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Gladwell's Line - Get used to Bertelli putting his Stamp(a) on the Cup

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World on 15 Sep 2017
A very happy Patrizio Bertelli - America’s Cup World Series Naples 2012 - Final day ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget
The shock waves from the weekend interview given by the Patron of Luna Rossa, Patrizio Bertelli continue to reverberate around the America's Cup world.

Used to the long drawn out series of announcements from the organisers of the 34th and 35th America's Cup, fans and media expected a controlled information release, on a prescribed date, and one which often raised more questions than answers.

Most were caught unawares by Luna Rossa's Patrizio Bertelli giving an interview to an Italian newspaper and letting out some key points of the next America's Cup Class, a couple of weeks ahead of time.

However, we should not be surprised.

Who in the media can forget the stunned look on his skipper and tactician's faces when the volatile Italian fashion magnate issued a media release accusing the Luna Rossa afterguard of 'suicide tactics' in the fourth race of the 2000 America's Cup Match in Auckland?

Seated at the elevated top table in the waterfront media centre for the 2000 America's Cup, skipper, Francesco de Angelis was explaining the reasoning for the tactic which got them on the wrong side of what proved to be a persistent shift. It cost them what appeared to be a near-certain race win. Alongside him was tactician and sailing great, Torben Grael, winner of five Olympic sailing medals, several world championships and later the Volvo Ocean Race.

Mid-way through the question and answer session someone waved a Luna Rossa media release and asked de Angelis his response to the accusation of 'suicide tactics' by the Luna Rossa crew. The urbane de Angelis looked briefly shocked, saying they had not seen the statement and left it to Torben Grael to respond.

'He thought we gave Russell [Coutts] a birthday present. It wasn't intended', said Grael - who in sailing expertise had to answer to no-one. 'I think we are the first ones to feel bad about it and Patrizio [Bertelli] has the right to be upset as well, that is why he made that statement. We didn't see it as suicide. We thought we were doing the right thing and it ended up it was not. That is part of racing, it can't always go right, sometimes it goes wrong, and when it goes wrong, you look a little stupid.'

de Angelis was more to the point: 'That statement is pretty straightforward, there is not much to say about it. That is his feeling, and the facts are clear. There is not much more to say.'

Three years later in 2003, it was the same Patrizio Bertelli who fired Doug Peterson, an America's Cup winning designer, after Luna Rossa performed poorly losing their first two races in the opening round robin. They only won a third against Le Defi (FRA) who failed to finish and then lost two more before their first contested win in Race 6 against Victory Challenge of Sweden.

Mr Bertelli wanted an 'ice-breaker' bow like the other boats, and according to who you believe he either drew it on the back of a cafe serviette, or full size on the boat, before commissioning radical bow surgery. Patrizio got his ice-breaker bow and the Italian results improved - but not enough to make the Finals.

At the end of that campaign, he sat down with Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport and declared that he would not be back for the 2007 America's Cup.

'This adventure is over,' Mr Bertelli told the newspaper.

By one estimate he'd spent $120million on the two campaigns and would sell the six IACC yachts and equipment. 'I could sell them, I've already had requests, even from Italy,' he said.

But as we now know, he had a change of heart and did come back for the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia making the Final but losing 5-0 to Emirates Team NZ. And again in 2013 for San Francisco cutting a deal with the Kiwis to buy a design package for a foiling AC72.

Just before the launch of Luna Rossa's AC72 in Auckland, Patrizio Bertelli explained why he had returned to the America's Cup, triggered by the withdrawal of Mascalzone Latino, the then Challenger of Record. Mr Bertelli said they felt this withdrawal bought dishonour to Italy and they started looking seriously at a Challenge. The relationship did not please Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing who complained to the International Jury, successfully clipping the wings of the two love-birds.

After they won an Extreme 40 regatta earlier in 2012, Luna Rossa had virtually decided to go ahead, but did not have the time to run up their own design team, so they talked to Emirates Team NZ. The Challenge for the 34th America's Cup was intended to extend into the 35th America's Cup, just completed in Bermuda.

Bertelli made a strong attempt to set up a winning team for the 2017 America's Cup, only to have the mat whipped out from under his feet in late March 2015, after a deal was cut with the majority of the Challengers and the Defender to shift to a smaller boat than the AC62 - which had been announced as the class nine months earlier.

So given what has gone before, maybe the interview with La Stampa last weekend should not have come as a surprise, and may have been a deliberate attempt to show that as Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa are not going to be Team New Zealand's poodle.

Clearly with the deal that has been cut with Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa as Challenger of Record does hold the whip hand on several aspects of the 36th America's Cup, as they are entitled to do as Challenger under the Deed of Gift.

Also expect the unexpected to happen with Luna Rossa, if only to keep the Defender and others on their toes.

Looking ahead to the Protocol we can probably expect a hard line to be taken on the key points of nationality, and construction in the country of the Defending or Challenging Club. As well there will be a class rule developed - without being one design as were the hulls, cross structure, wingsail and jib in the AC50 class.

Word around the waterfront in Auckland is that the new AC36 class will be around 72ft, and will be a canting keelboat, wicked up as much as possible to be an apparent wind oriented boat that will perform best at hotted up angles downwind.

Quite what happens with hydrofoils on a monohull is anyone's guess as the America's Cup round the buoys racer requirements are quite different from reaching around the world. There is a similar design dilemma to have a boat which provides competitive racing and good television at the bottom end of the range for racing - which was 6kts of windspeed in Bermuda.

It is unlikely that the new class will be a one design, and that being the case, teams will likely be allowed to build two boats - particularly with a new class - to allow for the first being a dud - and the team being locked into using that boat for the Cup.

Of course that then gets teams into the dilemma of whether to build two quite different design concepts, or whether to build two boat that are similar in design so that a sharper edge can be be put on two-boat testing, with design variances being factored out.

The monohull approach will increase campaign costs, with larger numbers of sailing crew, more avenues to be explored by the design teams and two boats run - as happened with the International America's Cup Class that was used between 1992 and 2007.

Positives include being able to be transported in a travel-lift, being able to be towed, and without the need to have chase boats capable of travelling at 55kts. However we will be back to the days of having a substantial tender that can carry spare sails.

Any foils used by the boats will need to be fully retractable to eliminate their drag in light airs and non-foiling conditions and wind angles.

All will be revealed at the end of the month at Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron unless Mr Bertelli elects to sit down for a another chat with an Italian newspaper.

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