The skipper of Luna Rossa as you’ve never seen him before. Between one America’s Cup and another, he loves to go on a cruise with his family and doesn’t want to know anything about the mainland. We asked Max Sirena to tell us what a boating holiday means to him and to reveal tricks, places of the heart and advice for an unforgettable sailing experience.
“When I finish with Luna Rossa, I’ll drop everything, buy myself a boat – a boat as I say – and go around the world”. The dream boat of Max Sirena, Team Director and Skipper of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, the man who made us dream in the America’s Cup of flying monsters, “doesn’t have to be new, nor comfortable. But real. It has to be a boat that I can talk to. Like an old Van de Stadt, or a classic Swan”.
After all, Max, born in Rimini in 1971, is an old-fashioned sailor. One who appreciates sailing without haste. The anchor in the roadstead. The solitude of a few coves away from the crowds. A perfect and experienced cruiser, from whom we asked for advice, tricks and places for an unforgettable boating holiday.
A CHARTER WAS THE TRIGGER
“Let’s start by saying that I’ve been sailing since I was a kid, but only for races. Then the real turning point, the one that made me fall in love with cruising, came in the summer of 1999, when I met my future wife Tatiana. We hired a boat together to sail for a week in the Tuscan Archipelago: she tried to kill me twice (laughs), in one tack and with a manoeuvre at the helm! On a boat, you either have to kill each other or swear eternal love.
Now we have two children, aged 7 and 13, and between America’s Cups we jump on the boat as soon as we can. Just think, before we left for Auckland for the last America’s Cup, we spent two months on board moored in Cagliari!
After the ’99 experience, “I had discovered a different way of experiencing the sea and a lifestyle that has no timetable, where you can do what you want, when you want. You wake up when you decide, take a dip in the water, entertain yourself with the jobs on board (which I really like), fish, you choose how long you want to stay in a place.
Cruising is the only way to fully experiencing a sailboat: this is also why I don’t like spend nights in the port. I absolutely prefer staying at anchor. f I have to go ashore again, it’s like being in a hotel”. We ask Mr. Sirena if he’s ever owned a boat: “I did, until 2017: an Azuree 41 (12.5 x 3.94 m: curiously enough, it’s from the Turkish shipyard Sirena Marine, ed). It’s a great boat, but I realised I couldn’t keep up with her as much as I’d like because of the America’s Cup and I had to sell her. If I need a boat for now, I’ll rent one.
“I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world in my job. But we have the most beautiful sea at home, without a shadow of a doubt the Mediterranean. It offers you an incredible variety of views and landscapes: and Italy is the most beautiful place in the Mediterranean. I especially love the islands because, unlike the mainland, where the weather tends to repeat itself throughout the year, they are buffeted by different winds and this makes them different in every corner”.
As an adopted Cagliari resident (Max moved to the Sardinian capital where Luna Rossa has its base), Sirena is a lover of Sardinia: “From the middle downwards Sardinia is all beautiful. East coast, west coast, south coast. It doesn’t matter where you sail: you’ll always come across beautiful places. To the east is the Gulf of Orosei with its bays, such as Cala Luna, and further south, towards Cagliari, Cala Marongiu with its crystal-clear waters.
To the south of Arbatax, there are beautiful, almost lunar beaches: the sea has a dark depth and is full of rays, splendid animals. The lighthouse at Capo Bellavista is also beautiful at night. Then there is Villasimius, from Chia to Carloforte, Capo Malfatano with Tuerredda beach, Cala Zafferano, the dunes of Porto Pino, Iglesias. Incredible places where you can wake up in the morning in total silence (if you’re lucky enough to go before or after August)”.
Max likes the Ponziane islands (Ponza, Palmarola, Zannone) and also the Tuscan Archipelago (with a preference for the Formiche di Grosseto), where he found the love of his life. But does he, who was born on the Adriatic, only talk about the Tyrrhenian?
“When I go boating, I look for clear waters to dive into, nature, solitude. The Tyrrhenian Sea offers me more inspiration, but there are also some breathtaking, little-known places near me. I am thinking, for example, of Vallugola Bay in Rimini. Going further south, Conero and Gargano are top destinations: we Italians always tend to go abroad to look for what we have, in a better version, at home”.
