Old man of the sea feted

2014-11-27 00:00

DURBAN sailing legend Al ­Gorlei’s 80th birthday is celebrated on Sunday, November 30 with the Captains’ Challenge, hosted by Point Yacht Club.

It’s hoped to be an event with a difference as organisers look to challenge Durban’s sailing ­community to get 80 boats on the water for the occasion.

Boats of all shapes and sizes are welcome. Fun is the ­emphasis, followed by champagne and cupcakes.

Gorlei hails from Port Elizabeth, having moved to Durban in 1962 and joined Point Yacht Club in 1980. Two years later, he procured his first Hobie 14. “This was the craft I always sailed,” he said. “I upgraded to a Hobie 16, sailing with my daughter and son-in-law, but crew problems saw me downscale to a 14 again.”

Memories abound for Gorlei but one of his highlights was competing with his daughter Terry-Anne in a long-distance race to Ballito. “Forty boats started and half the boats failed to make the cut-off at Umhlanga. We finished in six hours, facing a strong head wind,” said Gorlei. “Only 16 boats finished and we were one of them.”

But it’s what sailing has given Gorlei that makes him return to the water. “It gives an incredible feeling of freedom and there is nothing better than being at one with nature,” he said.

“The sea is never the same and conditions always change, calling on your skills all the time.”

Wear and tear has played its part too as Gorlei had to stop what he loved for a while when his knees packed up.

“I had a knee replacement and soon after, went to watch a regatta,” said Gorlei. “Soon I was involved with helping people to launch and rig their boats and I knew what I was missing.”

A quick check with a physio — who happened to be there, right next to Gorlei — confirmed what he wanted to hear.

“She asked me why I wasn’t sailing after the replacement and I couldn’t answer her,” he said.

Despite his age, Gorlei is on the water most Sundays, sailing his beloved Hobie 14 off Vetch’s Beach.

Said Chris Sutton, himself a regular Durban sailor, “He still assists with launching and rigging, towing boats on and off the beach as well. He loves teaching the newbies his tricks and is a real character.”

For information on the day, visit www.pyc.co.za

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