Sunday, 8 February 2009

LVPS: Tough Final Round Robin 2 Race for Shosholoza

Shosholoza in control in the pre-start keep it tight and close in their final race of Round Robin 2 against the Greek Challenge in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series being contested on Auckland’s Waitemata harbour in New Zealand. Image copyright Guiliano Luzzatto.

by Di Meek

Team Shosholoza is out of the running to win the Louis Vuitton Challenger title after a tough loss to the Greek Challenge in their final race of Round Robin 2 of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour in New Zealand today.

Both Greek Challenge and Shosholoza, being at the bottom of the Silver Fleet leaderboard, are now out of contention but will still race each other again on Monday to decide the 9th and 10 places for the final event standings.

The other two Silver Fleet teams, Pataugas K-Challenge and China Team, join the Gold Fleet to go through to the next round of the Challenger sail offs, the winner of which will face Emirates Team New Zealand for the championship title.

In a message from South Africa, Team Shosholoza managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno urged the team to stay positive and keep up the fight.

“We lost but we are not losers. Auckland is just a little battle not the war. Sailing is a sport discipline where not always the best athlete is rewarded. Too many external factors are influencing the result of a regatta,” said Captain Sarno.

“In a mere fifty metres your boat can experience an enormous difference in wind and or currents. It seems that our boat has been always on the wrong side of these fifty metres.

“Remember that Shosholoza represents a nation of which the people have suffered for years the worst humiliation that any human being could suffer. They were defeated for years but they never lost their dignity and their indomitable spirit and at the end the freedom arrived.

“This is exactly what I expect from you,” Captain Sarno told the team.

Shosholoza’s champion match racing helmsman Paolo Cian controlled the pre-start in the match against Greek Challenge with classic dial-up tactics that saw both boats stalled to windward and reversing down the start box in a light eight knot sea breeze. Shosholoza was the first to tack away to port and built speed to hit the start equal with the Greek team.

But the Greek Challenge with Gavin Brady at the helm had more speed and Shosholoza started falling away as they got their dirty. The South African team tried to do a dummy tack near the top mark but lost more ground and were trailing by 35 seconds going into the run. Never giving up Cian tried to engage the Greeks in a gybing duel but the Greeks steadily pulled away around the next two legs to win with a delta of 1 minute 26 seconds.

Stephane Kandler, CEO of the French K-Challenge Team, which also lost their final Round Robin race to China Team today commented that the event was fantastic in bringing past and potential America’s Cup teams together but was proving to be much tougher than he thought it would be.

“It is a very radical event and much harsher than the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup was. Here we have two small pools of teams racing against each other on short,very tricky inshore courses. Even if you are close, just one mistake puts you away and mentally it is very difficult to come back – even for the very best sailors in the world. Races are lost by tight margins of less than 20 seconds. There is nothing in it but you lose.

“The big teams like Emirates Team New Zealand, America’s BMW Oracle and Team Alinghi have great depth of experience in their crews, they are well funded and able to employ their teams full time and it shows in an event like this,” said Kandler.

In a controversial move, much to the disappoint of those following the event here and around the world, Alinghi conceded their match to Emirates Team New Zealand by failing to start today. It would have been the first time the two teams had gone head to head since Alinghi beat the Kiwis in the 2007 America’s Cup match.

Alinghi issued a statement later in the day saying that the way the event is structured races against Team New Zealand don’t count in Round Robin 2. However hard contact penalties can result in a deduction of points as in the BMW Oracle vs. TeamOrigin match on 6 Feb. “With a competitive elimination round coming up in the next few days Alinghi had everything to lose and nothing to gain in racing the home team Emirates Team New Zealand.”

In a news release on the Emirates Team New Zealand website skipper Dean Barker said he was “stunned by the no-show by Alinghi. “I was disgusted. The racing has been close, competitors are enjoying themselves and the public being treated to some great sailing. Why would they introduce a niggle into a very successful regatta.

“Its all about the spirit of the event. Its all about doing what’s right for yachting. Their action was insulting and disrespectful to our team and to the New Zealand people. We were really wanting to race them today, the first time since July 2007,” said Barker.

The highlight of the day was a super tight battle between Italy’s Luna Rossa steered by America’s Cup veteran Peter Holmberg and the new British team TEAMORIGIN with three-time Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie at the helm.

The race went to the wire in a fresh southerly breeze to the delight of thousands of spectators crowding the course on boats and from the North Head viewing point. The British won by four seconds, barely a boat length.

In the other Gold Fleet race, BMW Oracle Racing beat Damiani Italia Challenge. In the Silver Fleet China Team finished the round unbeaten with a convincing win over Pataugas K Challenge.

Gold Fleet scores: Alinghi, 2 points; BMW Oracle Racing, 2; TEAMORIGIN, 0.5; Damiani Italia Challenge, 0; Luna Rossa, 0. (Emirates Team New Zealand is not awarded points in this round). Silver Fleet: China Team, 3; Pataugas K-Challenge, 2; Greek Challenge, 1; Team Shosholoza, 0.

The big match of the day on Sunday will be the showdown between America’s Cup defenders, Team Alinghi, and America’s BMW Oracle Racing Team. Off the water the two teams have been locked in a prolonged court battle relating to protocol for the next 33rd America’s Cup. A final ruling on the issue is still to be made by the Supreme Court of New York.

Team Shosholoza

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