Please select your home edition
Cyclops 2022 November Load Pin LEADERBOARD

America's Cup family stunned at sudden death of Luna Rossa supremo

by America's Cup/Richard Gladwell 12 Jun 2022 19:37 PDT
Francesco Longanesi Cattani in an effusive mood just before presenting the Prada Cup - February 21, 2021 © Richard Gladwell / / nz

The America's Cup family is stunned by the death of Francesco Longanesi Cattani (ITA), the long-serving CEO Representative of COR 36 and Title Sponsor Liaison in the 36th America's Cup, who died suddenly on Friday in the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, after suffering a stroke.

Francesco was joint External Relations Director for Prada. He was the guiding hand in that same function for the Luna Rossa America's Cup team and the 2021 Prada Cup, the Challenger Selection Series for the 36th America's Cup. He also represented Prada in its guise as presenting sponsor for the 36th America's Cup.

Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1952, the sea was in Francesco's DNA from an early age. He came from a famous Italian naval family, and his father, Admiral Luigi Longanesi Cattani, was one of World War II's most prominent Italian submarine commanders.

His father put him on a boat at the age of 5yrs, and since then, saltwater was always in Francesco's life. He studied first at the Morosini Military Naval School in Venice, then the Naval Academy in Livorno. He attained the reserve officer rank in the Italian Navy on board the Amerigo Vespucci and studied law in Bologna.

Francesco was a keen sportsman, notably in motorsports and sailing. He enjoyed a successful career as an international yachtsman, competing in Whitbread Round the World races, the Admirals' Cup and was a member of the Azzurra Italian syndicate in the 1983 America's Cup.

Throughout his life, he covered many high-level professional roles.

Francesco served as Aide-de-camp to Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1983.

He was appointed FISA press delegate in 1988 and worked in Formula 1 for 15 years before joining the Prada Group as External Relations Director. At the beginning of the 90s, he was head of the press office of the FIA in Paris. And in 1992, he had an interlude with Ferrari as Team Manager and Sports Director, in a period of revolution for the team and sport.

Francesco was in charge of communications for Luna Rossa for all campaigns, starting with the 2000 America's Cup. With the absence of Prada's Patrizio Bertelli, due to COVID restrictions, Francesco ran the Challenger of Record's management. He was the co-joint sponsor representative for principal event sponsor Prada in Auckland for the 2021 Prada Cup and America's Cup, presented by Prada.

The last America's Cup and Prada Cup were a delicate balancing act for Francesco, having to be impartial as the Challenger of Record representative and promoting Prada's interests as the sponsor of the events. His excitement level lifted as the events progressed, and Luna Rossa's fortunes improved. One day of the Prada Cup Finals, as we walked from the media centre to the entrance to the Viaduct Harbour to see the teams leave, he turned and said semi-apologetically of his split roles and loyalties: "you have to realise that while I am here for the event, and all of the teams, I am still an Italian and my heart lies with Luna Rossa."

A very cultured man, Francesco could fluently speak five languages and possessed a keen sense of humour and extraordinary enthusiasm for the sport of sailing.

He was delighted with the way Luna Rossa improved during the Prada and America's Cup. And with the score at 3-3 after three days of racing in the America's Cup, he caught an exciting glimpse of an America's Cup victory at the end of 20 years of competition for the Luna Rossa team.

He fought hard for the racing to be resumed as soon as possible (see the media clip below) after the second Lockdown in Auckland mid-way through the Finals of the Prada Cup. Then it appeared as if the restart of the Final could be foreshortened, which could have potentially resulted in Luna Rossa being eliminated.

[Final racing was conducted from February 13-14, stopped due to the NZ Govt imposed Lockdown for five days, and resumed on February 20, with an end date for the Final specified as February 24. Luna Rossa was leading 4-0 ahead of the Lockdown.]

An America's Cup win would have been the pinnacle of Francesco's extended America's Cup involvement. Luna Rossa is the second longest-competing team in the modern America's Cup, and Francesco has been one of the guiding hands at the team's helm since its inception. He leaves a massive pair of shoes to fill for Luna Rossa and Prada if the Italian fashion house continues as presenting rights sponsor for the America's Cup cycle.

Although we crossed swords on occasion, Francesco was always open and honest. However, no one who worked with him would ever be in any doubt as to where his heart lay. Francesco always worked in what he thought was in the best interests of Prada, Luna Rossa and the event - if that was part of his portfolio. Although it only bubbled to the surface occasionally, we had the impression was that Francesco was a hard negotiator behind closed doors. Under his eye, Prada was always immaculately presented, and a much-anticipated part of any America's Cup campaign was always what the Prada and Luna Rossa "look" would be for the upcoming campaign.