After the places of the heart, it’s time to give advice to those about to set sail on a cruise: “First a premise. There are two types of cruisers. Those who think of the boat as a hotel, who stop off at the port every evening and only use it to get from one place to another. And the real ones, who experience cruising at 360°. I’m one of those people and I’m addressing people like me”.
The first piece of advice from Max’s cruise is to “avoid planning stages at all costs. That’s the only way you can fully enjoy the places you’re cruising through. A timetable – which is constantly changing because you don’t control the weather – can only be a source of stress. You only drop anchor when you feel it’s time to change places”.
Let’s move on to the second piece of advice: “The real cruiser sets off and sails at night so that he can see the sights at dawn, away from the hustle and bustle. That’s what I do, sometimes my son is my second in the cockpit and he always ends up falling asleep.
“I don’t want to know anything about ports when I’m cruising, so it’s important to have the right equipment: the watermaker is an essential accessory so that we never run out of water and have to go back to the marinas. And thanks to the watermaker I don’t need plastic bottles on the boat. Nobody needs water in plastic bottles, we’re just lobotomised by marketing!”.
Another musr of Max Sirena’s equipment is the fishing equipment.“I love to fish a lot, both with a rod, by trolling and by free-diving. I never lack a wetsuit, mask, fins, speargun and balloon on board: eating what you catch is one of the ways to experience the sea 100%.
The other modes are well represented by what Max takes on board before leaving: “Surfboard, windsurf, inflatable sup. The inflatable sup is essential because it allows me to explore coves and bays: it replaces the tender on board. It’s a real convenience, I no longer have to have the engine attached to the dinghy and I just have to drag the dinghy along when I’m sailing, I don’t like that. I’m a sailing purist, when I’m sailing I set the sails properly and let the boat run. It’s a professional strain”.
When it comes to safety, “the most important thing is, first of all, to know the boat in detail and to be able to interpret a problem in a timely manner. For example, the latest generation of boats rely heavily on electronics, but all it takes is one blown fuse or poorly fitted fuse to blow everything and it’s often not easy to see that the problem is there.
I happened to need a fuse on a boat and didn’t have one available, so I had to go ashore and borrow one from a Fiat Uno! Since then, there have always been a few fuses ready to use in my box. Along with a few select multipurpose spares, the spare impeller, the engine filter, four sea plugs, a resin kit. I also carry a lot of lines of different diameters and a splicing kit. I once had to replace the motor belt with a Dyneema sock!”.
“Before we set sail, I always take a lot of fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice. And canned tuna, hoping to use it as little as possible and catch tuna, octopus, bonito and so on: we once caught a 35-kilo Mahi-Mahi (a dolphinfish, scientific name Coryphaena Hyppurus, ed.) and cooked it in all sorts of ways: cooked, raw, in sashimi, tartare.
I never miss a good bottle of gin to sip at sunset and some wine. Since I don’t go ashore as much as possible, I don’t really like restaurants, I prefer cooking on the boat: my favourite recipe is spaghetti with tuna in white sauce and lemon, which I learned from a sailor who was on board with me on many Rimini-Corfu-Rimini trips. We ask him about restaurants: is it possible that Max Sirena doesn’t have one in his heart? “I do, I do. Il Riccio Bianco on the beach at Capo Malfatano. But you have to book well in advance”.
If any of you follow Max Sirena on Instagram, you will have noticed how on his profile images of Luna Rossa and the regatta alternate with performances by artists such as Paul Weller of The Jam, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pearl Jam, The Beatles and Nirvana:
“I love music so much, from Patti Pravo to Led Zeppelin. And it’s never missing on the boat too: I like to pump it up while I’m sailing with 25 knots of air on the slack. I alternate between rock, grunge, jazz, classical music, singer-songwriters like De André, Finardi, Venditti and Jovanotti, depending on the mood and style of sailing. My favourite band is Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder is immense.
Lastly, we ask Max Sirena if he ever went on a cruise with his “boss” Patrizio Bertelli, the president of Luna Rossa and CEO of Prada: “I was a guest on his boat. I got along better with him on a cruise than at work (laughs)!
Joking aside, Bertelli is a different person at sea, he relaxes, he doesn’t think about work, he lets himself go and shows the best of himself. You can see that he loves boats and sailing. If it were up to him, the engine would have to be abolished. And who can blame him?”.
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