The South African and global sailing community was left reeling on Wednesday with the news of the passing of one of its finest young talents, Khanya Mafuta.
Mafuta, 18, succumbed to injuries sustained in a stabbing incident at the Marikana informal settlement in KwaNonqaba near Mossel Bay.
Mafuta was a much-loved member of the Skipper Foundation in Mossel Bay, where he first learned to sail around five years ago. His commitment and dedication to the sport saw him quickly climbing up the ranks.
In July he represented his country for the first time, travelling to the Youth Sailing World Championships in the Netherlands to compete in the 29er class along with teammate Oliver Holden. It was his first trip outside of the country.
"We are all absolutely devastated by the news of Khanya's tragic death. He was a truly wonderful young man who worked hard and was forging a promising sailing career that could really have changed his life," said president of SA Sailing, Michael Robinson.
SA Sailing transformation officer, Lindani Mchunu, added: "It is heart-breaking that this kind of violence and bloodshed is a daily reality for so many young people in South Africa who are simply trying to follow the right path and improve their lives and those of their families.
"So many of SA Sailing’s development programmes are specifically aimed at at-risk youth and providing a way out for them by introducing them to sailing, not just as a sport or pastime, but also a possible profession in the maritime industry. Khanya’s tragic, untimely death shows just how great that risk is.
"These are the constant dangers and challenges faced by our youth in the environments they live in, so our fervent hope and aim is that sailing can become a pathway out of poverty and violence.
"Our hearts go out to Khanya’s family and many friends and teammates in Mossel Bay and around the world," added Mchunu.
'His life will inspire us to work harder'
Not only was Mafuta on his way to big things in South Africa but he made a deep impression on his first foray into international competition earlier this year.
"We are all shocked at the death of Khanya Mafuta and express our sincere condolences to Khanya’s family, friends and teammates. He was a wonderful person who was hard working, dedicated and had a great future ahead of him in the sport," said Kory Ezer, head of international development at World Sailing.
"To have such a fun loving and talented young man taken away in these circumstances is an absolute tragedy. World Sailing works with sailing clubs around the world to create opportunities through sailing and Khanya was an excellent example of how the sport can inspire and change a person’s entire outlook. His loss will inspire us to work harder."