So it was heartwarming when the chairman of the Meditteranean Shipping Company in South Africa, Salvatore Sarno, became passionate about giving South Africa a chance in the America's Cup. Heartwarming, but not exactly something to believe we had a hope in.
But now, a little while later, Team Shosholoza are placing behind the America's Cup contenders in competition! Team Shosholoza were named "team of the day" after finishing fifth in two races on Friday to score fourth place overall behind the big guns of the America's Cup - BMW Oracle, Team Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand - on the first day of the Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 9 fleet racing event held off Sicily.
Today they placed third in their first race and seventh in the second - enough to keep their overall fourth position heading into the final day tomorrow.
A New Zealander once told me that every second house in New Zealand had a boat in the driveway and someone who played rugby in winter. The America's Cup is a chance for them to compete with the giants - the USA.
So in a country where most people will not even have heard of the America's Cup, it is truly amazing that the SA team has progressed so well.
Overseas commentators are equally impressed. According to one of the official race commentators Matt Sheanan, as quoted on News24: "They are looking like one of the pros, they have great pace and are doing beautiful manoeuvres. They look slick, composed and confident. They have come a long, long way in the last year. What a lovely performance from the South Africans."
The America's Cup followers seem to be enjoying the romance of South Africa's entry. The following is an excerpt from the America's Cup magazine:
At first glance, there’s not much to link the powerhouse BMW ORACLE Racing team with the fledgling South African Challenge, Shosholoza. The Americans are in their second consecutive campaign, a big-budget effort with the power of global brand-name sponsors and Larry Ellison behind them. In the case of Shosholoza, it’s not just the team that is making its first foray into the Cup; it’s the first challenge from the African continent.... Read more here.
I like Captain Salvatore Sarno's quote from the article best: “We’re not here to bring the America’s Cup to Africa. We’re here to bring a little bit of Africa to the Cup.”
Even if you know nothing about sailing - or don't really want to - take a look at the Team Shosholoza site. You'll need a Macromedia Flash installed in your browser (most browsers have it standard) and be prepared for a heavy graphics load. But it has some beautiful photos and is well designed.