Monday, 26 January 2009
South Africa’s Team Shosholoza in New Zealand show their colours before heading off into Auckland’s Waitemata harbour yesterday for the first of five practice race days ahead of the Friday 30 January start of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series to be contested by ten crack international teams from nine countries around the world. Image copyright Bob Grieser/Louis Vuitton Pacific Series.
by Di Meek
Team Shosholoza came off the water buoyant after the first of five days of practice racing in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour yesterday in the countdown to Friday’s 30 January start of the first -ever Louis Vuitton Pacific Series (LVPS).
“It was a good day to start learning how to race on these unfamiliar boats because the wind was very light. The yachts are definitely different and more sophisticated than Shosholoza RSA 83. We have a lot to learn and we will, very quickly!” said Shosholoza skipper and helmsman Paolo Cian.
The practice racing schedule is a critical part of the LVPS match racing regatta as the crack ten international teams competing in the event will share four 80 foot Louis Vuitton Cup yachts.
The two yachts, NZL 92 and NZL 84 are on loan for the event from host team Emirates Team New Zealand and the yachts USA 87 and USA 98 from America’s BMW Oracle Racing.
Each pair of yachts has been modified to make them even and simplify boat handling. The modifications include disabling the rig tuning devises and sail inventory.
During racing a daily draw will determine which of the four yachts each team will sail with the proviso that the New Zealand yachts will always be raced against each other and likewise with the BMW Oracle Racing yachts. Teams will fly their national flag from the stern of the yacht when racing plus carry their respective country’s name and sponsor’s logos on the main and spinnaker sails..
Saturday’s (24 January) first day of practise racing started with an onboard orientation session supervised by key crew members from the respective team’s loaning their boats. Two crew will also remain onboard each yacht throughout the practice racing period to give advice and technical assistance.
With so many teams needing to be accommodated practice racing slots are for a period of just two hours a day so the pressure is on to get the most out of every minute on the water before the regatta gets underway.
Shosholoza’s first practice race on Saturday was on NZL 84 against Britain’s Team Origin on NZL 92. On Sunday the team will practise race on USA 87 against USA 98.
“For me as helmsman there was a very different feeling on the rudder. We have so much to learn but these are challengers that we enjoy because we are used to sailing on a range of different boats on the World Match Racing Tour,” said Cian
“But for instance Team Origin’s helmsman Ben Ainslie - who besides being Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor ever - was the B helmsman for Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2007 America’s Cup so he has a good knowledge of the angles, setting and tuning of these New Zealand yachts.
“So there will be some skippers and crew who might have an insider’s edge on us but we have come straight from a very good and very intensive 10 day sail training session on Shosholoza RSA 83 in Valencia. Even though it was freezing in Europe we got into a good groove and built excellent team spirit. Time is tight now for optimising our performance, but then it is the same for all the competing teams,” said Cian.
Cian said the narrow race course area between North Head and the volcanic island of Rangitoto was likely to be tricky as there was current and tides to contend with and constantly shifting winds.
Meanwhile the Shosholoza crew are revelling in the typically warm Kiwi welcome, the sunny 25 degree temperatures, turquoise seas and exquisite island scenery that characterises New Zealand’s city of sails
Most of the crew arrived in Auckland on Friday. Sunday saw the arrival of pitman Solomon Dipeere, who took time off from a diamond mine in northern South Africa where he works as an engineering draughtsman and David Rae (traveller) who flew directly from Salvador, Brazil after a record breaking line honours finish as crew on ICAP Leopard in the Cape to Bahia trans-Atlantic race.
Tactician Tommaso Chieffi and strategist Cameron Appleton arrive Monday direct from Miami’s Acura Key West 2009 regatta. Shosholoza is banking on Appleton’s local knowledge as he is the only Kiwi on board.
The Louis Vuitton Pacific Series promises to be one of the world’s most cut throat big boat regattas with a special new trophy created by Louis Vuitton going to the winner.
The competing teams are: Emirates Team New Zealand and BMW ORACLE Racing (USA), Luna Rossa (ITA), Team Shosholoza (RSA), K-Challenge (FRA), Damiani Italia Challenge (ITA), Greek Challenge (GRE), Team Origin (GBR), Alinghi (SUI, current holders of the America’s Cup) and China Team (CHN).
The event is also creating a stir among locals in New Zealand as it is the biggest international match racing regatta in big boats since the America’s Cup was held in Auckland six years ago.