Breaking the America’s Cup mould

26 April 2005

Team Shosholoza, South Africa’s America’s Cup challenger, has unveiled the hull of the world’s first fully constructed new generation V5.0 America’s Cup class yacht.

The Shosholoza RSA 83, sponsored by German firm T-Systems, is the first America’s Cup class yacht to be designed and built in South Africa – and the first in the world to meet the new Version 5.0 rule of the 2007 America’s Cup.

The new hull was revealed at a ceremony in Cape Town on Friday, where a host of dignitaries, including admirals of the South African Navy, gave Team Shosholoza its official send-off.

The crew leaves for Europe next month to take part in six 2005 Louis Vuitton Acts, or pre-America’s Cup regattas, to be raced in Spain, Sweden and Sicily this year.

Aerospace technology, Ndebele beadwork
The ultra hi-tech hull, incorporating aerospace research and technology similar to that used in aircraft and Formula One cars, exhibits the distinctive graphics, inspired by Ndebele and Zulu beadwork, that have become synonymous with South Africa’s yacht.

The hull left Cape Town for Spain on Friday on board a container ship. Once it arrives in Valencia, the yacht will be fully assembled and fitted with her keel and mast before being officially launched as yacht Shosholoza RSA 83 in the Mediterranean on 19 May.

According to Captain Salvatore Sarno – the man behind Team Shosholoza – the new yacht is the result of an astonishing 15 000 hours of research and design by a mainly South African team led by British naval architect Jason Ker.

The team comprised specialist engineers, fluid dynamicists, experts in composite structures and other software experts, many of whom were previously involved in the South African aerospace industry.

Starting in November 2004, a mainly South African construction team led by Tony Evans and Petri Vainio put in 25 000 hours of building time to create the first truly advanced yacht structure to be built in Africa.

‘Not just about sailing’
“What you see here today is the first evidence of the realisation of our African dream for the world’s oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy”, said Sarno, who is also the chairman of the Mediterranean Shipping Company SA.

“Any nation can enter the America’s Cup, but it is only the most technologically advanced countries in the world that can effectively do so.

“Our campaign is not only about sailing, but rather a perfect opportunity for showcasing South Africa’s technology, incredible human initiative, skills and expertise in a way that few other international campaigns can.”

The America’s Cup is serious business, and security was strictly enforced at Team Shosholoza’s design office and Somerset West boat yard to avoid information leaking on the advanced “oven baked” construction techniques and the unique design aspects of the hull.

Designer Jason Ker reckons the team was less than 10 percent of the way through its long-term hull research phase when building began. However, he says, it gives the team an excellent starting point from which to develop its second new race yacht, which will be the final one to be used in the America’s Cup qualifying series in 2007.

The America’s Cup, first raced in 1852, attracts a worldwide television audience in excess of four billion, but organisers aim to spice up the racing even more, hence the measures aimed at improving the performance of the competing yachts.

The new V5.0 boats are another step forward over the previous 2003 generation boats. They have a deeper keel, and their spinnakers are eight percent bigger, which makes for a faster boat. The new, narrower hull is longer than the previous one, but weighs a full ton less.

Skipper Geoff Meek was extremely excited about the new yacht – likening it to having a Ferrari at one’s disposal.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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