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Challengers Ready for Round Robin 2

Prada and Stars & Stripes practice in modified boats

October 20, 2002
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Courtesy Prada

Prada up and running again
Extreme doubts that were expressed over the Prada syndicate’s ability to present a boat with which to complete their first round robin match with Mascalzone Latino, have proved unfounded. Luna Rossa, ITA-74, emerged from the shed and was re-launched on Sunday morning. She headed out into the Hauraki Gulf to meet the Italian Navy Training Ship, Amerigo Vespucci.

That was not the prime nor sole purpose of Luna Rossa’s foray on a grey Auckland day, but as Prada spokeswoman, Alessandra Ghezzi, declared, it was to “see how it will go with the new modifications.” These have been made to the bow, and, it is understood, to the keel and winglets. Just how Francesco de Angelis intends to evaluate possible improvements to Luna Rossa’s performance without a running mate remains a mystery.

The second boat, ITA-80, remains in the shed at Cooksons boatyard where the extensive alterations by the Italian shore-crew are taking place. The alterations are not expected to be completed until the beginning of November, pushing the possibility of this boat being used in the quarter-finals into a remote state.

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** Stars & Stripes are two-boat testing**
When the boat that sank in Long Beach, CA, USA-77 went bak into the water during the first round robin, Team Dennis Conner once again became a two-boat outfit. The “A” team took USA-77 for three days of test sailing, including one when they were in more than maximum conditions for racing, with green water over the foredeck, and returned satisfied that the boat was in first class condition.

“It gave us a great deal of confidence,”said Tom Whidden, explaining that he had been slightly apprehensive beforehand. “We slammed her into some big waves,” he said. “And she came through perfectly.”

Since then, there has been some two-boat testing, a format developed first by DennisConner when he changed the face of competing in the America’s Cup by making it a 300 days-a-year business. Just which of the boats will go into the second round robin remains a secret, but some indication of the thinking came from Whidden, who said, “I don’t think we will be making a change.”

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** In the real world . . . **
Seven wins out of eight for Alinghi doesn’t seem to have been exactly what the financial doctor ordered for the syndicate head, Ernesto Bertarelli. His company, Bertarelli et Cie, has 60.9 percent of the voting rights in the biochemical giant, Serono SA, that announced last week that it has appointed a new chief financial officer, which could pave the way for further changes at the top of the Swiss company.

Serono’s new CFO is Allan Shaw, formerly CFO of troubled U.S. telecommunications company Viatel Inc. It is reckoned that Shaw’s appointment could mean that Serono’s chief executive and main stake-holder, Bertarelli, is preparing to withdraw from the operational side of the business, to be replaced by deputy CEO – and former CFO – Jacques Theurillat.

Those in the know say Bertarelli, who is busy with the Alinghi challenge for the America’s Cup, seems to have had only limited time for the company recently and would welcome a full-time CEO. “Bertarelli’s always a little reluctant to say he’s going to loosen his grip on the reins, but I think investors would like him to be a bit less executive,” said an analyst. “He clearly has a lot of interests outside of the company.”

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Dorothea Koeppe, another analyst, said, ’”the company said that Bertarelli plans to remain in office ’for the time being,’ but it’s not really clear what this means. He may be around for another year or two, or even longer, but we can see where things could be going.”

Meanwhile, out on the Hauraki Gulf, Bertarelli was indulging in two-boat testing with his pair of America’s Cup challengers last week. Clearly, he has his priorities in the right order. This weekend, like the rest of the Alinghi team, he was having two days off.

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