First sailing day in the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland-NZ, for AC72 Luna Rossa: the Italian challenger for the 34th America’s Cup
Luna Rossa Challenge skipper Max Sirena is embarking on his fourth America’s Cup challenge with the Italian syndicate.
He joined the fledgling team in 2000 as a mid-bowman, but now has chosen every man on the team. Sirena took time out yesterday to review how the team has progressed after its late entry into the 34th America’s Cup.
Yesterday was Luna Rossa’s sixth day of sailing the AC72. What has the team learned so far?
We are still on the learning curve of the boat. Only yesterday we tried to be more focused in performance and proper trim than everything else. Up to day before yesterday was more about sea trials. With this boat you will always be in sea trials until the end of the Cup because every day is different and you discover something new with this new machine.
Do you feel like you’ll be ready, fully prepared for the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup?
You’re never ready enough, for sure. Our goal is to try and arrive in San Francisco in good shape, but the main goal is to have as much confidence in the boat as possible to be able to focus on racing the boat rather than sailing the boat. That is the main goal for us.
What has surprised you the most about sailing the AC72?
It all depends on which wind range you are sailing. We’ve sailed a couple of days in winds over 20 knots and it’s a different game, the boatspeed gets up big time. Over 18 knots of breeze you sail easily over 35 knots boatspeed. You have to change the way you sail the boat. You have to be more careful and you push less. It’s fantastic to sail this boat. It’s emotional and stressful at the same time, but it’s an incredible feeling.
Some sailors have said that it’s easier than sailing the AC45.
The main difference is the bear off in these boats. With this boat, you’ve got the foil and are able to trim the foil to have some lift, and that is a big help bearing off. Still, the boat is very powerful and it all depends on the wind range you are sailing. Somehow they are easier to sail, but in saying that they are way more powerful than the 45.
You went sailing yesterday with Team New Zealand, but how hard has it been one boat testing?
There is a very strong relationship between the sailing team and the design team this time around, more than in previous campaigns. The feedback after each test – you try different rake, different sails, different ways to trim the wing or the front sail – the results coming out from the sensation and the feel you have when sailing is different and difficult. I expect big differences in boatspeed for next year because you’re doing a lot of work alone and then you go to San Francisco and you show where you are compared to the other competitors.
Yesterday (Tuesday, New Zealand time) we did a couple of racing drills with Team New Zealand and that was a good thing because you speed up the learning process. But yesterday was Day 6 for us and they have sailed more than 20 days. Personally, I was very happy about the result yesterday.
Lunna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand in the first race between AC72s.
One of your shore crew was injured last week while launching the wing. How have you changed the procedures for that in light of the incident?
We spend a lot of time thinking about the best procedure to step and load this boat. The critical problem of stepping the wing is having the wing half way hoisted and exposed to the wind and wind shifts. When the wing is 50 percent in the air there is not much you can do. It is a big surface and when it starts to go it’s hard to hold. I don’t think we can avoid it at that stage. You can always change the way you are stepping the wing, but the there will always be a 5 percent chance to have an issue during this maneuver. The shore team worked very well and fixed the wing in a day and a half and we sailed on Monday. You don’t want to have someone hurt. That is the bad part when you have an accident like that. Fred (Gastinel, a member of the shore team) is already back from the hospital and tomorrow will be back to work.
You’ve been with Luna Rossa since the team was founded. How is this one different from past teams?
The big difference of Luna Rossa is the spirit, and this spirit is coming out of Patrizio Bertelli. I’ve known him for long time. For me it’s easy to work this way. I’m lucky because I chose each team member. The main goal was to not have any rock stars. In saying that I’m not saying we don’t have talent, there’s lots of talent from the kitchen to the shore team to the technical support team, to the design team and the sailing team.
The team is full of talent. The main goal is to have everyone working for the team and not for themselves. At the end it’s a team game. If the team wins, it’s good for everyone. We approach everything low key. We don’t like to send out an interview or press release after every sailing day like other teams. I’m not saying that it’s wrong or right, this is the way we work. I tell the boys let’s show what we can do on the water and then they’ll talk about us. It’s a different approach, low profile. We like to show our strength on the water, not just by sending out press releases every day.
So summarize the state of the team right now. How far down the path towards the 34th America’s Cup are you and how much more needs to be done to get there?
We are on the learning curve. We are really happy because we started one and a half years after the other teams like Artemis, Oracle and Team New Zealand. We got the boat in the water and have sailed in pretty much all wind ranges. So far, touch wood, we haven’t had any major problems sailing. So now we have to focus on sailing performance and going out and spending as many hours as possible on the water to improve our strength. There is a lot of work to do. We want to use the next months ahead before moving to San Francisco in May to build and test the right tools on the next boat.