Shosholoza’s giant-killing act

4 February 2009

South Africa’s Team Shosholoza achieved one of their biggest wins ever, and the greatest upset of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, by thrashing America’s Cup defenders Team Alinghi in head-to-head competition in Auckland, New Zealand on Tuesday.

Shosholoza won the tactical battle at the pre-start, using supreme skills to control the dial up by taking the two boats head-to-wind into an almost four minute stall from which it was difficult for Alinghi to escape.

The South African team then built momentum for a perfect time on distance dash to lead off the start by two boat lengths.

‘A classic start’

“It was the classic start that you want to keep in your mind for a long while,” said Shosholoza skipper Paolo Cian.

“The tide was pushing both boats towards the committee boat, and our crew did a great job of executing the turn back to the line.”

Despite an incoming current, shifty winds and puffs in the lee of the volcanic Rangitoto Island, Shosholoza shot off to play the advantageous left side of the course and steadily stretched their lead on the Swiss around every mark to finish a whopping 1.178 kilometres ahead.

Alinghi’s problems

Meanwhile, despite perfect racing conditions in warm north-easterly winds of 14-16 knots, and flat water, Alinghi lost time on every leg, got holed in windless patches and had a problem dropping the gennaker on the bottom mark, which cost them valuable time.

Said Cian: “It was a big victory for us, especially after Monday’s races when we sailed so well but didn’t score a point.

“Today the course was very tricky, but we not only outwitted Alinghi in the pre-start, we didn’t miss a shift. I give credit to our tactician Tommaso Chieffi and our Kiwi strategist, Cameron Appleton, who helped us with local knowledge.

Confidence

“A win like this gives us a lot of confidence going into the next round robin. It shows that every team can win when using even boats on short courses.”

In response to a question from event director Bruno Trouble at the post race press conference as to how Alinghi had managed to be so badly beaten by Shosholoza, Alinghi navigator Juan Vila’s answer was that: “Shosholoza sailed a perfect race”.

“They did well to hold us in the pre-start and make it difficult for us. It was very tricky out there and Shosholoza did well to play the shifts and get the puffs right. We could do nothing but watch them sail away from us,” said the Alinghi navigator.

‘It finally came right for us’

Team founding managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno, who phoned immediately from Cape Town to congratulate his team, said: “I had a big big feeling that we could do it today and finally it has come right for us.

“It is 2am here. I had no internet to listen to the race, but I was not sleeping. I was just thinking very intensely of the team and being with them in my mind. Now I know that in the end there is someone up there,” he said with emotion.

Source: Team Shosholoza