But is there more to this challenge than meets the eye? Matthew Sheahan considers this and other current AC news and gossip
‘The South African flag will once again fly high at the next edition of the world’s premier sailing event, the America’s Cup, following the lodging of a second challenge in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday.’ reads the latest press release on Shosholoza’s web site.
‘Team Shosholoza founder and managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno confirmed by telephone last night that he had personally lodged a Notice of Entry and submitted the required performance bond and necessary certification with the Swiss Société Nautique Genève (SNG), the defending yacht club of the 2007 America’s Cup winners Team Alinghi,’ it continues.
Although the South African exit from the 32nd America’s Cup was an early one, eliminated after round robin two and finishing 7th in the Challengers trials, their performance had left a big impression on spectators while nuturing self belief and enthusiasm within the team. From this standpoint, to hear that the team is coming back for more is of little surprise. Except for two reasons.
The first is that the team has no money, at least it would appear not enough to complete a full campaign.
“I am looking for a proudly South African sponsor and I am positive that we will find one to support the African dream to bring the Cup home,” said Sarno.
But how does he know how much he needs, what the boat will be and where the event might be held? None of this has been announced. At least not publicly.
One theory is that perhaps Ernesto Bertarelli has lent/given the South African team the money to get started in turn for an early entry. Such a move would not be without precedent. The Kiwis benefited from such a deal early on last time around to ensure that they would be in Valencia.
Garnering support on the Challengers’ side would be a smart move for Alinghi at a time when the Golden Gate Yacht Club are trying to have the current Protocol dismissed.
There is further speculation that this is not the last of the Challengers that will be declaring its support for the Defender run event under the protocol that Alinghi agreed with the Spanish.
During the last few days the speculation that Valencia will be announced as the next venue has reached bursting point with an announcement expected very soon. Shoholoza’s press release adds weight to this.
‘Alinghi did not give a venue or a date when the protocol for the 33rd America’s Cup was announced earlier this month,’ it says before going on to quote Sarno.
“But my personal feeling is that it will be in Valencia and I think we can expect an announcement from Alinghi next week,” said Sarno.
‘Team Shosholoza’s second campaign budget would depend on the next America’s Cup being a two year event culminating in 2009 and on the event being held in Valencia, the Spanish host city for the last Cup, where purpose built infrastructure is already in place,’ continued the release.
Could this be a further indication of the connection between Shosholoza and Alinghi? To announce the venue and a number of willing Challengers must surely be part of Alinghi’s defence against the attack from the GGYC. If this is the case, a spell in court seems ever more likely as the GGYC attempt to prove that the Challenge by the Spanish is invalid.
Earlier today, (Thursday 19) the GGYC had put out its own press release in which GGYC Commodore Marcus Young said, “It is proposed to abandon neutral regatta officials. The Challenger Commission would lose its voting powers. And for the first time in history, the Defender not only wants to introduce its own new rule for the class of boat to be raced, but also to keep this new rule secret. It will be disclosed to challengers at a much later stage, putting all challengers at a huge disadvantage.”
Although the release offered nothing new on the progress of their negotiations with the Defender’s yacht club or the Defenders, the release appeared to be designed more to reconfirm its position and stance on the issue and signed off saying,
‘GGYC awaits confirmation of acceptance from SNG to become the Challenger of Record for the 33rd AC.’
The battle is clearly brewing.
But if this is all a little to dry for you, how about some of the other rumours doing the rounds.
Russell Coutts’ connection with BMW Oracle Racing is still being talked about, albeit by everyone apart from the team. Others are speculating as to whether Brad Butterworth really will be staying with Alinghi. If Coutts went with the American team and Butterworth remained at Alinghi, two of the closest friends in sailing would be going head to head whenever and wherever the next event may be.
Less rumour and closer to fact, it is said that Francesco de Angelis has, or will be leaving Luna Rossa, the team he has been with for three America’s Cups. Meanwhile, James Spithill is thought to have had talks with Alinghi about him and his team of young guns joining the Defenders. He was understood to have been offered a position in the Swiss team last time around but declined as the deal was only open to him and not his crew. With the average age of the Alinghi crew creeping up, perhaps this move would now make better sense.
All of which leaves one important question. Does anyone ever take any time off after the Cup?