Archbishop Desmond Tutu will visit team Team Shosholoza during the America's Cup in June 8/3/07
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Patron of South Africa’s first ever America’s Cup Challenger – Team Shosholoza – has given the team a special third birthday present by announcing he will visit the team in Valencia, Spain, on 9 June.
Archbishop Tutu, who agreed to be Patron of the team in October last year, has also indicated he will be guest of honour at a proposed gala charity dinner during his stay in the 2007 America’s Cup host city.
In a message to the team Archbishop Tutu said: “Are you only three years old? Well, you have been punching well above your weight and your age. Well done and heartiest congratulations on this momentous anniversary in the year when we expect even greater things from you. We are immensely proud of you, we the rainbow nation you represent so brilliantly. God bless you, Arch.”
Archbishop Tutu’s decision to visit Valencia during the Louis Vuitton Cup finals is perhaps indicative of his confidence in the team. It also reinforces team managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno’s resolve to take his team to the semi-finals and beyond. The Archbishop says he might even consider being 18th man aboard RSA 83: “Sure, I will sit there and say: Remember guys, I am not as young as I look.”
Team Shosholoza is the only team that has the support of two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates: Nelson Mandela, the former South African President and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
The novice South African America’s Cup team has shown steady improvement since the opening regattas in 2004. Despite their first match race wins in 2005 they struggled to move from the bottom of the leader board, but by 2006 they had scooped 7th place overall in the America’s Cup Class Season Championship.
Four wins in the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 10 and ‘silver status’ in Act 12 brought Shosholoza their best match-race results so far in the 32nd America’s Cup and consolidated their status as serious contender.
“We can be really proud of our achievements”, says Captain Sarno whose public announcement of South Africa’s maiden America’s Cup challenge coincided with the arrival of the country’s first America’s Cup yacht in Cape Town on the 8 March 2004. “At the time not one of our South African crew had sailed an America’s Cup class yacht. We had to start from scratch in Table Bay, literally by learning how to raise the main sail,” he says looking back. “But 53 sailing days later we were competing in Marseille. This was success already. For us it was like winning gold at the Olympics. Above all Team Shosholoza has allowed people to follow their dreams and to realise that nothing is ever impossible. I salute everyone of my team. Happy Birthday!”