Well known Team Shosholoza crew member Sieraj JACOBS, 25, of Grassy Park in the Cape lost the tip of his little finger on his right hand in a sailing accident on Thursday afternoon last week.
Speaking from Spain, sailing manager Paul STANDBRIDGE said the team were on their first practice sail in Valencia when Jacobs, a top SA dinghy and keel boat sailor, had trapped his little finger between the jib sheet (rope) and winch while adding extra turns of sheet to the winch.
"It happened so quickly and Sieraj understandably went into a bit of shock. We immediately transferred him from yacht Shosholoza to our chase boat and shore manager Henri Hiddes rushed him back to base where he was taken straight to hospital for treatment. He lost the tip of his finger from just below the nail but he is fine and back at the hotel with us. He is a tough guy,"
Standbridge said the accident had been a reminder to the entire crew of just how powerful and potentially dangerous America's Cup class yachts can be. The loads on the jib sheet can be up to four tons. The jib is the "smaller" sail in front of the mast.
"At the time Sieraj was standing in for upwind trimmer Alex RUNCIMAN of Zeekoevlei in the Cape who was off sick with flu, so it wasn't his normal job on the yacht,"
He said Jacob's was still convalescing but would be sufficiently recovered to work as line handler on the chase boat in the two back to back Valencia Louis Vuitton Act's 2 and 3 regattas which start on Tuesday next week (5 October). He will also play a valuable role in observing tactics and collating information on the other seven Challengers competing in the event.
Public release of the news was withheld until this morning so that the Jacob's family could be informed. The family, all top dinghy sailors, were away competing in the Eastern Cape Dinghy Sailing Championships at Swartvlei on the Garden Route.
"I haven't spoken to Sieraj yet but I should imagine there are a lot of America's Cup sailors out there with a missing finger tip,"
commented Fuad JACOBS, Sieraj's father. He said he was relieved to hear that Sieraj was in good spirits.
Jacobs, who grew up sailing keelboats with his family in Table Bay and dinghies at Zeekoevlei, was the SA Mirror Class National Champion in 1997 and 2001 and the Optimist National Champion in 1994. As a 12 year old he was included in a Nocsa Development Squad who were given observer status at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
It was the start of an illustrious sailing career which saw him representing South Africa at the Optimist World Championships in Spain in 1993 and Sardinia in 1994. As a 14 year old in 1993 he was included in the high profile Parker Pen Cape to Rio campaign skippered by Bruce Tedder. His second Cape to Rio race in 2000 was as co-skipper with Anthony Steward on MTN Better Connection.
He was fourth at the 1996 Youth Worlds in the Laser 2 Class with SA Olympic sailor Gareth BLANCKENBERG as his crew. He also skippered the South African entry at the Coco Cola Youth World Match Racing Championship in Auckland, New Zealand in 1999 (along with Alex RUNCIMAN and Golden MGEDEZA as crew)
Team Shosholoza arrived in Valencia, Spain a week ago after competing in the first of the America's Cup pre-regatta's, the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act 1 in France earlier this month. They will now compete in two back to back regattas, the Valencia Louis Vuitton Acts 2 and 3, from 5 - 17 October.