Massimo Barranco, owner of AFX Capital Racing, talks to

Posted on 08 February 2012 by Valencia Sailing

Massimo Barranco, a successful 41-year old businessman, bought the former Mascalzone Latino yacht and is now the only Italian taking part in the RC44 championship. We caught up with him in Puerto Calero after the end of his first ever day of racing and talked about what made him start sailing, what drove him in the RC44 class but also what he thinks of the America’s Cup. Let’s start with a brief personal background. What’s your main business?
Massimo Barranco: I’m the founder and owner of Eurograni, a company that is active in worldwide trading of cereals. Our clients are either private groups or government agencies. What is your sailing background? Have you been an active sailor before joining the RC44 class?
Massimo Barranco: I have always been a weekend sailor and used to go for a cruise with my friends but my serious involvement in the sport of sailing started a year and a half ago when I decided to buy an X-41 yacht. We started racing, taking part in one-design regattas or in IRC/ORC. As we became more competitive and successful throughout all the Italian events, together with my tactician Gabriele Bruni and my friend Massimo Persichino, owner of AFX Capital, we decided to take a step forward and enter the RC44 class. Did you also look into other classes, such as the TP52’s for example?
Massimo Barranco: Yes, one of the alternatives we were seriously considering was the TP52 but we got the feeling it was a class that could die quite soon. The way things turned out, we feel very happy and lucky we made the right choice. Today was your first day of RC44 racing. How do you feel?
Massimo Barranco: We lost all our match races but I’m so happy and excited that I feel as if we had won them all. It was also a great experience for me because it confirmed how different match races are from fleet races, with their own rules, tactics and strategies. I had much fun but at the same time I was able to compete again some of the world’s best sailors. Not only that, I’m sure that from the time we hit the water until the last race of the day the team progressed considerably in its boat handling. We worked on the small details that make the difference. Right now, I feel very satisfied about what we achieved. Even if you lost all your six matches?
Massimo Barranco: Of course because I honestly think we could have won a couple of them and don’t forget, as I told you, against who we were racing.

Massimo Barranco at the helm of AFX Capital Racing. Puerto Calero, 7 February 2012. Photo cpoyright Martinez Estudio I guess then that you find the mix of amateur owners and top professional sailors very attractive.
Massimo Barranco: Absolutely. in fact, I think I’m the first to have proposed that owners should also helm during the match races, not just the pros, and make that compulsory in order to be fairer. Do you think you could do a match race against Ed Baird or Brad Butterworth, sailors that have won a number of America’s Cups each?
Massimo Barranco: I’m a person that doesn’t like to feel inferior to anyone. Obviously, I would have to practice and train a lot but even today, our first day, there were moments, especially on the starting line, that we were neck and neck with Baird and Butterworth. Is this the main reason you joined the class? The possibility to measure yourself against the world’s top sailors or do you also seek some kind of return on your investment?
Massimo Barranco: While there is no doubt sailing and helming a racing yacht is a hobby for me, I’m absolutely convinced that our sponsor, AFX Capital, will have and has a return on its investment and quite an important one. However, my belief is that the owner, and helmsman, mainly does that because he is passionate about it. He doesn’t do it as a business. What goal have you set for this season?
Massimo Barranco: I have assembled a team with some of the world’s best professional sailors, and some amateurs, and the goal we have set is to win. If we finish second it will mean we didn’t win. However, we obviously keep in mind we are a new team and as a result, whatever result we achieve will be satisfactory for us. This is exactly what I told the guys in our last meeting before we raced. Do you think you’ve made any progress in this very first day of racing?
Massimo Barranco: Honestly, I’m convinced that out of the seven matches we raced today, in two we had the chance to win them. Some of them were decided by lack of luck or by minor problems and in match racing you don’t have too many options! You either win or lose. Your very first regatta takes place in Puerto Calero. What do you think of the venue and the sailing conditions?
Massimo Barranco: It’s a fantastic place. We have already spent one week training here, a month ago, and it couldn’t have been better. We had had perfect weather and conditions, something you can’t find anywhere else in Europe at this time of the year. You mentioned your crew earlier. Why did you choose Gabriele Bruni to be your skipper?
Massimo Barranco: When I bought the X-41 yacht, I was, as I told you, an absolute beginner. I had very little knowledge of this area of sailing and as a result, I asked one of my best friends, and owner of another X-41 yacht, to help me pick the best skipper. He suggested Gabriele and I have to say I “grew up” in the sport with him. We started a very intensive training program and thanks to him, right now I’m able to be at this level of competition. Gabriele was initially involved with the ill-fated America’s Cup challenger, Venezia Challenge. Ironically, their demise was beneficial to you…
Massimo Barranco: I feel sorry for them, for what happened to Venezia Challenge but, in my view, it was clear they didn’t have the financial resources to go ahead. They couldn’t even have imagined to mount an America’s Cup campaign. Is the America’s Cup something that crossed your mind?
Massimo Barranco: Yes, why not? I’m not someone that gives up easily. I’m obviously realistic but in my view if you want it you can do it. However, I don’t like multihulls. I only like monohulls. Why don’t you like mutlihulls? In any case you wouldn’t be the helmsman of the yacht!
Massimo Barranco: Who said that? Is it a rule? No, it isn’t a rule but you wouldn’t be competitive.
Massimo Barranco: How do you know that? Seriously now, I think that the true concept of the America’s Cup is to watch 15-17 sailors that work together in a group and not a catamaran with half the crew where boat speed is the only important factor. That’s just my personal view but I think you’ll miss the emotion and intensity of the monohulls.

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