His name was António João Bartolomeu and unless you have a close relation to the sport of sailing in Angola you, most probably, have never heard of him. The 47-year old from the capital city of Luanda, wasn’t a sailing “rockstar”. In fact, he wasn’t even a professional sailor, his day job being sound technician at the National Radio of Angola.
However, the sea and the ocean were his big passion since early childhood. At the age of 9 he joined the Sailing Academy of the Angola Sailing Federation at Ihla de Luanda. Five years later, he moved to the Vaurien class, a simple and affordable two-person racing dinghy, popular in Africa. He was one of his country’s best sailors in the class and had an equally successful number of races in various regattas in bigger, cruising yachts.
António João Bartolomeu was part of the BILLE crew that together with her sistership MUSSULO III, represented the emerging country of Angola for the first time ever in the history of the Cape 2 Rio race. The two Bavaria 54 yachts sailed into rough seas with 6-meter waves and 60-knot gale-force winds, during the first night of the race, and although MUSSULO III got out nearly unscathed, BILLE initially reported mainsail problems and informed the race committee they were heading back to Cape Town. However, a few hours later they reported they had dismasted, having suffered two injuries and a tragic death.
BILLE and MUSULLO III are the first ever Angolan yachts that take part in this iconic African sailing race. Angola is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and both Angola Cables and the country’s government saw the regatta as a perfect platform to showcase the emergence of the country. Angola Cables will provide the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) that will connect their country to Brazil with 6,000 miles of sub-sea cabling. When complete, SACS will provide the shortest and most direct link to connect Africa with the high traffic internet usage stemming from the USA. SACS will be the second cabling system owned by Angola Cables after the West Africa Cable System (WACS) that links London to Cape Town through Africa’s main west coastal cities.
It’s a shame such an exciting initiative for the sport of sailing in the African continent is marred by such an unfortunate and tragic accident. Angola Cables had scheduled an extensive series of events to support their entry in the Cape To Rio Race. The most significant of these were a series of outreach events in Lisbon, Luanda, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro with the goal to promote both Angola Cables’ business and their participation in the race. At this stage we aren’t aware whether they will take place or not.
Rest in peace António João Bartolomeu.