America’s Cup cult: Baron Francesco De Angelis


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Patrizio Bertelli and Francesco De Angelis raise the 2000 Louis Vuitton Cup after victory on America One.

The most Anglo-Saxon of Neapolitan coxswains and the most Neapolitan of coxswains with an Anglo-Saxon style, Francesco The Baron De Angelis is the one who, in those magical months between late 1999 and early 2000, cradled the dreams of Italian sailing by stroking the helm wheel of Luna Rossa. Our America’s Cup Cult column returns with a character who literally made Italians dream.

Born in Naples in 1960, a multiple world champion in various classes including offshore and one-design, winner of an Admiral’s Cup, and the first non-English-born skipper to win the Louis Vuitton Cup and gain access to the America’s Cup final.

Those who know him tell of his taciturn character, extreme secrecy, and also a character that was not easy. Distinguished, stern, elegant but with a warm character, these are the characteristics that seem to define the profile of Baron Francesco De Angelis.

Francesco De Angelis, a career as a Baron

With Pigi Loro Piana on My Song

De Angelis was a six-time world champion in various classes: in 1987 in Capri J24 class, in 1989 in Naples and 1992 in Denmark One Tonner class, in 1995 in Denmark and 1996 in Greece ILC40 class, in 2008 in Greece ORC International class. Winner of the Admiral’s Cup in 1995, three Sardinia Cups, two Swan Cups, and the Middle Sea Race Trophy (2005, 2013, 2015), he rounds out his palmarès with two European titles and nine Italian titles in different classes. He received four Gold Medals for sporting valor from CONI for his achievements.

When in 1997 Patrizio Bertelli picks up German Frers’ suggestion about launching a challenge for the America’s Cup, the Aretine patron wants two men for the poezzetto: Francesco De Angelis, on the crest of a wave for his victories, and Torben Grael, fresh from Olympic gold in Atlanta (Savannah for sailing) in the Star class. They will be the ones to make our audience dream, along with an all-Italian crew whose members included Max Sirena (mast), Paolo Bassani (bow), Stefano Rizzi and Lorenzo Mazza (trimmers), Pietro D’Alì (mainsail), Matteo Plazi (navigator) and many other champions of our sailing.

Francesco De Angelis and the Luna Rossa dream

The legendary Luna Rossa ITA 45, the one that kept us awake at night at the 2000 America’s Cup after winning the Louis Vuitton Cup

The first Luna Rossa in Auckland, in the Cup that began in late 1999 and ended in early 2000, was the one that sparked the love of the Italians, with sailing experiencing great growth in those years thanks in part to the Luna Rossa challenge. The regattas were broadcast free-to-air on RAI, and in Italy people would dawn to see them.

Baron De Angelis often had his face covered with a thick layer of sunscreen, his cap almost always on, and in that voice there, which had a Neapolitan accent but at the same time did not, he would ask, “Torben, when are we going back to get the wind?” And Grael was drawing trajectories that only he could see on the race course.

They were months of little sleep, with sailing making headlines, and Francesco De Angelis becoming the iconic man of those nights between Italy and New Zealand.

The moment Luna Rossa crossed the finish line in race number 9 against Paul Cayard’s American One., which awarded her the Louis Vuitton Cup victory and the right to challenge Team New Zealand for the Cup, a voice from aboard was heard, “Baron now may I congratulate you?” The phrase came from Stefano Rizzi, who only then, with Vuitton Cup won, went to congratulate Baron.

The rest is well-known history; the falling in love between Moon and Baron lasted, through ups and downs, until 2007 in Valencia. There in fact ended De Angelis’ America’s Cup experience as skipper of the Italian team (not in all editions he was at the helm), after a Louis Vuitton Cup won out of two finals played, and an America’s Cup final lost to the New Zealanders. The Baron failed to bring the Old Pitcher to Italy, but what a story Francesco. What a story.

Mauro Giuffrè



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