But the opening Valencia Louis Vuitton Acts in Spain would prove to be immensely difficult for the team. The new boat, RSA 83, suffered teething problems, and a new Version 5 mast proved impossible to set up in time for the races. The result, a shut out in the match races and a last place finish in the fleet racing event. Not the start the team was looking for.
'Don't even mention Valencia,' says Solomon DIPEERE, pitman on the boat. 'That was basically a cock-up. Obviously the boat wasn't ready to race.'
The team spent the weeks after the Valencia Acts training out of Spain, and on one of their first training runs, they broke the new mast, which had finally been fitted to the hull. It was a big setback, but the team did not get derailed.
In Malmö-Skåne, Sweden, the South Africans were more prepared. Working with veteran British match racing expert Chris LAW before and during the regatta, the team was ready to perform. Sailing with an old Alinghi mast and with more time in their new boat, the improvement was evident on the leaderboard. Shosholoza beat the SwedishVictory Challenge and China Team in the match racing, finishing equal tenth on points, and scored as high as seventh in the fleet racing, settling for tenth place.
But it was in Trapani where the South Africans really started to strut. With LAW being replaced by the guiding hand of American Dee SMITH, Shosholoza won three matches to take tenth place. That was a good start. In the fleet racing however, the team from Africa was THE story. The black boat burst out of the gates with two fifth places and a third, en route to fifth place overall - a very impressive result for any team, let alone one a shy of experience as Shosholoza. Behind them, teams like Italians Luna Rossa, +39 Challenge and Victory Challenge, among others.
'We're seeing the progression I was looking for,' says sailing manager Paul STANDBRIDGE. 'We're happy, but obviously there's still a lot of work to do. We have to get better in every aspect, from sails and design, to getting the boat around the course and tactics. But yeah, it's nice to be rewarded for the work we have done.'
The plan for the winter is to consolidate the gains made this season before beginning to ramp up the sailing programme again in Valencia after February.
'We won't be sailing much for the next three months,' DIPEERE says. 'We'll be doing a testing programme for the next month, and then we'll go home for a three month holiday back in South Africa. We'll come back to Europe next February or March. I think we deserve the time away. But that break won't be a complete holiday. We'll still be doing other events in smaller boats, and doing a lot of work in the gym.
'We can only go faster from here. Everyone has seen from this regatta, anyone can win. It gives us hope.'
Giving hope is becoming a trademark of this team. It is possible the Shosholoza crew was inspired in Trapani, Italy by the presence of a very special guest. Andrew MLANGENI, 82, was with the team in Sicily. He previously had spent 26 years imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson MANDELA before being elected to parliament in the first free elections in 1994.
For MLANGENI, Shosholoza 'represents the world I always believed in. They are showing the world that South Africa has turned into a new country and a new democracy we can all be proud of. I am very proud of them - their team work is slick and they are conducting themselves in a professional manner. This is a huge event and an honour for us to be part of it.'
The following table shows all race results from the three Match Racing Acts of the 2005 season: Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 4, Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 and Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 8. The right column shows the total amount of points gained against each team throughout the year. The bottom row shows the total amount of races won per Louis Vuitton Act.
|© ACM 2005|
The following table lists all finishes during the three Fleet Racing Acts of the 2005 season: Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 5, Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 7 and Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 9. The curve of the results charts the progress of the team over the year.
|© ACM 2005|