Shosholoza shines at Barcolana

15 October 2008

South Africa’s America’s Cup Team Shosholoza was third across the finish line in a spectacular fleet of 2 000 yachts that competed in the 16-nautical mile Trieste Barcolana at the weekend. The event is Europe’s biggest international sailing regatta and the only race in the world to set a single start line for so many yachts.

Shosholoza was the first ever America’s Cup class yacht to enter the event which celebrates its 40th edition this year and boasts a set of mind-boggling statistics: 20 000 competing sailors, about 3 000 spectator boats on the water, and well over 350 000 enjoying the spectacle and related festivities ashore and all along the coastline.

The super-light breezes, which fluctuated from four knots at the mid-morning start to six knots and then died a mere two at the finish favoured the South African yacht which was purpose-built for the tight windward/leeward courses of America’s Cup racing, as opposed to the loose reaching conditions of the Barcolana.

Crush of yachts

The light winds also minimised the chaos of the seemingly endless crush of yachts lining up to cross the comparatively short 1.5 nautical-mile start line.

Even so, the South Africans were edged out at the finish by New Zealander Neville Crichton’s maxi Alpha Romeo, which took the gun in two hours, 59 minutes and 43 seconds for his fifth Barcolana victory.

At the helm of Alpha Romeo was 2007 America’s Cup winning skipper Brad Butterworth of the Swiss Team Alinghi, with many of his crew on board. Second was the maxi Jena, owned by Slovenian Mitja Kosmna, which finished in three hours, two minutes and 20 seconds.

Rousing cheer

Team Shosholoza, skippered by Paolo Cian, set the ships’ horns booming and got a rousing cheer from the massive spectator fleet as they crossed the finish in three hours, nine minutes and 26 seconds, just ahead of the fast RC 44 Black Pearl, skippered by Russell Coutts, the three-time America’s Cup winning skipper, who completed the race in three hours, 10 minutes and 25 seconds.

Shosholoza founder and managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno said he was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event, the Shosholoza fans who crowded the dockside to cheer and support the South African America’s Cup team, the hundreds of people who wanted autographs, and the unique spectacle on the water.

“I have never ever seen anything like this. Incredible! And it is amazing that the crew of an America’s Cup yacht can still give so much emotion to the spectators in a regatta like this. It is not true that America’s Cup class yachts can only sail at the America’s Cup, they can also be competitive in regattas like the Barcolana. Of course we wanted to win. Why else did we come here?

‘A very good race tactically’

“But we had a very good race tactically; our crew did good work in the light wind. We have flown the South African flag all week and we have had fun.

“Now we are looking forward to racing in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, in February next year and then we want to hold a follow up America’s Cup class event in South Africa in June,” said Captain Sarno.

Shosholoza skipper Paolo Cian, who has now clocked up a first, a second and two thirds as a skipper in four Barcolana events, described Shosholoza’s performance as “incredible”.

“We were a bit unlucky on the first leg when the wind went right and we were forced to do a couple of gybes, which is painful because we lose so much time. But this boat, even though she is heavy, is very fast upwind, even in very light winds, and we could make the top three.

‘A lot of fun’

“This is a crazy race, absolutely unique, you just can’t compare it to any other race in the world and we had a lot of fun. It was great.” said Cian.

Shosholoza tactician Tommaso Chieffi said the the regatta had shown that in light air Shosholoza could triumph. He said it was also exciting for Shosholoza to take Coutts at the finish as at one point the super-fast smaller boat had been almost five minutes ahead. Despite the dying wind Shosholoza, with her high mast, maintained momentum and edged the RC44.

“I have full respect for them. They had a good race,” said Chieffi.

Spectator fleet

Trimmer David Rae from Cape Town said the spectator fleet was way bigger than that in Valencia at the America’s Cup last year. “For the folks back home to understand how big the event is I would say it is like the Vaal Dam’s Round-the-island Race – just four times bigger!”

Grinder Johann Spilhaus described the race as an awesome spectacle and pitman Solomon Dipeere from Johannesburg said it was simply amazing. “I have never ever raced against 2 000 boats before. It was beautiful.”

Locals describe the Trieste Barcolana as a celebration of all things nautical. It is an end of the sailing season celebration not only for the city of Trieste but the whole of Italy and other countries too.

Source: Team Shosholoza