War of position. That’s what we might call this phase of the America’s Cup, in which the players often say a lot but sometimes say nothing. And yet something is happening, with the announcement that Alinghi is even negotiating the purchase of Boat 1 from Team New Zealand. And the rumours of the last few days all point to the newly entered team for the 37th edition.
The first piece of news is that Alinghi will be racing with the Societe Nautique de Geneve, so no foreign clubs for Bertarelli’s team, which will have to be largely made up of sailors of Swiss nationality or who have been resident in Switzerland in the three years prior to March 2021. It makes sense for Bertarelli to start with the core group of sailors who have accompanied him in the seasons Alinghi has competed in the GC32 circuit. A team that, despite being made up of less-than-stellar sailors, dominated the GC32 season by winning the last event and the overall classification. But who would head the team, apart from Bertarelli?
One of the most likely names is Brad Butterworth, the New Zealand sailor who, after the 2000 Cup, joined Alinghi, Coutts and part of the Kiwi crew. Mr. Butterworth is undoubtedly one of the most successful tacticians in the history of the Cup, but we are unlikely to see him on board physically. His role will be more one of technical direction: at 62 years of age, the Kiwi star is not old enough to sail the AC 75, nor does he have the passport requirements to be allowed on board, but his experience may be crucial to mounting a competitive challenge. It has to be said that the “old fox” Butterworth seems quite out of touch with the whole “flying” sailing world that has developed in recent years and of which today’s Cup is a part, but it could be his winning experience that makes the difference in the direction Alinghi wants.
Martin Fisher‘s departure as head of the design team, having moved to Ineos Team UK, should be painless with the likely entry of Guillarme Verdier into the Italian union. Needless to say, Verdier would be a stellar addition, as he is considered one of the top gurus in fluid dynamics. Then there is the open question of sponsorship for the 37th Cup. Prada was the official sponsor of the 36th Cup, naming the Prada Cup for the challengers and also “branding” the America’s Cup Final. Grant Dalton, big chief of the Kiwis, in a recent interview gave the impression that the renewal of the sponsorship was a done deal, which in reality is not true. Bertelli remains cautious, before confirming the Italian brand’s intentions he wants to know what the venue will be and how many challengers there will be. The game remains open.
On the crew front the manoeuvres will be articulated: in addition to the sailing team for the AC 75, Luna Rossa will have to put together a crew for the Youth America’s Cup and one for the Woman America’s Cup. While the main team is likely to include some new names, starting with Ruggero Tita, the other two teams are still to be formed. They are looking for youngsters from the Olympic acrobatic classes, especially Nacra 17 and 49er. Any names? Gianluigi Ugolini and Maria Giubilei from the Nacra 17, as well as Olympic gold medallists Caterina Banti and Maelle Frascari from the same class, who could be joined by experienced figures such as Giulia Conti. Fanta vela for the moment since it is too early to talk about official staff, but Luna Rossa is moving under the radar.
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