America’s Cup: discovering the Luna Rossa helmsmen, whose wheel?


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The prototype red moon

Experience or freshness, new or “old” recruits? Or rather: Bruni-Spithill or Tita-Gradoni? Curiosity regarding Luna Rossa’s crew, both for the upcoming Preliminary Regattas and with a view to America’s Cup 2024, is high.

Luna Rossa drawing from the Italian Olympic class national team, from the Nacra 17 in particular but not only, has secured certain talents like Ruggero Tita and Vittorio Bissaro (who has the role of trimmer), or a great promise waiting to “explode” like Marco Gradoni.

The new additions brought different “skills” to Luna Rossa’s staff: the foiling and speed aptitude of Tita and Bissaro, and the ability to adapt immediately to the simulator and helm of young Gradoni.

The youth group inevitably pressures the new recruits, but in the end, who will helm Luna Rossa?

Luna Rossa. The roster of helmsmen, here’s who they are

Checco Bruni interviewFrancesco Bruni: three Olympics behind him (Laser, 49er and Star) for the 50-year-old Palermo man who also has a long militancy in the America’s Cup between Luna Rossa and Artemis. Bruni is one of Italy’s most accomplished professionals: he has ranged from Olympic classes to monotypes, to the box rules class of Tp 52s, and finally to foil boats with a long activity in Moth.

In Italy he can be considered as the most experienced sailor from the point of view of the variety of classes in which he has been engaged now in 30 years of activity on the race courses.

Jimmy kisses the America’s Cup won in 2013 in San Francisco.

James Spithill: born in 1979 in Sydney, Spithill has tied his entire career to the America’s Cup. He made his debut as helmsman of Young Australia when he was just 20 years old, at the 99-2000 America’s Cup in Auckland. He established himself over time as one of the most aggressive match racers on the scene, and landed a first in Luna Rossa for the 2007 Cup.

The Pitcher then won it twice with Oracle, once with the crazy comeback in 2012. Since the rise of Kiwi star Peter Burling, he seems to be suffering from competition as he came out beaten in direct challenges both at the 2017 Bermuda Cup and in the 6-3 defeat over Luna Rossa at last year’s event.

Roger Tita

Ruggero Tita: 31 years old from Rovereto, the Trentino native turned his career around after the 2016 Rio Olympics, when he decided to switch classes from 49er to Nacra 17. His first four-year term was sidereal level, culminating in Olympic gold.

Paired with Caterina Banti, they won everything: not only the Olympics but back-to-back World and European Championships, as well as many World Cup stages. He lands in Luna Rossa to expand his foiling skills, and to make his fast boat helming skills available to the team.

Marco Gradoni: Roman, 19, is the great promise of blue sailing. The first in the world to win three Optimist World Championships in a row, achievements that earned him Rolex Sailor of the Year. Then his career was more troubled as he transitioned to Olympic classes: a world title and a European title, both juniors, on the mixed 470 with Alessandra Dubbini in 2021, then a bit of fluctuating results.

Until he gave up 470 after Luna Rossa’s call to devote himself only to the Cup campaign.

Luna Rossa’s helmsman – An eye on the calendar

From an AC 40 perspective, the next event will be from November 29 to December 2 in Jeddah. The calendar this time plays in favor of Ruggero Tita, engaged on the double front with the Olympic Nacra 17 together with Caterina Banti.

From Nov. 8-13 the Nacra European Championships will be held in Vilamoura, Portugal, then the Olympic cat season will resume in March, with the Princesa Sofia Trophy kicking off the build-up to the Olympics in August.

The opportunity to see Ruggero Tita at the helm, albeit only with the AC 40, could be in Jeddah, and it is likely that the Trentino helmsman will be included among the summonses. And in that sense there is a good chance to see Marco Gradoni as well: the Preliminary Regattas do not count for America’s Cup purposes, and it would be a way for him to test the regatta mode also in the excellent of later going on to helm the 40 of the Youth crew.

Helmsmen of Luna Rossa – Everything changes in America’s Cup.

Ruggero Tita is the reigning Olympic gold medalist, paired with Caterina Banti, in the Nacra 17, and he has every intention of trying to defend the medal, net of an internal selection within the blue team to be decided.

The Olympics will be from July 26 to Aug. 11, 2024, the opening ceremony of the America’s Cup 2023 is scheduled for Aug. 22 in Barcelona, and the first challenger selection races will follow: a very tight schedule to compete at the top on two fronts. If Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti, as is plausible, remain in the running for Nacra 17 selection, an important part of the work in the months leading up to the Olympics will likely have to be devoted to the catamaran.

Which would not put Tita in the best condition to prepare for the Cup as well.

Out of action is Gradoni, whose AC 75 wheel will presumably be given in training, or at most in an appearance in the last Preliminary Regatta in Barcelona (it will be with the 75 ed.).

Scenario then that, strictly speaking but always prone to surprises, would seem to be defined. Bruni and Spithill still remain quite “solid,” and especially the Sicilian was frequently employed at the helm during the months of training in Cagliari, according to official Recon reports. In the end, however, let’s not forget one thing: the ones who will helm will be those who have shown the best performance during training, and it is not excluded that Tita will be completely out of the picture.

Mauro Giuffrè




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