With the Italian team’s AC72 yacht scheduled to arrive in San Francisco in a week and the sailing team preparing in Naples for the final America’s Cup World Series event, Max Sirena gave us an update on the latest developments at Luna Rossa:
VSail.info: You must be happy to be back racing in Italy with Luna Rossa.
Max Sirena: I’m always happy to be back here, especially after last year’s incredible event. I had never, ever, seen so many people watching a sailing competition.
VSail.info: Let’s talk about the period Luna Rossa spent in Auckland. Do you think you have reached the goals you had set?
Max Sirena: I’m convinced the period we spent in Auckland has been very positive and in fact we might we have done and achieved a lot more than what we thought would be possible. You should keep in mind we started more than a year later than the other teams and, given the complexity of the AC72’s, we feared we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we wanted. On the contrary, the team worked very well and this allowed us to advance greatly both on and off the water. We were able to do much more than what we had initially scheduled even if, on purpose, we decided to keep a very low communication profile. We decided not to issue press releases every day, the way the other teams are doing.
VSail.info: Why didn’t you want to communicate? After all, if you achieve more than you plan, it is a positive message.
Max Sirena: It was my own, personal request. I wanted the team to work relaxed, without too many media distractions. It’s my personal philosophy, I’d rather have the media talk about us when we win our races. I don’t want to communicate drivel every day, the way our friends are doing.
VSail.info: Isn’t that “drivel”, as you call it, also part of marketing? You have the luxury of having Patrizio Bertelli funding the team so you probably don’t feel any marketing pressure.
Max Sirena: That’s true, that’s a major advantage we have compared to the other teams. The fact our main sponsor is also the owner of the team allows us the liberty to adopt such a low-profile communications policy. However, and this is my own personal opinion, people aren’t interested in reading every day on Facebook whether you played frisbee or whether you bought a nice truck. This is a bit pitiful. On the other hand, obviously, we can’t put on the internet the videos of what we have been doing and testing on the boat every day. This is why we decided at the end of our period in Auckland to publish the video of our last day of sailing, to show that we are here and we are working hard.
VSail.info: What is your program now? From what I see on the America’s Cup noticeboard you sailed your AC72 for the last time on March 15th. What have you done since then?
Max Sirena: That’s correct, we last sailed on March 15th. We obviously took the opportunity and carried a general debrief of everything we did in Auckland. This pause also allowed us to pick up and transfer our base to San Francisco as well as carry out some modifications on our boat.
VSail.info: What are those modifications?
Max Sirena: There will be an upgrade from an aerodynamic point of view and without any doubt she will be a different boat from what you saw in her last sailing days in Auckland. There is also an ongoing development program that will see the arrival of our new appendages in early June. We will start sailing in San Francisco between May 8th and 10th and steadily all the new upgrades will be arriving from early May to mid June.
VSail.info: You have officially announced the positions of Chris Draper, at the helm, and Francesco Bruni, calling tactics. What about the rest of the crew? Have you taken a final decision or are you still in the crew selection process?
Max Sirena: I have announced who the helmsman and tactician were because there was mainly a media necessity to announce who would take these two positions. In what regards the rest of the crew, my own and the team’s goal, from the very first day, is that every member of the sailing team must be in a position to sail and race on the boat. We don’t want to have any difference in terms of boat performance if one particular sailor is sailing and another isn’t, be it grinder, trimmer or bowman. We have to be able to rotate all crew members around the boat without suffering in terms of boat performance. For that reason, we keep having a daily roaster with all the sailors we have available. As a result, we will never announce an A-team and a B-team.
All sailors will be part of the A-team and they will all rotate on the boat, especially the days we have two races. The AC72 is exhausting and we will need fresh energy every day. In addition, our sailing team is quite small, with a total of just 14 sailors. As you see, we only have three spare sailors and we aren’t like other teams that have more than 20 sailors.
VSail.info: As you said earlier, Luna Rossa started its America’s Cup campaign more than a year later than the others. You now state you have a small sailing team. In addition, unlike your other three adversaries, you only have one boat. Isn’t that too many handicaps for Luna Rossa?
Max Sirena: I think that, especially in this America’s Cup, having just one boat is an advantage, in terms of time schedule but also on an operational level. With the possible exception of the Defender that has more time, the second boat is a big distraction. Once you have chosen your project, your second boat will not be clearly superior than the first one. Once you have chosen your path, your design philosophy, you will never see two radically different boats. Just look at Team New Zealand’s second boat. It’s just a refinement of their first boat. The major difference in terms of performance will come from the wing and the appendages. Another major factor is aerodynamics but that is also derived from the design you chose. Oracle, Artemis, Team New Zealand and ourselves have completely different designs but even if, for example, you think that Oracle is better in terms of aerodynamics that doesn’t mean Team New Zealand can adapt their boat to that. It’s too late, their boat is the one they have. They can’t go back in the design road they chose.
VSail.info: But what if they had seen that half a year ago when the second boat was still on the drawing board?
Max Sirena: I have never seen in my professional sailing career a team that builds two completely different boats. If you do that you lose all the knowhow you managed to gain with the first boat. The only advantage you can have with a second boat is in the case of a major incident with the first boat. This is the only limit I see for us. As far as performance is concerned having just one boat is a big advantage. Don’t forget that until March 15th, despite having started so late, we were the team that had spent the most time sailing on an AC72! Honestly, I would probably do the same thing even if we started from scratch.
VSail.info: So, I guess that means that Luna Rossa’s choice to collaborate with Emirates Team has proved a good one.
