Ernesto Bertarelli is back. It’s been more than a decade since the Swiss billionaire’s Alinghi sailing team was whitewashed by Larry Ellison’s gigantic trimaran of BMW Oracle Racing in the two-race 33rd America’s Cup (Deed of Gift) Match in 2010. Having often teased his interest in returning to Cup competition over the past few years, Bertarelli and his core sailing team have instead watched from the sidelines while remaining active in the high-performance foiling scene in Europe. But this time, Alinghi isn’t going it alone—they’ve got a powerful and technical partner in Red Bull Racing.
While the modern-day Cup has been regularly compared with the high-stakes and high-tech world of Formula 1, which is now more popular than ever, the merging of these two formidable sporting teams finally makes the connection real. The sailing team will be led by Olympic medalist Hans Peter Steinacher and will sail under the burgee of the Société Nautique de Genève.
“While keeping the winning spirit that has always animated Alinghi, we want for this challenge to do something totally different, totally new, totally fresh,” Bertarelli said at the official team launch in late December 2021. “With Red Bull, we are equal partners in this venture. They will bring their competence, energy and strength in creating performing teams, and we bring our experience in sailing and winning the America’s Cup. Alinghi Red Bull Racing will shine a new light on the event.”
The Alinghi and Red Bull sailing teams have long been competitors in the GC32 Racing Tour and the Extreme Sailing Series, and Red Bull itself was involved in the early days of the Youth America’s Cup racing in AC45s in San Francisco, and again in Bermuda with the Foiling Generation, which Steinacher and Roman Hagara founded in 2015.
“The America’s Cup is—and by volumes—the most important sailing event in the world,” Steinacher said at the team’s announcement. “Alinghi’s experience and team spirit are unique in the sport of sailing. All of Red Bull is behind this project, and I doubt it could have been done with another team.”
In partnering with Alinghi, Red Bull also brings to the table the expertise of the Red Bull Advanced Technologies unit, which has helped Red Bull Racing tally five Formula 1 Drivers’ Championships. Team principal Christian Horner, who is now recognized globally thanks to Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive documentary series, has managed much higher and complex programs, as well as a few big egos. He’s intimate with the Red Bull juggernaut, which brings a next-level approach to every sporting endeavor it backs.
“We welcome Alinghi Red Bull Racing to the World of Red Bull, and our F1 team is looking forward to helping this new member of our family to succeed,” Horner says. “We will share our experiences, engineering tips, etc. It is a two-way cooperation. Formula 1 DNA will be in the boat.”
The America’s Cup is a technology race, which is won on the water with race strategy and tactics. Red Bull has demonstrated that time and time again in F1 and in many of the other sports it competes in.
Brad Butterworth, four‑time America’s Cup winner and Bertarelli’s tactician on board the Alinghi catamaran in 2010, says: “I have been with Alinghi for 20 years now, and getting into this new challenge with Red Bull is very exciting. The America’s Cup is a technology race, which is won on the water with race strategy and tactics. Red Bull has demonstrated that time and time again in F1 and in many of the other sports it competes in.”
Alinghi Red Bull Racing will also field teams in both the Women’s America’s Cup regatta as well as the Youth America’s Cup. “Growing the sport and its sailors has always been an important focus for both Red Bull and Alinghi,” Steinacher says. “So, Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s commitment to these regattas is strong, and I think it’s going to be inspiring to see these talents in action.”
The team will be based in Switzerland, with the core sailing team led by Alinghi’s GC32 co-skipper Arnaud Psarofaghis and mainsail trimmer Bryan Mettraux. According to the team announcement, the crew will be 100 percent nationals.
The addition of Alinghi Red Bull Racing brings the field of challengers to three, joining Ineos Britannia, the Challenger of Record, as well as American Magic, which in January announced that its challenge had been accepted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. American Magic will once again sail for the New York YC.
“It is great to be back in the America’s Cup for AC37, and our pursuit of bringing the trophy home remains the same,” says Terry Hutchinson, president of sailing operations. “We’ve been preparing for AC37 from the moment our time came to an end at AC36, and are a deeply motivated group—all hands on deck—ready to compete and ready to win.”
In a team statement, American Magic’s principals, Doug DeVos and Hap Fauth, said they were committed to investing in technology, design, innovation and talent to build a winning team and franchise for the long haul.
“Doug and I are thrilled that our challenge was accepted,” Fauth says. “We have unfinished business and a hunger to get back on the water and compete. Our dedicated team partners, supporters and fans have become invested in our mission, and we are excited to represent them and the USA once again.”
Luna Rossa, the returning challenger from Italy, has been relatively quiet, with only a simple announcement in late December 2021 that said: “The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has formally accepted Circolo della Vela Sicilia and Luna Rossa Team Notice of Challenge lodged on December 1, 2021. Stay tuned…”
While challengers assemble their design teams and sailing squads, production of the AC40s is well underway in New Zealand and China. The AC40s will be used for the lead-up America’s Cup regattas and eventually made available to private owners in the development of an international one-design class.
Emirates Team New Zealand will take ownership of the first AC40 this summer, and according to the builder, each successive boat will be rolled out in five-week increments thereafter. In light winds, the AC40 is expected to sail at up to 26 knots and 30 knots downwind. At the upper limits of 20-knot true windspeed, boatspeeds are expected to increase to 39 knots upwind and 44 knots downwind.