Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shosholoza announces new designer and plans to re-group in December

[Source: Team Shosholoza] Team Shosholoza has appointed a new naval architect to lead the design and build in South Africa of a radical new 90 foot “giant” campaign yacht for the next America’s Cup.

Shosholoza managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno said well-known Cape Town based naval architect, Alex Simonis of Simonis Voogd Design, has signed with the team for the second South African America’s Cup challenge. He will head a largely South African team of designers and hopes to utilize specialists from the previous challenge.

Simonis' appointment coincides with the announcement by America's Cup Management of a new event format, new racing schedule and rules for a new bigger, faster and more demanding 90 foot yacht, the AC90, for the next Cup which will be held in Valencia, Spain in 2009.

“It will be a giant of a racing boat. Everything about it is extreme and that’s what will make it so exciting for both sailors and spectators!” said designer Alex Simonis adding that the prospect of designing the new Shosholoza was as exciting as his new appointment.

Shosholoza's new 90 footer will be designed and built in Cape Town. A boat yard will be set up in January next year (2008)and building will start in March. The completion date is set for September.

The yacht will be launched in Cape Town in October 2008 with sea trials starting in Table Bay immediately after. The yacht will be re-launched in February 2009 in Valencia, Spain, ahead of the start of racing in April 2009.

The new AC90 Rule, published last week after an exhaustive six week consultation process between all the entered challengers and America’s Cup defender, the Swiss Team Alinghi, is designed to produce a new class of yachts that will be way more "visually impressive, spectacularly faster and more challenging to sail" than the current Version 5 (V5) America's Cup Class yachts.

The new AC class yacht will have a 90ft overall (27.4m) length with a 6.5m in draft while racing, retracting to 4.7m. The beam will be 5.3m, up from 3.5m for many of the previous V5 boats.

It will have a displacement of 23 tons, a massive mast height of 37.9m above the deck, a maximum bowsprit distance of 15.5m from the mast and unlimited spinnaker area. There will be about 50 percent more sail area and a crew limit of 20 people - three more crew than the current V5 yachts. The crew weight limit has also been removed in recognition of the demanding nature of the new yacht.

“I don’t think there is anything out there anything like it at the moment,” said Simonis. He said he had been in constant contact with Nycola Sironi, an Italian engineer and International Sailing Federation measurer who represented Team Shosholoza at the consultation meetings in Valencia. They scrutinized every step of the rules as they developed.

“It’s a bit like the star wars programme. We are going where no one has been before. But we have had experience of designing a boat of this magnitude and although we will be squeezing two years design work into five months we are looking forward to the challenge,” said Simonis.

Simonis is best known for his 90 footer “Nicorette” which won line honours in the 2004 Sydney-Hobart race three weeks after her launching. His first “Nicorette”, an 80 footer, won the 2000 Sydney-Hobart on line honours and handicap. The Simonis 70 footer “Broomstick” was the first IMS rated maxi to be launched world-wide and won the trans-Atlantic Cape to Rio race in record time only five weeks after launching.

Simonis Voogd Design has received numerous international awards for “best boat of the year” and designed countless winning South African racing yachts. They are also the new designers for the full range of yachts produced by the well known European boatyard Dehler

Captain Sarno said he was proud to announce the appointment of Simonis. “I’ve known Alex for the 20 years I’ve lived in South Africa and always admired and tried to beat his yachts. He is a very passionate man like me and this is the main reason I am convinced that together we can do something very good.”

Sarno said Team Shosholoza would re-group next month (December) in Cape Town when he would call a meeting for all sailing, build, design and shore crew.

The first pre-regattas for the next America's Cup will be held in June/July next year (2008) when all racing will be contested in the existing V5 yachts. The new giant AC90 yachts will make their racing debut in April/May 2009 with the start of the America's Cup Trials. The 33rd America's Cup Match will start on 18 July 2009.

Captain Sarno said he hoped to retain the core Shosholoza crew from the last campaign, 85 percent of whom were South Africans, plus employ the best local sailors for the remaining places. A professional coach will be hired to manage the team and enhance performance. The team will also continue to draw on the expertise of match race helmsman Paolo Cian, currently rated third on world rankings and the multiple America's Cup experience of Tomasso Chieffi as tactician.

Shosholoza strategist Ian Ainslie and crew Solomon Dipeere and Golden Mgedeza had also gained further experience by competing on the World Match Race circuit during the European summer.

Captain Sarno said MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) South Africa would continue to support Team Shosholoza. T-Systems, the team’s chief sponsor from the previous campaign has been given an option to renew their sponsorship.

"We have done good work together and I hope they will be back. The sport of sailing is still transparent, honourable and an ideal tool for a big company to promote themselves especially in view of the 2010 Soccer World Cup being held in South Africa.

“Team Shosholoza will be the South African ambassadors in Europe for 2010 and a testimonial to the world that South Africa is a wonderful place to visit. Our first campaign showed the world our new country after 10 years of democracy. Now our aim is to invite soccer fans to come to our shores,” said Sarno.

Sarno who underwent heart surgery 10 days ago is already back at work “stronger than ever before”. He said the only limit placed on him by his specialist and his son, also a medical doctor, was that he may not run a marathon in the next 15 days.

“But since the Comrades Marathon (South Africa's world famous ultra-marathon) was over long ago in June I have no problem with that. I am ready to start our second campaign!” said Sarno in typical fighting spirit.

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