Saturday, 31 January 2009

Shosholoza's Preparations for the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series

South Africa’s Team Shosholoza practice racing in Auckland, New Zealand ahead of Fridays 30 January start of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series which has attracted 10 teams from nine countries with skippers and crew from the best of Americas Cup competition, the Olympics and the World Match Racing Tour. Image copyright Giuliano Luzzatto.

Shosholoza Ready for Battle Against the World's Best

by Di Meek

South Africa’s Team Shosholoza is among the line up of ten crack international teams representing the cream of the America’s Cup, the Olympics and the World Match Racing circuit ready to do battle when the inaugural Louis Vuitton Pacific Series starts in Auckland, New Zealand today. (Friday 30 January)

“I regret not being able to be there to help them in the fight but I am confident they will do their best to improve on our 7th place result we had in the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia, Spain. It will be hard, but we can do,” said Shosholoza managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno in a phone interview from South Africa.

The series is the biggest match racing event in the Southern Hemisphere since the Louis Vuitton Cup in Auckland in 2003 and promises to rival both that and the 2007 Cup in intensity as all the big names in world yachting go head to head in the next two weeks.

Despite legal issues that have paralyzed the America’s Cup for almost two years the LV Pacific Series, organised by 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup winners Emirates Team New Zealand and supported by Louis Vuitton, is being lauded for finding a way to put sailors representing the pinnacle of the sport back on the water.

That current America’s Cup holders, the Swiss Team Alinghi and the American BMW Oracle Racing Team are both in Auckland for the regatta despite a court battle between the two teams relating to protocol for the next 33rd America’s Cup still being decided by the Supreme Court of New York, says it all.

“As sailors we all share the same desire to be back on the water again. This event has an Olympic village feel with a great spirit of friendly competition among the nations especially since we are all staying in the same hotels and sharing bases and boats,” said Shosholoza tactician Tommaso Chieffi, who was tactician for Oracle when they lost to Alinghi in the 2003 Louis Vuitton Cup final.

The line up of ten of the world’s top match racing skippers includes America's Cup and Louis Vuitton Cup winner Dean Barker of Emirates Team New Zealand, three times America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts for the USA’s BMW Oracle Racing and two time winner and current holder of the America’s Cup Brad Butterworth on Alinghi.

The world’s top ranked match racer Sebastien Col will skipper the French K-Challenge, Great Britain’s TEAMORIGIN has Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie (3 gold and a silver)at the helm while China Team has signed up two time World Match Racing Champion Ian Williams.

Other world match racing champions include Peter Holmberg on Italy’s Luna Rossa and Gavin Brady on the newly formed Greek Challenge while top Italian skipper Vasco Vascotto will lead the new Italian challenger Damiani Italia.

Ready to go in Auckland. South Africa’s Team Shosholoza leaves the dock for their last day of practice racing ahead of Fridays 30 January start of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in New Zealand. Image copyright Team Shosholoza.

“Every team is strong and well prepared. There are no weak teams. We are ready for the challenge,” said Paolo Cian, Team Shosholoza skipper and helmsman, after the team wrapped up a week of practice racing against the other teams today. Cian is ranked fourth in the world on the open ISAF match racing rankings.

The start of racing today (Friday) will see the teams competing in two pools of five teams each. Racing will be one-on-one in four yachts loaned specially for the event by Emirates Team New Zealand ( NZL 92 and NZL 84) and BMW Oracle Racing ( USA 87 and USA 98).

The format for the opening round robin means there will be four races a day while one team from each pool enjoys a bye. Team Shosholoza sits out the first day of racing today (Friday) in Pool B while BMW Oracle has a bye in Pool A.

The teams will then split into gold and silver fleets. Emirates Team New Zealand, in its role as host team, will advance directly to the final race series for the special Louis Vuitton Pacific Series trophy while the top remaining challengers compete in a ladder competition to decide the other finalist.

Racing will start on the Waitemata Harbour off North Head at 11:00 am and the four races will be sailed one after the other with only a few minutes between each race. The short windward-leeward races are expected to take less than an hour each in the forecast 10 to 15-knot southwest breeze.

Team Shosholoza

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