In the midst of the lockdown we had conducted a very long, 360-degree interview with max Sirena on Facebook Live by our own Bacci Del Buono and Mauro Giuffrè. Below is a long excerpt and for the curious at the bottom of the text the full video.
Max Sirena and Luna Rossa, a story that has been going on for more than 20 years that started on the docks of Livorno, made it all the way to the Gulf of Hauraki in New Zealand, and now landed in windy Cagliari, Sardinia, but is ready to leave again to return to the land of the Maoris and Kiwis. Luna Rossa’s skipper told his story in a Luna interview with the Giornale della Vela: his beginnings as a teenager, his first regattas, his first meeting with Bertelli, the technical aspects of the new boats, and his vision for the upcoming America’s Cup. Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to ask, or almost everything you’ve ever wanted to ask, of the sailor from Romagna.
THE RIGHT MEETINGS
“When I was just a teenager, I started meeting people in Rimini, such as Bert Mauri and Patrick Phelipon, who changed the way I saw the sea and sparked my curiosity about the world of racing. I did my first Rimini-Corfu when I was 14, I am a lucky and privileged person because I met the right people in my life. Bert in particular was a kind of putative father, because he taught me about boats, about laminating, these encounters were the spring to make me realize that sailing could become a profession. Then I put my own spin on it, I was very stubborn in wanting to get there. My father used to tell me, ‘do things, don’t say them,’ I followed that advice.”
A FAILED ACCOUNTANT
“In the mid-1980s, the accountant son was a bit of a parent’s dream, I enrolled in business school but got bored after a short time although I managed to give exams, and I also had the ambition to get good grades. The funniest anecdote I remember from those years was a chance meeting with the author of one of the private law books I was studying, he was a shipowner who had a boat designed by Giovanni Ceccarelli. I went to his house, I didn’t know what his last name was, I found out from one of the texts in his library. Thanks to his advice I managed to give private law, but my career as an aspiring accountant ended there and I realized that maybe it was better to look for my way elsewhere, I was 21 years old and to become a professional in sailing I could not wait.”
THE FIRST MEETING WITH
BERTELLI AND THE FIRST CUP
“My first meeting with Bertelli is now famous. In 1993 I was called to do training on his Nyala at Argentario, I knew Bertelli’s name but had never met him, I didn’t know what he looked like. On the way back to port I could hear this loud voice on the dock, and I said to this gentleman, what are you yelling about? He said: who are you? I answered, I am Max Sirena. He replied, I’m Patrizio Bertelli, give me five minutes to figure out if I’m going to blow you off right now or if we’ll see each other again.
Luna Rossa’s very first base, on the other hand, even before Punta Ala, was in Livorno, where the training boats arrived. It was a “war” because it wasn’t a given that I would be part of the crew, the logistics were all to be built, we slept five to a room of two, but I was ready for anything to be part of that group, I didn’t care about schedules or whatever I had to do. Then came Bertelli’s whole organization, which put us in the best position to work. From those years I also remember my relationship with De Angelis, it was one of love and hate, we didn’t get along very well, but I learned a lot from him and we took some enormous satisfaction from each other.”
THE NEW BOATS
“The reason why there are so few teams in this America’s Cup is not the economic issue, but rather the fact that this boat, the AC 75, is really scary from a design point of view. Those who start from scratch, without having participated in the Bermuda Cup, start at a disadvantage from a technical design point of view. There are few designers in the world who can interpret this class .
The crucial part of running these boats is the lift on the foils, it will be crucial in the starts to stop the opponent from downwind so that they do not rest and lift on the foils, so the starts will be much more important than in the last editions of the Cup. Then the boats are definitely faster than the AC 50s in Bermuda; we touched 49 knots in the stern. The construction on the level of lightness and weight calculation has been pushed to the limit, rather we would rather break something and reinforce it later than have excess weight for more safety. If you don’t push, you don’t win.
Thirty pounds of weight saved on such a boat is tenths of a knot of speed; being conservative accomplishes nothing. We accept the risk now that we may break something, but it is part of the idea of creating a competitive project.”
THE RED MOON SETUP
“We call the apprued trim “pitch down,” the reason is to take the rudder out of the water as much as possible to decrease hydrodynamic friction, you close the gap between the hull and the water, and aerodynamically you make better use of the so-called “ground effect,” and to explain it in simple terms, you can have more power on the sails.
Similarly, sailing heeled upwind serves to take more of the drift out of the water, increase the righting of the boat, you can caulk the sails more and ultimately have a more powerful boat.”
THE MEETING WITH.
THE BRITISH IN CAGLIARI
“In the photos that the Sailing Newspaper published, the encounter was casual. We were coming back into the harbor, they were also, then they rested to get closer, although the lateral distance was considerable, at least 400 meters. We were under-sailed because we were coming from an area with more wind. The feeling we had was that we were going quite a bit stronger than them, but this cannot be called a speed test, I would have a hard time really saying how things were. All I can say is that we were happy. Between our boat and their boat today I would have no doubt that I would choose our boat. However, everyone will make boat two and things can change.”
THE COMING CUP
AND ITS DETRACTORS
“I was born on keelboats and have been lucky enough to race on flying boats. To those who say about AC 75s “this is not sailing” I don’t know what to answer, because I find ignorance in these statements, different if you say “I prefer other boats.” Read a little bit about the list of sailors on the four America’s Cup teams-Peter Burling, Dean Barker, Blair Tuke, Ben Ainslie, James Spithill, Pietro Sibello, and I could go on and on, these are sailors who have made history in keelboats, Olympic classes, and much more, now they are doing this Cup, something must mean something. Then match racing will return in the course formula that we know, there will be the limitations of the course though, the tactics are there but of course they will be different, there will not be a crewman who will do just that even though we have several sailors in the cockpit who could easily do it. And I can already say that the Cup will be broadcast free and clear on TV.
YOUNG PEOPLE AND FOILING
“I think it’s normal for younger kids to be very curious and attracted to the performance of these boats. But what I always say is that it is certainly not mandatory to fly in order to become a sailor today; that is not the message that needs to get through. And if the Cup makes flying boats, it certainly does not mean that normal boats should disappear, not at all. The great thing about Luna Rossa, right from the first America’s Cup, has been that it has often focused on young people. They are important beyond the physical aspect, but because they can bring something different from a point of view of open-mindedness, approach.
In our case, the younger guys are also key to creating generational turnover for the future of our team. We received 700 resumes and tested more than 100, and among them we were really looking for a certain mental approach.”
LOVE FOR CAGLIARI
“Our base will remain in Cagliari even after we leave for Auckland, because I like to think that we will return to this city with a five-foot-tall piece of silver.
The conditions we find in Cagliari are exceptional; it was certainly not a cheap choice, but we aimed for a place that had average weather conditions throughout the year that would allow us a certain number of hours at sea. I think it will be the home of Luna Rossa’s future, I bought a house here, my daughter was born here and I plan to stay and live here.”
Born in Rimini in 1971, he is in his fifth challenge with Luna Rossa; he has also competed in the America’s Cup with Oracle and Team New Zealand, winning both.
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