Max Sirena: For us it was the only option in order to run this challenge, having started late. We didn’t have any chance other than this one. Now, whether the fastest boat is Oracle’s or Team New Zealand’s this is something we will have to wait for. Nevertheless, right now we are satisfied with the choice we made. Don’t forget that everybody is talking about foiling today but up to three-four months ago, you could find a regurgitation of statements by Oracle that claimed that foiling wasn’t fast. Then, they realized the only way to go fast was by foiling. In that aspect Team New Zealand was a precursor.
VSail.info: How far ahead of Luna Rossa is Team New Zealand? In the photos and videos you always seem to be trailing.
Max Sirena: I would say we are happy with where we are. Obviously, it would have been absurd to think Team New Zealand could be slower than us, given the fact our boat will be upgraded during the month of June. We sailed against them in a very experimental mode, in particular with a boat configuration that had marginally changed after the launch. For us it was important to sail against Team New Zealand in order to verify what we are designing for June. It was essentially a verification of the design process that we did and are currently doing and whose results will be seen on the boat in the next few months. The reply to your answer is that I am very happy with where we are.
VSail.info: You are probably the best suited to assess Team New Zealand since you have sailed against them. Do you have any assessment of the other two teams, Oracle and Artemis?
Max Sirena: At the end, Oracle will be competitive just for the simple fact they have unlimited resources and more time available than the challengers. These are their biggest advantages. I don’t know about Artemis, they are an unknown for everybody. According to some rumors they will launch their second boat at the end of May, beginning of June, so we will have to wait and see what they have. However, there is no doubt they made a blunder with their first boat.
What I can state is that we have sailed a lot on the AC72 as well as the SL33 and I can confirm that having a “flying” boat isn’t enough in order to be ready to race. You need a lot of time in order to learn how to maximize your boat’s performance.
VSail.info: You have learned how to sail your AC72 under the conditions Auckland has in austral summer. Do you think Oracle and Artemis will have an advantage over you in San Francisco from July to September?
Max Sirena: Right now, only Oracle has a considerable advantage in that aspect since Artemis has barely sailed on their AC72. However, we will have to see what kind of conditions we have during starting time, which I think is scheduled between 1:30pm and 1:45pm. So, we have to see what wind conditions we have in that precise time frame. We tried to sail in Auckland with as much breeze as we could and it turned out we were lucky because we had an unusual summer, in particular in terms of breeze. We sailed many, many days with winds over 15-18 knots and that was very important for us. In fact, in the video we published of our race with Team New Zealand, we had more than 20 knots of wind, even if you get the impression there is just 10 knots of breeze…
VSail.info: You said that the only way to go fast is by foiling. Is that going to be the determining factor this summer in San Francisco? Is ti going to be about who’s flying faster?
Max Sirena: I don’t think it’s going to be about top speed. The important factors will be your average speed and how fast the boat is foiling again, especially after a gybe. With such a narrow race course, maneuverability of the boat will be very important, not her top speed. The boats will have to be fast on the race course, overall, and that means they will have to be back foiling as soon as possible after a gybe or even allow foiling gybes. They will also have to be performing as well upwind because the beats will be very long, in particular when we sail against the current.
VSail.info: When Luna Rossa settles in San Francisco, the team base will be in Alameda, right next to Artemis. What is the reason?
Max Sirena: We will have a temporary base in Alameda, simply because the base in Pier 30-32 will not be ready before the month of June. This is the only reason. We could have very well moved directly to Pier 30-32 but it’s impossible before June. Our AC72 will arrive in San Francisco on April 15th or 16th and by going to Alameda we will be able to sail as soon as possible. As I said, our schedule is to start sailing between May 8th and 10th. We will then move to Pier 30-32 when the base is ready.
VSail.info: You will then have the Artemis “spies” right next door…
Max Sirena: Yes, all they will have to do is just knock on the door… In fact, it’s going to be quite a complicated period but we will be OK.
VSail.info: Shorter term, I suppose you will use the Naples event as the last training opportunity on the AC45’s. Unlike Artemis and Oracle that send their B-teams or even C-teams, you will have your two full crews with Draper and Bruni.
Max Sirena: Yes and this is another of these things that I don’t know how to express politely. Once again, Artemis and Oracle act like buffoons because up to a few months ago they were the ones promoting these events, even for the future, and in fact they were the first ones to send what you call their B or C teams. Still, they are very strong teams and we won’t take it for granted they can’t win the event. However, I think it’s yet another proof of their doublespeak as they do the opposite of what they state on a daily basis in the media. We had planned these events in our campaign because we had decided to stop our activity in Auckland based on the fact we had the obligation to take part with our main crew. This is what we are doing, we are sticking to our schedule, to what we had initially planned and, obviously, our goal will be to do well in the event. It will be a good opportunity to train, especially in match race.
VSail.info: A last, personal question. Is this the most difficult America’s Cup you have done?
Max Sirena: I don’t think so. I think that, professionally, the most stressful campaign I have done was the 33rd one with Oracle. Right now, I’m so busy that very often I don’t have the time to think about stress. I’m also very excited by the role I have and I’m so busy with that. Maybe as we get closer to racing I’ll get more stressed.
VSail.info: Don’t you feel the stress of the person in charge? If something goes wrong in the campaign the skipper or team manager is to blame, isn’t it?
Max Sirena: I knew that the moment I accepted the offer. However, this is a unique opportunity and I just can’t live it being under stress because this will then be reflected on the rest of the team.