SSL Sailing Team South Africa WINS the SSL Gold Cup Test Event 1, Grandson Switzerland.
On a weekend that the South African Rugby Team suffered a second defeat at the hands of fierce rivals Australia, the Star Sailing League (SSL) Team South Africa successfully competed in and won the inaugural Test Event. The SSL Gold Cup was created to promote and position sailing as a spectator sport with a truly national identity, billed as the “Football World Cup in Sailing”. The event did exactly what it set out to do.
Eight teams representing Turkey, Mexico, France, Ukraine, Malaysia, Thailand, Tahiti, and South Africa took part in Event 1. Each team was allowed to field nine sailors per race on their boat. The important stipulation was that all participating sailors had to be nationals of the country they were representing and be selected using the acclaimed SSL Ranking system which allocates points based on global event performance of each sailor, the more you sail, the more you progress up the ranking individually. A captain’s pick further supplemented the skills level on the boats and ensured that there was no bias toward established Olympic classes and considered the skills of crew and not only Olympic class sailors.
The four boats provided by the SSL Gold Cup Organisation are matched SSL47’s, a derivative of the highly successful RC44’s. The boats are rotated through the teams, who raced in two fleets of four Nations, in a best of five Races Elimination series. At the completion of each fleet’s Elimination Series the top 2 nations then progressed to the Final, with the bottom two Nations competing in the Petite Final. Teams competed in national colours embellished with each athlete’s name, creating a clearly identifiable “TEAM” feeling not unlike that seen in National Football, Rugby, and Cricket teams globally.
Team Captain Ian Ainslie, a long-time champion of “Sailing for All”, a three-time Olympian Athlete and Dutch Coach on three occasions, assembled the team, using the ranking system and his allowed captain’s pick privilege. He put together a team of athletes that truly represents the current top level of sailors competing both locally in South Africa and abroad. A truly diverse and representative group of individuals who gelled into a cohesive and collaborative team in a very short time.
Sailing under the nickname “Team UBUNTU” they took the opportunity and delivered a master class in patience, teamwork, and trust. Sailing in tricky conditions over the duration of the six races sailed, the team delivered an impressive set of results. Finishing 2,4,1,1,2 in the Eliminator Series against Tahiti, Turkey, and France, and then achieved a hard-fought victory in the Final against Thailand, Ukraine and Malaysia.