From my perspective, we enjoyed a good media relationship - despite Francesco confiscating my cameras ahead of one Luna Rossa launch!

Francesco was always very approachable, despite having a very active schedule, and willing to discuss an issue or incident as honestly as one can in the white-hot context of an America's Cup. While he was 'front of house' for the 2021 America's Cup, he usually adopted a much less visible role - but always worked hard in the background to ensure everything was 'just-so' and met Luna Rossa's high standards.

In his 70th year, Francesco Longanesi Cattani is survived by his wife Cari and his daughter Lavinia.

The America's Cup has lost a true gentleman and the sport a great servant and competitor.


Related Articles

Cup Spy - June 1: Verstappen sails with Swiss
Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen, sailed with their America's Cup partners, Alinghi Red Bull Racing Two times F1 Grand Prix World Champion Max Verstappen, who drives for Red Bull Racing, sailed with their America's Cup partners, Alinghi Red Bull Racing off Barcelona, ahead of this weekend's Barcelona F1 Grand Prix. Posted on 2 Jun
Cup Spy - May 31: Brits go two boat racing
INEOS Britannia sailed two boats for the first time in this cycle, match racing their 40fters. INEOS Britannia sailed two boats for the first time in this cycle. They pitted their One Design AC40, against their Test Boat. It was an interesting battle fully described in this edition. The Kiwis continued two boat matchracing off Takapuna - See Video. Posted on 1 Jun
Puig backs Women's America's Cup
Global leader in the beauty and fashion industry announced as Naming Partner of Womens AC Puig, a Barcelona-based, global leader in the beauty and fashion industry, has announced its partnership with the 37th America's Cup as both a Global Partner and the official naming partner of the inaugural Women's America's Cup. Posted on 1 Jun
Cup Spy - May 29-30: Light airs plague teams
The Swiss and Kiwi teams were the only Cup teams to train on Monday and Tuesday Alinghi Red Bull Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand were the only Cup teams to train on Monday and Tuesday. The Arbitration Panel has dismissed American Magic's application to be excused from competition in Jeddah at the end of November. Posted on 31 May
America's Cup: Arb Panel dismisses US request
The America's Cup Arbitration Panel dismisses American Magic's application to skip Jeddah regatta. The three man Arbitration Panel has dismissed the Application by the New York Yacht Club's team American Magic to be excused from participation in the second Preliminary Event, part of the 37th America's Cup. Posted on 30 May
America's Cup: Estrella Damm returns for third Cup
As the official sponsor, Estrella Damm will be the competition beer The Antigua Fábrica Estrella Damm in Barcelona has hosted the presentation of Estrella Damm's sponsorship of the 37th America's Cup, which will be held in Barcelona in 2024. Posted on 29 May
Cup Spy - May 27: Emotional reunion for Italians
Emotional reunion at sea with the Amerigo Vespecci, sail training ship of the Italian navy. The Italian team planned an emotional reunion at sea with the Amerigo Vespecci, sail training ship of the Italian navy Emirates Team New Zealand did some damage believed to be electronic related, and their session stopped early. Posted on 28 May
Cup Spy May 25-26: Solid day for Med based teams
The British and Italian teams both had solid training days on the Med. The Swiss had an AC75 day. After losing a day to no wind, the Kiwi two-boat testing started on Thursday. The British and Italian teams also got solid training days on the Med, with both doing speed and match race testing. The Swiss sailed their AC75, including a photoshoot for F1. Posted on 28 May
America's Cup: Predictwind sets up in Barcelona
Predictwind will be establishing the Common Weather Program for Barcelona. It is live now.. The Challenger of Record and Defender (COR/D) have announced that Predictwind, the world's leading marine forecast organisation aimed at sailors at all levels, will be establishing the Common Weather Program for Barcelona. Posted on 28 May
Cup Spy -Special: Kiwis start Match Racing
Emirates Team New Zealand have just wrapped up a match race practice session off Takapuna Beach. Emirates Team New Zealand completed a match race practice session off Takapuna Beach, on Friday. Here's Cup Spy's take having watched most of the session shore-side on the Takapuna Beach seawall - via a pair of Fujinon 14x40 gyroscopic binoculars. Posted on 27 May
Selden 2020 - FOOTERZhik 2023 May SW FOOTERNorth Sails Performance 2023 - FOOTER