Flying Under the Radar
Flying Under the Radar
Luna Rossa has a lot of new young guys—how are they managing the 72?
One thing about young guys is that they really fight—they’re fighting every day to become better and better on the water. From a boathandling point of view, I’m happy with them, they’re doing a really good job on the water. They are always asking for more which is one of the first times in my sailing experience where I have a sailing team who wants to spend more and more time on the water. They never tire of it, which is a good problem to have. Old sailors like me, after three hours sometimes we’re ready to go back in, right? We’re still on the learning curve, and we want to arrive in San Francisco as prepared as possible, but we all realize the learning process will continue with the Louis Vuitton Cup. But it’s always like that when there’s a new class in the America’s Cup.
Chris (Draper) is up against some tough helmsmen—how do you think he’s performing relative to them?
I think it’s enough to look at the performance in the 45s. Naples was our first event, and we finished second in the match race, so I personally think Chris has shown his talent and kicked a lot of guys’ asses last year. I expect him to do the same this year. I’m really proud of him. He’s a great sailor and very focused on what he’s doing. He’ll drive 99% of the pre-starts with Francesco Bruni as tactician. Francesco will act as back-up helmsman, as we want to keep the option open to have him eventually also sail pre-starts.
What’s been the key to getting Luna Ross where it is so quickly?
The main plus for us is having Patrizio Bertelli behind us—the budget he gave me has given me the chance to put together a very strong team. I’ve been able to select the people I want in the sailing, design, and shore teams. The only way to start a year and half later compared to the top teams is to start with young people because they really want the opportunity, as I said before, they want to fight. It’s how I felt when I did my first America’s Cup—I was doing everything I could to do my best to get into this sport. Our way to work is to spend time in the water, which in the end is what it’s all about.
What have you learned from ETNZ?
As a team we look a lot at how they work, and we try to learn as a team to use the time we have here as best as possible. In the America’s Cup you can have all the money in the world but the only thing you can’t buy is the time. For us it was really important to make a realistic plan for the team to be able to achieve what we thought was a priority for us—you can develop a campaign in different stages—one is to put together a team and figure out if it is a good team before moving to the performance/development of the boat. Then you move to the racing, which we have started to do now.
What is the difference between the boats?
Our boat 1 is very similar to their boat 1, but on boat 2 we made some changes—our wing is different, and the foils are completely different. Even the foil we will have when we arrive in San Francisco in May will be completely different to what they have. In the end, everyone is tuning their boat as they want. At the moment we’re not on the same level as ETNZ because we have planned our activities a little different to them. We’ll be about 80% of their boatspeed when we start to sail again in San Francisco when we’ll have the full package, and there’ll be another 20% of the development during the LV Cup.
How is this campaign different for you personally?
As a general manager I’m not a big name like Russell Coutts or Paul Cayard. I’ve grown my role from inside of the team so for me it’s always a learning process. I always tell the team, “I need feedback from you guys, and if you have a comment how I can improve the way I work, let me know.” It’s not a one-man show, and I think so far I’m pretty happy with the work I’ve done. But I think to judge really, we have to wait until the end of the Cup and I’ll ask the guys again.
Are you having fun?
Really fun, especially compared to the last campaign I did with Oracle where I was stressing because I was responsible for the wing. This time, probably because I’m making the decisions, I enjoy way more the role I have—even managing a team of 85 people. The relationship between myself and Mr. Bertelli is great, and it’s easy for me to relate to him. Sometimes even if we have a bit of a fight, it’s just part of the deal.
Click here to find more interviews with key players in the America's Cup from Michelle Slade.