Knys­na sai­lor is new na­ti­o­nal champ

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Sport - S­te­fan Goo­sen

The day his child­hood co­ach al­most ran him o­ver in a sai­ling ding­hy was the day that lo­cal, Da­ve S­hil­ton, knew he would be sai­ling for the rest of his li­fe. Litt­le did he know, ho­we­ver, that he would one day be the 2018 Finn Na­ti­o­nal C­ham­pi­on at 29 y­e­ars old.

Knys­na-P­lett He­rald (KPH) caug­ht up with him at his se­cond ho­me – the Knys­na Y­acht Club (KYC) – on a win­dy, o­ver­cast F­ri­day. “Alt­hough it’s a bit cold, it’s still a good day for sai­ling, the­re’s a ni­ce bree­ze,” S­hil­ton said, his cham­pi­ons­hip trop­hy shi­ning on the ta­ble in front of him.

S­hil­ton won an as­to­nis­hing ni­ne out of 10 ra­ces at the cham­pi­ons­hips held at the Vaal Dam in Gau­teng be­t­ween 21 and 24 Sep­tem­ber, en­su­ring his na­me will be ad­ded on the EC Be­ning­field trop­hy – al­ong with that of Knys­na sai­ling le­gend Bru­ce M­cCur­rach who won the trop­hy in 1964.

Me, my­self and I

In t­his most re­cent fe­at, S­hil­ton was al­o­ne out on the wa­ter – no te­am to back him up as in the Ro­lex Midd­le Sea Ra­ce of 2017 w­hen he won with all South A­fri­can crew “Te­am Mu­sic” – and said he just stay­ed fo­cu­sed and got in the zo­ne for the ra­ce. “I went for speed – be­fo­re the ra­ce it was very im­por­tant that I set my bo­at up techni­cal­ly. It’s so­mething I le­arnt w­hen I was part of the two-week E­mer­ging Na­ti­ons Pro­gram­me be­fo­re the Sai­ling Wor­ld Cham­pi­ons­hips (Au­gust 2018). I think tho­se two weeks put me s­lig­ht­ly a­he­ad of the rest of the field,” S­hil­ton said.

The­re was t­his smi­le on S­hil­ton’s fa­ce just wai­ting to bre­ak through w­hen as­ked how it feels to fi­nal­ly win a na­ti­o­nal cham­pi­ons­hip. “Jeez, it’s just a­ma­zing – t­his was lucky num­ber se­ven for me (being the se­venth cham­pi­ons­hip he’s ta­ken part in, and the first one he’s won). I al­ways wa­t­ched the guys lif­ting the trop­hy. Now it feels sur­re­al ha­ving won it,” he said.

Da­nish boost

The­se cham­pi­ons­hips we­re the per­fect pla­ce for him to pro­ve that he had up­ped his ga­me, he said. “It felt gre­at. I felt fas­ter than I was in Den­mark and my bo­at felt bet­ter pre­pa­red.” He be­at 24 of the top sai­lors a­round the coun­try to be cro­w­ned c­ham­pi­on.

Ha­ving been ro­ped in­to sai­ling as a young­ster by his fat­her Roy, S­hil­ton re­mem­bers tho­se days on Hart­bees­poort Dam fond­ly. W­hen his fa­mi­ly re­lo­ca­ted to Knys­na at the age of a­bout 15, S­hil­ton took sai­ling up as a sport com­pe­ti­ti­ve­ly. “I did so­me Sa­tur­day ra­ces at KYC, then so­me cham­pi­ons­hips, I gra­du­al­ly pro­gres­sed o­ver the y­e­ars. T­his was the be­st ex­pe­rien­ce I could get – I kept going whi­le a lot of guys just ga­ve up,” he said.

He re­mem­bers the day Knys­na lo­cal Dud­ley I­saac, who would form an in­te­gral part in S­hil­ton’s sai­ling ca­reer, ca­me flying o­ver him on the start li­ne of a ra­ce, “And he look­ed so cool,” S­hil­ton re­calls. “I re­mem­ber the mo­ment so cle­ar­ly. His speed just pus­hed his bo­at rig­ht o­ver mi­ne. That was the mo­ment I de­ci­ded I would sail pro­per­ly, and Dud­ley star­ted gui­ding me, gi­ving me tips,” said S­hil­ton.

I­saac laughs w­hen as­ked a­bout the mo­ment. He re­mem­bers S­hil­ton was al­re­a­dy sai­ling by the ti­me he got to Knys­na. “I knew his fat­her and just hel­ped out and ga­ve Da­ve so­me poin­ters. He’s pro­gres­sed a lot from then. I saw his ta­lent and po­ten­ti­al back then – soon he was fi­nis­hing just one spot be­hind me, and e­ven­tu­al­ly he ca­me thi­rd at a cham­pi­ons­hip. T­his y­e­ar he be­at me at na­ti­o­nals w­he­re I ca­me sixth,” I­saac said.

From nip­per to skip­per

S­hil­ton fi­nis­hed his school­ing at Knys­na High School. His pa­rents Roy and Jan ha­ve al­ways been his gre­a­test sup­por­ters, he said, and boug­ht him his first bo­at, a La­ser. At 21 y­e­ars old he would start ra­cing his Finn, which he pre­fers.

A for­mer na­vy di­ver, S­hil­ton is now kno­wn as Knys­na’s di­ver – he of­ten di­ves the es­tu­a­ry or har­bour to as­sist with main­te­nan­ce, re­pairs and sal­va­ging.

He is al­so one of the skip­pers for S­pring­ti­de C­har­ters, and he­ads o­ver­se­as on­ce or twi­ce a y­e­ar to ra­ce y­achts. He has do­ne the Ca­pe to Rio twi­ce and has al­so com­pe­ted in the Trans-At­lan­tic ra­ce from the US to the UK.

S­hil­ton’s next con­quest? The We­stern Ca­pe pro­vin­ci­al sai­ling cham­pi­ons­hips at T­hee­wa­ters­kloof in De­cem­ber.

P­ho­to: S­te­fan Goo­sen

Da­ve S­hil­ton and the EC Be­ning­field Trop­hy he won at the Na­ti­o­nal Finn Cham­pi­ons­hips at the Vaal Dam. He said it al­re­a­dy has an ho­no­ra­ry spot at ho­me.

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