James Cyigenza Is a 40-year-old sailor from the State of Michigan in the US. He made history recently by being the first African sailor to help set a world sailing speed record.
Cyigenza and his crew mates this month set the record for the fastest sailboat race from Mackinac Island to Chicago in just 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 23 seconds on the ORMA 60 sailboat.
Since then, he has been an inspiration to many in his local community and beyond, especially to young Africans who dream of breaking world records and achieving their dreams.
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Life after setting world record
In an interview with The New Times, Cyigenza said that life has not changed much since he and his team set the world sailing speed record.
However, the biggest impact has been the reactions that the record generated from people inside and outside the sailing community.
"From the occasional high-five to people expressing everything from appreciation to motivation, especially in my small-town community of Muskegon, Michigan, where sailing is not a common sport," he said.
On a personal level, he feels that being part of that record has opened his eyes to new possibilities in his personal and professional life, and has allowed him to aim higher.
"It has also provided me with more credibility in the sailing community, which can only equate to more opportunities down the road," Cyigenza said.
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When he is not sailing, he works for a TP52 sailing team in the Great Lakes and part-time for other sailing programs.
The only challenge he faces is finding ways to fill the gaps between races and gigs, so he has been building a business that can provide him with a supplementary income and potentially more freedom to do what he loves.
Advice to young Africans
Cyigenza said that the first step is to have a plan. "Dreams can only be fulfilled with some sort of roadmap."
Secondly, he stressed the importance of dedication and consistency. He believes that one does not need to be the most educated or skilled person in their field, as long as they stay dedicated to their cause and constantly show up for the task at hand, without making excuses.
Finally, he emphasized to the youth that whatever one is pursuing, it must be something they are truly passionate about. "Passion makes the journey more manageable, even when things get tough."
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Future goals and plans
Currently, he says, he is working on building a business in the transportation side of sailing, where he can facilitate the transportation of boats, trailers, and gear from docks, boat yards, and storage facilities to their next sailing destination.
He is also interested in the electronics and navigation side of inshore and offshore racing.
"I'd love one day to have the ability to combine weather patterns and routing information in a way that places a competing boat in a winning position," Cyigenza said.
The Rwandan born sailor dreams of working for some of the biggest teams and organisations in the sailing sport, such as the America's Cup, SailGP, Vendée Globe, or Super series team.
"I'd like to get into a little bit of content creation as well. I feel like by not being your stereotypical sailor, I can bring a different perspective and audience to the sport," he said.
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Valuable lesson learnt
He said that anything is possible if you can dream it up and dedicate yourself to it, "Five years ago, I could not have dreamed of being in the space I am today," he said, adding that he is keen on keeping a strong work ethic.
Cyigenza, believes that attitude plays a big part in achieving one's dreams.
"Anybody that knows me can tell you, I try to keep a smile on my face no matter what is happening around me, this makes me easy to get along with, that alone will take you far in life," he said.
He sees it as an honor and a privilege to represent his people and hopes to inspire future generations of African sailors and adventurers.
Cyigeza's legacy is one of possibility for anyone who can relate to his message. He believes that Africa is full of unlimited potential and is excited to see what the future holds.
In the face of challenges and obstacles, Cyigeza believes in pushing through with accountability and staying true to oneself.
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He credits his family for instilling these principles in him at a young age and honors them by living through them as an adult. As he continues his adventures, he encourages others to enjoy what they do and to share their experiences with those around them.
"Umuco w'iwacu uracyandimo!" he exclaims, proudly representing his Rwandan heritage.
He is a living example of how one's passion and dedication can take them places beyond their imagination.
He has broken barriers and made history, becoming a role model and inspiration to many young Africans and sailors worldwide. He believes that anything is possible, and his journey has taught him valuable lessons that will undoubtedly shape his future goals and approach to life.