youth Academy Manager for 3 years, working tirelessly to grow our sailing academy to to get more black youth into sailing, and the yachting industry as a whole. Along with my team, we have grown our academy numbers exponentially, teaching the young sailors skills that will set them up for life, and opening the opportunities for career paths not offered to them in the past. I am very proud to see how far the Academy has come and how far our youth have come too. 

I have served as a SABBEX (SA Boat Builders Export Council) board member for a year now. The council works hard to promote the South African boat building industry across the globe. For example, South Africa is ranked second to France as the second biggest producer of catamarans in the world!

On reflection

My journey has taken me from South Africa to the world and back again, it has taken me from land to water and back to land again. I now embark on a new journey to trek the continent of Africa, especially the west coast to once more link people with water, using boats as the medium. These boats will range from entry-level sailing yachts for the keen enthusiast, to the luxury motor yacht for high-powered businessmen and women who wish to entertain international clients.

Joining the team

“Both David and I are hugely enthusiastic about Lindani joining us as we expand our business footprint in these somewhat challenging times. David instigated the discussions with Lindani some time ago, and we have been looking forward to him joining us”, says Partner, Rob Sharp.

“Although new to the world of yacht brokerage, Lindani has been around boats for a long time, he understands them, and more importantly understands the lifestyle associated with yacht ownership. David and I both see an opportunity for him to grow into our business,  expanding it into markets that we have not previously been too successful in. Lindani is highly respected here in our local sailing community and he brings value and integrity to our Firm, which is a match that we have long been looking for. The opportunities that Lindani has identified are indeed exciting and would change the face of boating on the African continent. We have agreed on an open market for him to explore, and quite frankly the African continent is his oyster”, continues Rob.

Rob says, “It’s a rich continent and the developments on the west coast are ideal for the offerings we can present to potential owners. The Princess Motor Yacht range is vast, and the factory in the UK has pulled through the Covid lockdown with great success,  reporting record months in June and July in terms of orders received, which is indeed encouraging. We welcome Lindani onboard and look forward to many years of success”.

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