Phil Wade captained hopes and dreams to safe harbour

Captain Phil Wade, right, died in November last year. He is pictured here with Nqobile Khuzwayo, his bursary student, left, and Marie-Claude Heys, skipper of an 18-metre yacht Maiden in 2022 and 2023.

Captain Phil Wade will be remembered for his adventurous spirit and for setting many a young person on a course to a brighter a future, say those who knew him.

An experienced yachtsman, mentor and adventurer, Captain Wade died suddenly on November 18 last year. He was 78.

Debbie Owen, programme head at Lawhill Maritime Centre, said he was a loyal supporter and frequent visitor to the centre at Simon’s Town School.

He was also a familiar face at the False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town and would find any excuse to drive from his house in Somerset West to enjoy, what he called, “the best fresh fish and chips in Cape Town”, said Ms Owen.

She said he was a remarkable and generous man who, in 2012 – after his first visit to the Lawhill Maritime Centre – spearheaded the establishment of the SATS General Botha Old Boys Association Bursary Fund.

The fund has raised millions of rand to sponsor the maritime studies of high school pupils from less fortunate communities in South Africa.

In 2014, she said, he partnered with fellow retired yacht captain Anthony Just, of Kalk Bay, to form Marine Inspirations, a maritime mentoring initiative.

Around 50 young South Africans benefited from his support from 2014 to 2023 as they travelled from Cape Town to Spain to spend two weeks, all expenses paid, learning about the European yachting industry. For many it was their first time on a plane

When Covid-19 halted international travel in 2020, Captain Wade and his wife, Anne, found other ways to give back.

He helped Lutho Thomas, the 2019 Simon’s Town School head boy, find opportunities in the European superyacht industry, and he funded the maritime education of Nqobile Khuzwayo at Simon’s Town School for three years. He competed in the 2020 Cape to Rio race – as its oldest competitor – to raise funds for her bursary and funded the rest from his own pocket.

After Nqobile matriculated in 2022, Captain Wade helped her join the British yacht, Maiden, and its international all-female crew on a mission to raise awareness for girls’ education (“Simon’s Town sailor on voyage of empowerment,” Echo December 8, 2022).

Raised in Durban, Captain Wade spent two years (1960/61) at The South African Training Ship (SATS) General Botha College in preparation for a career at sea.

By the end of the 1960s, he had left the merchant navy with a chief officer’s certificate and was working ashore in a shipping office in Durban.

He returned to sea when he was offered a trip on a yacht headed for the Caribbean.

That trip, Ms Owen said, marked the start of many new adventures, and he spent several years sailing and racing yachts worldwide. He became a well-established and well-known superyacht captain.

He had an impressive collection of “salty sea dog” tales, which he shared with great enthusiasm, and the Lawhill Maritime Centre’s students loved hearing him recount his time sailing with Simon Le Bon, lead singer of the 80s pop group, Duran Duran, on a yacht called Drum, which lost its keel in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1985.

“May his work inspire others in retirement to play an active role in creating opportunities for young South Africans in need,” Ms Owen said.

Mr Just said friends and colleagues would miss Captain Wade dearly. “Especially his dynamic and driven enthusiasm for getting things done. He was tirelessly open to creating and supporting networking opportunities that could lead to proactive results and promoting new projects.”

Visit www.marineinspirations.org for more information about Marine Inspirations and www.lawhill.org for more information about the Lawhill Maritime Centre.