To begin with what is “clipper”?
English offers clipper with numerous meanings.
A type of lighter, a list of people (nickname), a hair or nail clips; clipper barb is also an African freshwater fish, then there is the clipper butterfly, clipper wind-power and.... And finally, the Clipper Race.
Clipper, Wikipedia says, is a 19 century fast sailing ship “with three masts and a square rig...”
Rig in Swahili is mlingoti or tanga which makes you and me curious to know what clipper race is in Swahili?
When I spoke to Nassoro Mahruki, the only East African participant in this year’s London’s world clipper race last weekend, he said the most significant condition is that the competing boats are not allowed to use engines. Only wind. Nature. Mashua za Upepo...
That should be a science lesson, hey.
Mr Mahruki confessed to have not heard of clipper racing until two years ago. Now he is in the sea, making history, among other sailors from over 40 countries.
They began at Katherine Docks, Tower Bridge, London last Sunday 1st September. They will be crossing at least six oceans through all continents until August 2020.
“I had to go through thorough training and preparation...” he explained, lightly, as though he was just taking a stroll down the street.
I was impressed.
Mahruki has an added advantage, mind you.
Born in Zanzibar, 51 years back, he has known the sea all his life and his personal business is tourism. He has been running hotels in Zanzibar (Hotel Mnarani, where I have personally, visited various times) and Pemba. Being from oceanic surroundings, therefore, loves open air activities.
Clipper Race improves qualities of its participants.
Of course the aim of the duel is to win, but as part of a collective team.
The tenets are courage, team work, and human fortitude. In 1968, Sir Robin Knox- Johnston became the first person to sail around the world in a clipper and he is quoted philosophising: “There is no greater example of everyday people overcoming adversity, and it creates an incredibly powerful place for brands to align with. Out sponsors don’t just invest money- they share our vision...”
For Sir Knox- Johnston and many other individuals these are the achievements.
Staying focussed, being competitive, keeping in top physical shape and coping with living on a racing yacht for eleven months.
“You will be fitter, healthier and more alive than you dared to believe.”
And here are two issues.
Number one did Nassoro Mahruki get any local East African sponsorship?
Answer is no.
He had to sponsor himself. The whole package to participate and train costs at least £46, 500...but Mr Mahruki had to shuttle to London several times and subsequently spent much more than that official sum.
Issue number two, are long term benefits.
Try asking any East African what we will get from racing in a wind boat, in very tough weather across six oceans for eleven months?
It is a valid question.
The majority of us do not take part in any sport let alone being in a boat sailing dangerously around the world for so long.
Statistically Nassoro Mahruki is among very few Africans, i.e. Tanzania, Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt. His boat under skipper Nick Leggatt is called Zhuhai.
The premier motivation is, therefore, passion.
Mahruki: “It is my hobby...also it is an opportunity to promote sea sports using clipper...it is one of the best in the world... It is natural ...my job involves being around water surfaces...it fits me because... My intention is to promote sailing tourism, especially Zanzibar. Using Zanzibar as a sailing destination. Sailing is an expensive sport. So people will buy. If someone is prepared to buy a sailing boat for 10 million pounds, and if that boat comes to Zanzibar, Pemba or Tanzania, they can spend two thousand dollars for a week. That is power spending.”
This shows vision and future prospects for us all.
Thus Nassoro Mahruki counts on coming generations to take part in this multinational race that began in 1996 and occurs every two years. Asked how interested East Africans could join this contest, Mahruki, said there are four levels of training. “You have to learn skills. I did my four levels and passed. The coaching is all about sailing without engines. Just winds. All natural. “
Conclusively then as we applaud Nassoro Mahruki for not just being our ambassador for the race, but a pioneer to East African tourism, we should pray we see him safely home in August 2020.
No wonder our High Commission sent a group of officials to cheer him away.
Safe journey brother.