SA America’s Cup Challenger: briefing

Sports, Arts and Culture

12 April 2005
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Meeting report


12 April 2005

Mr B Khomphela (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SA America’s Cup Challenger briefing

The South Africa America’s Cup Challenger 2007 (SAACC) briefed the Committee on aspects of its work, including the budget, itinerary and media exposure. The close relationship between the SAACC and the Isivunguvungu Development Programme was highlighted. T-Systems SA then spoke of its sponsorship of the ‘Shosholoza’ yacht, the largest sponsorship deal by an international company in Africa.

Members expressed their support for the Shosholoza yacht project, and were especially impressed by the SAACC’s financial self-sufficiency and its development initiatives. However, the Committee was concerned that there were no women on the crew.


SA America’s Cup Challenger briefing
Mr Salvatore Sarmo, Managing Director, explained that the aim of the Shosholoza project was to represent South Africa to the world in a prestigious international tournament through the young sailors. The project’s budget of 20 million Euros was limited compared with that of the other top international teams, which had each budgeted around 100 million Euros. 70% of this money was being spent on the salaries of 50 young people including builders, sailing crew and shore crew. 30% was being spent on travelling as well as the building of an international base in Valencia and a local base at the Waterfront in Cape Town.

The Shosholoza’s challenge for the America’s Cup had begun in 2004. Racing would next begin on 16 June in Valencia, Spain, and then move on to Sweden and finally to Sicily, Italy, by October 2006. In 2004, the Shosholoza crew had ‘captured the sympathy’ of Europe, particularly because they were the only team sailing as ‘representatives of their country’.

Mr Grant Scholtz, Managing Director: Saatchi and Saatchi Focus, indicated that media coverage of the 32nd America’s Cup would reach 2.9 billion viewers in 210 countries. Local broadcasters had spent R1.4 million on coverage of the Shosholoza during the first quarter of 2005, with SABC 2 most prominent among them. The Shosholoza team had been the only America’s Cup team to feature on the front page of the New York Times as they were the only team with a ‘human story’ to tell. This story was related to the Isivunguvungu Development Programme that had provided the team with 3 of its sailors. This programme, which had been started in 1998 in conjunction with the SA Navy in order to expose underprivileged children to sailing, allowed 250 children to participate each week.

Mr Wolfgang Jakob, Deputy Managing Director: SAACC 2007 and Managing Director: T-Systems SA, stated that T-Systems had become involved in sponsoring international sailing because the sport reflected the values of his organisation. There were three aspects to their involvement. Firstly, the sponsorship of the German sailing team in three classes for the Beijing Olympics. Secondly, the sponsorship of the Shosholoza, which was the largest sponsorship (R100 million) made by an international company in South Africa. The third aspect was a youth exchange programme between Germany and the Royal Cape Yacht Club in which 20 young South African sailors had been invited to the International Sailing Championships in Germany in 2005.

Mr C Frolick (ANC) commented that the Department was currently measuring its budget against policy decisions. The co-incidental scheduling of the budget vote with the presentation by the SAACC 2007 was significant, as the Shosholoza represented a ‘shared vision’ for South Africa and demonstrated a development aspect. The Committee would support the project.

Ms D Morobi (ANC) asked about the criteria for selecting sailors for the Shosholoza. She expressed concern that there were only men on board the boat and that the media team was exclusively white. Mr Jakob responded that the media team was white, probably because they had been sent out from Europe. People were being sought in South Africa with the self-confidence and ability to start initiatives like SAACC 2007.

Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) remarked that the Shosholoza project was impressive as it was not asking the government for financial assistance. The public would feel proud to be represented by black sailors, but suggested that women might not be suited to the extremely vigorous physical exertions demanded.

Mr Sarmo responded that the black crew had been chosen according to the criterion of seamanship, rather than political exigency. There were 17 crewmembers on board, each with a particular role. All of the roles were physically demanding. For example, the body weight required to work on the winches was 110kg. Although the crew was all male, there were women on the team working as administrators and meteorologists.

The Chairperson commented that the song ‘Shosholoza’ had historically been sung by labourers working in mines for resources that were enjoyed by others. The Shosholoza project now represented a country whose resources belonged to all its citizens. He then enquired about the recruitment process for young people wanting to be involved in the project, especially those living inland. He asked to what extent crewmembers were insured against accidents, and what reward the team would receive if they won the America’s Cup. Citing precedents in which women had outclassed their male contemporaries, he urged that women be given an equal opportunity within the SAACC. The SAACC should not hold back from asking the government for funding in the future.

Mr Sarmo responded that the SAACC 2007 was registered as a company with medical aid and insurance. There were many young women who had been part of the Isivunguvungu Development Programme for the past two years, and it was hoped that they would participate as sailors in the SAACC in 2011. The SAACC was hoping to establish another development programme in Gauteng on the Vaal or the Hartebeespoort Dam.

Mr Sarmo said that he had taken the name Shosholoza from the song sung by the SA soccer team. Mr E Mtshali (ANC) responded that the song Shosholoza had historically been sung by the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Mr Sarmo said that it would not be easy to win the America’s Cup and that the team wanted to gain experience in 2007 so that they could compete again in 2011. Half of the net surplus for the America’s Cup would be divided among the teams. Half of the money given to the SAACC 2007 would be given to the crew, while the other half would be used for future campaigns.

The Chairperson reiterated the support of the Committee for the Shosholoza and said that the Committee would like to visit the team’s base.

The meeting was adjourned.


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