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America's Cup - Luna Rossa's Sirena joins Emirates Team NZ

by Richard Gladwell, on 6 Oct 2015
Old friends and now new friends again - Grant Dalton (ETNZ) and Max Sirena (Luna Rosa) - pictured at the Prada AC45 launch - 16 January 2012, Auckland Richard Gladwell
Long time Luna Rossa sailing team head and skipper for the team's 2013 America's Cup Challenge has joined Emirates Team New Zealand for the 35th America's Cup.

Statements from both teams, announcing the move were issued just before 1030pm Tuesday evening (0930UTC).

The Team Luna Rossa Challenge announcement advised that its former 'Skipper and Team Director Max Sirena would join Emirates Team New Zealand’s management, working closely with the various Department Heads and the Executive Team.

'This stresses the sporting and friendly ties of mutual respect that have characterized the relationship between the two teams over fifteen years, marked by loyal and constructive competition,' the Italian's written statement concluded.

Emirates Team New Zealand confirmed the move saying 'Max brings over 20 valuable years of America’s Cup experience primarily as a sailor with Luna Rossa but also a strong technical knowledge having won the 33rd America’s Cup as wing manager for BMW Oracle Racing.

'He now joins a number of Luna Rossa designers now working with the team at this exciting time in our quest to win back the America's Cup.'

Sirena will be based in New Zealand. No specific role has been announced, but he is expected to take a senior role in the coaching and performance team.

Born in 1973 in Rimini, Italy, Massimiliano “Max” Sirena (42) won the 33rd America’s Cup with BMW Oracle Team as wing mast manager. His America's Cup experience began in New Zealand in 2000 as a mid-bowman and then grinder. He sailed with the Italian team in the 2000, 2003 and 2007 America's Cups before joining then BMW Oracle Racing for the 2010 America's Cup in the super-multihulls in Valencia. Max was skipper of team Luna Rossa for the 34th Challenge to the America's Cup and also skippered the Luna Rossa Extreme 40, winner of the Extreme Sailing Series in 2011.

A marriage of convenience?
Last month, it was confirmed that Emirates Team New Zealand had acquired several items of sailing kit from the Italians including a foiling AC45 of which the Italian team owns two. They had also acquired several design team members from Luna Rossa, which pulled out of the 35th America's Cup after the class to be sailed was changed nine months into the work-up phase of the regatta.

At that point, the Italians were the most advanced with a full team of around 85 working from a new base in Cagliari, Sardinia. Team Patron Patrizio Bertelli decided to withdraw on the matter of principle of changing the Class without the unanimous agreement of all teams. He signaled this intention three days ahead of the move and the challengers, except for Team New Zealand, called Mr Bertelli's bluff. Therefore, the Luna Rossa withdrawal was no unexpected. For committing the sin of supporting Luna Rossa's stance in the social media, Emirates Team New Zealand had the Auckland-based Qualifiers for the 35th America's Cup withdrawn unilaterally by the America's Cup events Authority.

That in turn triggered the withdrawal of a substantial NZ Government funding/sponsorship package for Emirates Team NZ - a gap which the team are still trying to cover with a mix of mix of budget cuts and attracting new sponsors.

The liaison with Luna Rossa was an obvious marriage that took a couple of months to consummate.

In working with Emirates Team NZ, the Italian team is believed to be keeping alive their options for a new campaign post-2017.

Team NZ development boat on the way
Emirates Team New Zealand is altering an AC45 one design to become a test or surrogate boat, at their Auckland base using their own builders. They are expected to build a new second AC45 development boat ahead of the AC50 to be used in the 35th America's Cup Challenger Series.

At a news conference in Bermuda last month, Americas Cup Events Authority CEO, Russell Coutts commented that Team NZ would have two AC45 test boats sailing early in 2016, however this is believed to be a rather ambitious comment.

French and Kiwis pay entry and get vote back
In an unrelated move, the New Zealand and French teams have both paid the final installment of their entry fee ahead of the deadline of October 1, 2015.

The payment of the final tranche of $250,000 restores the vote in all matters to the America's Cup to both teams. Until they had paid their entry fee in full the vote of the delayed payment teams was suspended - meaning that the Rules could be changed at the behest of the remaining four teams.

That move in turn means that all changes to the Class Rules have to be by unanimous agreement of the teams.

The rules issue that was believed to be looming is a change to the number of tips allowed to be fitted to foils which is limited at present as a cost containment measure.

Two of the teams having opted for early launching of development boats - AC45 Surrogates - and with another two teams running a single development AC45, the scope for development is limited, by very complex rules on numbers of whole and part daggerboards allowed.

Simply they have a lot of design time on their hands, and not a lot of daggerboard inventory options to play with - or they would like more.

While changes to the Class Rules have to be by unanimous vote, changes to the Protocol which cover the complex daggerboard limitations can be with a majority vote of the Challengers and the agreement of the Defender Oracle Team USA.

Daggerboards and foils/rudders are one of the three design areas in which there is freedom of design in the 35th America's Cup - the others being controls for the wingsail, and parasitic drag reduction on the otherwise one-design AC50 wingsailed foiling catamaran used in the 35th America's Cup.

With Groupama Team France and Emirates Team NZ having their vote suspended pending payment of the full entry fee, a Protocol change could have been easily passed without their participation.

It would seem that at least one other team was not happy about the proposed Protocol Changes, and with early reclaim of their vote by the French and Kiwis, they failed to get the required majority vote of the Challengers.

It would also seem that Groupama Team France are now working a lot more independently than originally outlined, and will be operating as a true national team with their own designers, and not hanging off the coat-tails of Oracle Team USA as was originally outlined.

Previously the team had advised that they would be receiving a full, free design package from Oracle Team USA.

The final round in the 2015 America's Cup World Series will be sailed at the end of next week in Bermuda. It will be the last chance for teams to race officially at the America's Cup venue prior to the start of the Louis Vuitton sponsored series in June 2017.

Emirates Team New Zealand currently lead the America's Cup World Series after the Portsmouth and Gothenburg rounds.

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