Sunday, 1 February 2009

LVPS: Shosholoza Loses First Race but is Ready to Fight Back

Team Shosholoza RSA and the newly formed Greek Challenge power up as they go for the start line on day two of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series which is being contested by 10 of the world’s best teams in Auckland, New Zealand. Image copyright Giuliano Luzzatto.

by Di Meek

It was a race to win but a penalty in the pre-start dashed Team Shosholoza’s chances of victory in their first match race of the inaugural Louis Vuitton Pacific Series when up against the newly established Greek Challenge in Auckland, New Zealand today (Saturday).

“In general we made a lot of mistakes and especially me when I misjudged the situation and gybed too close to the Greeks in the pre-start. Without that mistake probably my approach to the match would have been different,” said Shosholoza skipper/helmsman Paolo Cian.

Shosholoza, racing on yacht NZ 84, were defeated by the Greek Challenge on NZ 92 by a margin of 56 seconds. In the eagerly awaited showdown between two of the giants of the event home team Emirates Team New Zealand defeated America’s BMW Oracle Racing by 28 seconds in an thrillingly close match.

In the two other match races contested today America’s Cup holders the Swisss Team Alinghi had a clear 50 second win over Italy’s Luna Rossa and Damiani Italia trumped China Team by a handsome 117 seconds.

It was Shosholoza’s first match race of the LVPS as they had a bye on the opening day of the event on Friday (30 January).

“It was a race for us to win but we are not demoralised. We made a few mistakes today which we recognised in the de-brief afterwards. I am confident that we are a good team with good cohesion and I personally believe today’s effort was just a little stone in the road,” said Shosholoza tactician Tommaso Chieffi.

“We have in our hands the possibility for winning races but today was a bad day that we prefer to forget. Rather we’ll look forward to racing again tomorrow.”

Skipper/helmsman Paolo Cian said Shosholoza’s woes started in the pre-start when he gybed too close to the Greek Team. ”It was a very basic mistake and a misjudgement on my part that resulted in a penalty being slapped on us.”

“After that we had a very comfortable start separating to windward which gave us the opportunity to push the Greek Team all the way to the left lay line. A tacking duel developed up the first leg and the Greeks were probably tacking a lot more in phase with the shifts than we were and managed to escape the trap we were hoping to push them into.

“The outcome of this was that they were able to push us to the right hand lay line and so invert the positions we had been in and extend a lead on us to about 200 metres in a couple of wind shifts.”

Shosholoza was 30 seconds behind at the first mark but running down into the gate the South Africans managed to close the gap to 21 seconds as the Greeks struggled with gennaker and staysail problems.

“We were back in the race in the second beat and caught up by some 500 meters from the weather mark in a duel of fake tacks which again I think the Greek helmsman, Gavin Brady, did a better job of than I did. So again Brady was able to extend his lead and round the weather mark 27 seconds ahead of us.

“In the first round we gained about 100 meters and in the second about another 100 but it was not enough to cover the Greeks. Essentially we ran out of race course to do anything about it especially since we still had the 270 degree penalty to offload on the finish line.

For the Greek Team it was their first victory in the 80 footer Cup class.
“To win against an established team of the calibre of Team Shohsoloza is a big achievement for us,” said Greek Challenge spokesperson Jacqui St John-Jones.

A shifty, gusty southwest breeze averaging 16 knots delivered challenging racing conditions as the boats raced twice-around 1.7-mile legs from a start line off Rangitoto island to a windward mark just off the Orakei Basin. The racers took a break after the third race while commercial ships and a barge moved through the area.

Tomorrow (Sunday 1 February) Team Shosholoza will race against the Italian Luna Rossa team – rated at the time among the top four teams at the 2007 America’s Cup.

Team Shosholoza

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