World

Migrants return to sea to compete in sailing world championship as part of interfaith project

  • In this photo taken on Monday, June 15, 2015, the sailboat Ottovolante leaves the harbor of Siracusa, Italy. They barely survived their first trips across the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats packed with migrants, but now Elias Orjini of Ghana and Mohammed Sabaly of Gambia are back on a boat again. This time it is the Ottovolante, a sailboat that is headed from Sicily to Barcelona to compete in the Vela ORC world championship sailing competition from June 27 to July 4th. Orjini and Sabaly were chosen by the Catholic group Sant’Egidio which works with migrants of all nationalities and religions promoting inter-religious dialogue and understanding.  Orjini is Christian, Sabaly is Muslim. They began regular training with Captain Fabio Santoro and the nine-member team off the coast of Sicily three months ago. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)

    In this photo taken on Monday, June 15, 2015, the sailboat Ottovolante leaves the harbor of Siracusa, Italy. They barely survived their first trips across the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats packed with migrants, but now Elias Orjini of Ghana and Mohammed Sabaly of Gambia are back on a boat again. This time it is the Ottovolante, a sailboat that is headed from Sicily to Barcelona to compete in the Vela ORC world championship sailing competition from June 27 to July 4th. Orjini and Sabaly were chosen by the Catholic group Sant’Egidio which works with migrants of all nationalities and religions promoting inter-religious dialogue and understanding. Orjini is Christian, Sabaly is Muslim. They began regular training with Captain Fabio Santoro and the nine-member team off the coast of Sicily three months ago. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken on Monday, June 15, 2015, Elias Orjin, 26-year old from Ghana, third from right, and Muhamed Sabaly, 19-year old from Gambia, right, stand on the sailboat Ottovolante leaving the harbor of Siracusa, Italy. They barely survived their first trips across the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats packed with migrants, but now Elias Orjini of Ghana and Mohammed Sabaly of Gambia are back on a boat again. This time it is the Ottovolante, a sailboat that is headed from Sicily to Barcelona to compete in the Vela ORC world championship sailing competition from June 27 to July 4th. Orjini and Sabaly were chosen by the Catholic group Sant’Egidio which works with migrants of all nationalities and religions promoting inter-religious dialogue and understanding.  Orjini is Christian, Sabaly is Muslim. They began regular training with Captain Fabio Santoro and the nine-member team off the coast of Sicily three months ago. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)

    In this photo taken on Monday, June 15, 2015, Elias Orjin, 26-year old from Ghana, third from right, and Muhamed Sabaly, 19-year old from Gambia, right, stand on the sailboat Ottovolante leaving the harbor of Siracusa, Italy. They barely survived their first trips across the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats packed with migrants, but now Elias Orjini of Ghana and Mohammed Sabaly of Gambia are back on a boat again. This time it is the Ottovolante, a sailboat that is headed from Sicily to Barcelona to compete in the Vela ORC world championship sailing competition from June 27 to July 4th. Orjini and Sabaly were chosen by the Catholic group Sant’Egidio which works with migrants of all nationalities and religions promoting inter-religious dialogue and understanding. Orjini is Christian, Sabaly is Muslim. They began regular training with Captain Fabio Santoro and the nine-member team off the coast of Sicily three months ago. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken on Monday, June 15, 2015, Elias Orjin, 26-year old from Ghana, stands on the sailboat Ottovolante prior to leave the harbor of Siracusa, Italy. They barely survived their first trips across the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats packed with migrants, but now Elias Orjini of Ghana and Mohammed Sabaly of Gambia are back on a boat again. This time it is the Ottovolante, a sailboat that is headed from Sicily to Barcelona to compete in the Vela ORC world championship sailing competition from June 27 to July 4th. Orjini and Sabaly were chosen by the Catholic group Sant’Egidio which works with migrants of all nationalities and religions promoting inter-religious dialogue and understanding.  Orjini is Christian, Sabaly is Muslim. They began regular training with Captain Fabio Santoro and the nine-member team off the coast of Sicily three months ago. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)

    In this photo taken on Monday, June 15, 2015, Elias Orjin, 26-year old from Ghana, stands on the sailboat Ottovolante prior to leave the harbor of Siracusa, Italy. They barely survived their first trips across the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats packed with migrants, but now Elias Orjini of Ghana and Mohammed Sabaly of Gambia are back on a boat again. This time it is the Ottovolante, a sailboat that is headed from Sicily to Barcelona to compete in the Vela ORC world championship sailing competition from June 27 to July 4th. Orjini and Sabaly were chosen by the Catholic group Sant’Egidio which works with migrants of all nationalities and religions promoting inter-religious dialogue and understanding. Orjini is Christian, Sabaly is Muslim. They began regular training with Captain Fabio Santoro and the nine-member team off the coast of Sicily three months ago. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)  (The Associated Press)

Two African migrants, who barely survived their first trips across the Mediterranean on rickety boats, are heading back out to sea to compete in a world championship sailing competition.

Elias Orjini, a Christian from Ghana, and Mohamed Sabaly, a Muslim from Gambia, were chosen by the Catholic group Sant'Egidio to join the crew of the Ottovolante, a 12-meter (roughly 40 foot) sailboat. Ottovolante left Sicily on Monday bound for Barcelona, where it will compete in the Vela ORC world championship June 27-July 4.

The two began regular training three months ago with Capt. Fabio Santoro and the nine-member crew off the coast of Sicily, part of a Sant'Egidio-backed project to promote inter-religious dialogue and understanding.

Orjini, 26, said he had no desire to go back to the sea after his dramatic rescue in 2011 when the boat on which he was crossing the Mediterranean sank and 350 people died.

"I watched all these people die . I watched husbands try to save their wives and mothers try to save their children . I said to myself that I would never have anything to do with the sea anymore."

But now, Orjini moves comfortably around the deck of the Ottovolante, pulling up ropes and moving sails.

Muhamed Sabaly, 19, had a similarly perilous crossing in 2013, when his boat got lost at sea for a week and the passengers ran out of food and water. He said eight people died before they were rescued.

Now, he lives in Sicily in an Italian center for migrants requesting political asylum in Sicily. He has been lifting makeshift weights made of plastic bottles filled with sand to get in shape for the sailing race.

"I like this work because I never did this work in Gambia," he says.