Style returned to the America’s Cup with a bang on Friday night in Auckland, New Zealand, as Patrizio Bertelli’s Italian team launched its AC72 catamaran from their Westhaven compound.
Fireworks thundered as Miuccia Prada, Bertelli’s wife and chief designer for the famous fashion label, doused christening champagne over the boat’s prod with a mighty overhand swing worthy of a tennis champion.
Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa team jackets were prominent in the crowd of several hundred local and international guests who watched as the launch team and a giant crane maneuvered the gleaming silver boat and wing from its hard stand to the water.
The fireworks barge erupted for a second time with thunderflashes, and green and red smoke as the newly christened boat touched the water. The boat remained at its permanent mooring buoy as daylight faded and the party moved indoors.
The boat, a twin design to the ETNZ 72, begins solo sea trials next week before working up with the Kiwi foiler. Although its parentage is obvious the boat will incorporate Italian innovation, according to skipper Max Sirena. Most apparent at the launch were the simple L foils although the team has other versions in its quiver.
If Bertelli had said the previous day during a media session that the new era of the America’s Cup was too expensive to attract more challengers it was obvious his concerns don’t extend to his $60 million (45m Euros) bid to wrest the Cup from the USA’s Oracle Team USA.
“Right now it feels like we’re going back to the ‘30s,” he said through an interpreter, referring to the J-Class era when a single challenger attracted the attention of two or three defense candidates. A better solution this time would have been a smaller catamaran or monohull.
In a session that lasted more than 90 minutes, Bertelli was philosophical and evenhanded. Luna Rossa was back, he said, because the withdrawal of Italy’s Mascalzone Latino as Challenger of Record had brought dishonor to his country. His team had just won in Extreme 40s and an agreement with ETNZ to use its design had made possible a late challenge.
Bertelli confirmed that he’s in it for the long haul, with a return to the Cup planned for AC 35 wherever it’s held.
It’s clear that the entente cordiale between the Kiwis and Italians is working and probably far better than other Cup competitors would like to see. During the conference Max Sirena spoke of his friendship with ETNZ boss Grant Dalton and weekend visits to his home. They have a shared interest in dirtbikes, which Dalton later confirmed, adding that they plan to compete in local bike events.
Sirena said his team would start working up against ETNZ in the second week of November. Given the limitations on sailing days, they were looking for quality sailing time rather than quantity of time.
The Italian program will continue into March before they pack up the base here and move to San Francisco. The move will take 60 days, as presumably will ETNZ’s relocation, carving out a big chunk of valuable sailing time for both teams.