South African Olympic sailor Ian Ainslie and four top crew from ACC Team Shosholoza will race the Congressional Cup against Russell Coutts

 South African Olympic sailor Ian Ainslie and four top crew from Team Shosholoza will be going head to head with three times America’s Cup title holder Russell Coutts when they team up with a top British match racing skipper at the Congressional Cup in the United States next week (April 11 – 16).

Regarded as one of the globe’s oldest and most prestigious Match Racing events, the Congressional Cup is hosted by the Long Beach Yacht Club in California and will feature past and future America’s Cup teams including Chris Dickson, skipper of the US BMW Oracle Challenge and Dean Barker, helmsman for the Emirates New Zealand Challenge.

Ainslie, who is being trained up as the Team Shosholoza helmsman for the America’s Cup match racing events, will be crewing for Chris Law, a former British America’s Cup skipper, and winner of the Congressional Cup who was previously ranked no 2 in World Match Racing.

Law, who is the winner of 12 Grade One Match Racing Events, helmed British challenges in the 1987 and 1995 America’s Cup’s and is an expert America’s Cup commentator, is currently in South Africa coaching and match race training with Team Shosholoza.

Team Shosholoza crew members David Rae (ex Pretoria), Ashton Sampson (Grassy Park, Cape Town) Mark Sadler (ex Benoni) and Charles Nankin (Zeekoevlei, Cape Town) will also crew for Law.

They will race as Team Shosholoza under the burgee of South Africa’s Royal Cape Yacht Club. They are sponsored by T-Systems, the business customer brand of Deutsche Telekom, who recently announced a R100 million investment in South Africa for Team Shosholoza over a period of three years. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is also a sponsor of the team.

Team Shosholoza will be one of 10 teams racing in identical Catalina 37ft sloops at the Congressional Cup. The format for the event will be a double round robin followed by four-team sail-offs with races run on a short windward/leeward course. The event carries a purse of $40,000.

Ainslie, 39, is one of South Africa’s most accomplished helmsmen having represented South Africa in the Finn Class at three Olympics. He was ranked in the top 10 in the world in the Finn Class from 1996 – 2000.

He also crewed on the SA team which won the Nations Cup Match Racing World Championship in San Francisco in 1995. He skippered two winning J/22 World Championship campaigns (1997 and 2001) and has won 16 South African National Championships in the Finn, Hunter, L26 and J/22 classes. He has competed in five Lipton Challenge Cup regattas, two of which he won as helmsman.

Ainslie also plays a pivotal role in the SA America’s Cup Challenge in his capacity as director of the Izivunguvungu MSC Foundation for Youth sail training school in Simonstown. He grew up in the Free State and learnt to sail inland on the Vaal Dam. He has a BSC degree in Mathematics from Durban University.

Commenting on his four days sailing with Team Shosholoza in Cape Town, Chris Law said the passion and feeling within the team was immense.

“It is really exciting and invigorating to be with them. They guys have been working hard and you can feel the hunger among the team.

“It is a big bold country, steeped in history and tradition with an exciting future that has firmly put the troubles of the past behind them and this is reflected in this team,” said Law.