Baby Steps for Luna Rossa's Big Cat
The AC72 is in the water, but Luna Rossa is quite a ways from getting out on the water and sparring with training partners Emirates Team New Zealand.
Nigel Marple curtesy Luna Rossa Challenge
Steve Erickson, Luna Rossa’s Sailing Team Manger, is in charge of Luna Rossa’s technical and sailing development program and works in close co-operation with the Design Team. Following the recent launch of its AC72, Erickson got us caught up on next steps for the Team which relocated to New Zealand after the World Series events in San Francisco this summer.
**You’ve launched your boat, when will you start sailing it? **
We’ll tow test the first week in November weather permitting, that’s where we literally tow it behind the RIB to load the boards and the boards load the hull, structural testing as it goes through the water. It was during this phase that Artemis’ 72 damaged its front beam, so it’s undoubtedly an important step. We’re hoping to sail it as soon as we can after that testing.
When will you start training with Emirates Team New Zealand?
It could be 2 to 3 weeks before we go scrimmage with ETNZ. We’ve got a lot of things to do just to get our boat sailing. We need to structure test our boat, get our systems up and running, get our crew coordinated and understanding how the systems work. Sailing a Version 5 America’s Cup Class boat you’d be a good 2 to 3 months getting the crew in sync.
Who’ll be helming the 72?
Franck Cammas is here helping us with that, mostly because he’s had a lot of big catamaran experience. He’ll steer early on and the rest will play out over the course of our time in NZ.
How do you not breach the Protocol ruling that you can’t ‘observe’ anything useful for design or performance in sailing when you’re training with ETNZ?
Simply, Luna Rossa will develop its boat while sailing, training, and racing as required by the Protocol and decisions of the Jury. To be honest, it’s not that different to what we’ve always been doing: practice racing against each other on the racecourse. ETNZ are out there racing around the course, setting up buoys, a start line, going through all the maneuvers. We’re a long way from that.
How are your guys feeling about sailing the 72?
Excited. It’s a cool deal. Look at ETNZ, they’re doing well after 16 days of sailing their boat, ripping around the racecourse. It’s pretty neat to see.
What did you learn from Oracle’s crash?
We take it real seriously. It was a reality check as to just how uncontrolled it is and how people seriously get flung off the boat. What we’re hearing from the Oracle guys is that you’re not going to right one of those boats, so it’s a matter of going down the list of what to do if it happens.
Were you able to learn anything from the crash about the boat itself?
The boats are different. If it had happened to ETNZ boat, which is more similar to ours, yeah, you might have taken something away from it, but honestly we have no idea what’s going on with the flotation in Oracle’s bow, what their foils were doing at the time, whether the wing got eased too much, whether it was just a stupid time to bear off—we’ll never know that.
Does AC34 still feel like going sailing?
Having done the Round the World Race, this is just bringing the Southern Ocean to the Hauraki Gulf and San Francisco Bay. It’s yachting and not entirely new to everyone. What’s different about it, as we always used to joke, is that in the America’s Cup you get to go home and take a hot shower. Racing around the world you have to deal with issues for days if not weeks on end.
You didn’t perform too well in SF?
We put a different guy on each boat: Iker Martinez (helmed the Swordfish) and Xabi Fernandez (trimmed on Piranha). That was the investment. Not only did we not put as many days in, we didn’t put the same amount of days in with the same crew who had been sailing together all year. We knew that going into it.
What’s happening with your 45s?
The 45s are arriving mid-November and training goes on in them on the 72 down days. We’re getting ready for the Italian events next spring so they’ll go back end of February. There’s a lot to be learned from having any small boat like that for training and starting.
* American Steve Erickson is no slouch when it comes to international sailboat racing. He holds an Olympic gold medal, seven world championships, seven America's Cup campaigns (four with Luna Rossa—2000, 2003 2007 and 2013), and a victory in the 1998 Whitbread Round-the-World Race with Paul Cayard's _EF Language._