13 June 2007
A long-standing South African icon met up with a new South African icon when Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu paid a visit to Team Shosholoza in Valencia, Spain on the weekend.
Tutu and Team Shosholoza, both of whom have made big impressions on South Africa and the world, took the opportunity to express their mutual admiration for one another.
The fulfillment of a promise
The get-together was the fulfillment of a promise made by the Archbishop, the patron of the team, that he would visit Shosholoza; previously, an around-the-world lecture cruise had prevented him from watching the crew in live action.
When Tutu did finally make it to Valencia, he was welcomed with open arms, and a VIP dinner was held in his honour, hosted by Louis Vuitton, the principle partners of the America’s Cup.
“The Arch”, as Tutu is fondly called, went onboard Shosholoza, donning the “eighteenth man” sailing jacket and confidently took over the wheel of the yacht; thankfully it was docked at the time.
‘Shocked the sailing world’
Chatting to the crew and answering questions, Tutu said: “What Shosholoza has done is a superb thing for our country. It is a sport where we never thought we would even have a chance, but you have shocked the sailing world. You have demonstrated that the black community is able to integrate itself into this world and to be competitive in this sport.
“Sport has been a powerful agent for our nation that was for so long divided,” Tutu said. “When we won the 1995 Rugby World Cup it did more for South Africa than the speeches of the politicians or even of archbishops. We were not the better side on that day, but the side that desperately needed that victory. It was very important for the evolution of our country.”
The crew acknowledged the support of the Archbishop, saying he kept in contact by e-mail, sending both congratulations and commiserations.
“But most of the time it was congratulations,” said Tutu, “because even when they lost, they did not disgrace themselves. For first timers at the America’s Cup, they were fantastic. Out of this world! We are enormously proud of the team and thank them for what they are doing.”
The VIP dinner, apart from honouring Tutu, also served as a fund raiser for the restructuring and development of Tygerberg Children’s Hospital in Cape Town which specialises in infectious diseases like tuberculosis as well as HIV/Aids, cancer, nervous system disorders, and respiratory diseases.
Bruno Trouble of Louis Vuitton, in his address at the event, said: “This is a historic moment and one of the greatest honours of the 2007 America’s Cup to welcome Archbishop Tutu. In years to come we will remember the 32nd America’s Cup for your visit and for Team Shosholoza’s successes, their fantastic spirit, joie de vivre and friendly approach”.
There were some high-profile guests in attendance, including Her Royal Highness, Princess Irene of Greece, sister to HM Sofia, Queen of Spain, and President of the Madrid-based organisation World in Harmony. She spoke about her close friendship with the Tutu family, her visits to Tygerberg Children’s Hospital, and subsequent work in procuring funds for the hospital through the Spanish city of Seville.
The Princess, whose brother King Constantine of Greece and brother-in-law, King Juan Carlos of Spain, are both Olympic sailors, urged everyone present to lend their support to the Children’s Hospital.
South African Ambassador to Rome, Lenin Shope, was among the guests, as was Nositembele Mapisa-Shope, the first secretary at the South African embassy in Madrid, along with dignitaries from the City of Valencia, representatives from the international media, and America’s Cup teams.
The founder and managing director of Team Shosholoza, Captain Salvatore Sarno, paid tribute to Tutu, saying Team Shosholoza felt immensely honoured to have the patronage of someone who, together with Nelson Mandela, was known the world over for his important role in the miracle that is the new South Africa.
Sarno quoted stanzas from Spain’s famed “Man of La Mancha” about Don Quixote, which he said epitomised everything the Archbishop stood for.
“Be sure that we will be with you when you dream your impossible dreams, and we will be with you when you try to right the unrightable wrongs,” Sarno read.
‘A new face’
Tutu, in his speech, said: “In the past people were alienated and separated from each other. They couldn’t work together, live or play together, and Shosholoza, in one stroke, has been able to present a new face to the world.
“It is a different image and a dream of what we want to become. Suddenly, with Team Shosholoza, the nation has discovered sailing. We didn’t know anything about sailing before Shosholoza. These guys did so very, very well. I want to congratulate all of them.”