Patrizio Bertelli, owner of America’s Cup challenger Luna Rossa, flew to San Francisco overnight in order to be present at Friday’s meeting between the teams and organizers. The day after Andrew Simpson’s tragic death Bertelli talked to La Stampa, one of Italy’s major newspapers, and warned America’s Cup organizers his team would require “assurances” and “formal commitment” to changes in order to continue. Otherwise, he will withdraw and doesn’t seem to lose his sleep over the amount of money that has already been spent in this campaign:
Fabio Pozzo: President, does anything need to be revised in the 34th America’s Cup after this terrible accident?
Patrizio Bertelli: Yes, it needs to be revised. We had told organizers in every way but they didn’t listen to us. To go on not listening now would be to persevere. We want specific assurances.
Fabio Pozzo: In what sense?
Patrizio Bertelli: There must be a formal commitment to change several things. We must have the conditions to race.
Fabio Pozzo: Otherwise?
Patrizio Bertelli: We will not participate. This will mean we will throw away money. Patience, this also happens in life. But it’s a matter of respect, of history. We do not need to do the Cup after all…
Fabio Pozzo: What do you mean by changes? Intervene on the boats? There is talk of installing airbags on the mastheads of the catamarans to dump the capsizes …
Patrizio Bertelli: No. Look, this thing about airbags is a stupidity. No, they wanted to make this sport no longer a race between sailboats but between high-tech industrial products, they wanted to make the America’s Cup an extreme sport and now we need to implement all the conditions and devices that are proper to the extreme sports. Like Formula 1 and Moto GP. Conditions on the race course in San Francisco need to be revised now: wind limits, tide, current, time schedules, periods. We need to equip it with divers, first-aid units, CPR teams.
Fabio Pozzo: Prior to the Artemis incident there was talk of an upper limit to race of 33 knots, close to 60 km/h.
Patrizio Bertelli: In Auckland we tested the new boat at 20 knots with no problems. But 33 knots is too much. These are boats that downwind, with 20 knots of wind they sail on the water at 35-38 knots. Do you have any idea what kind of speed this is? It’s like jumping with a motorcycle at 250 km/h. The old boats, the monohulls, the old Luna Rossa would reach at most 15-18 under the same conditions. The same thing upwind: a maximum of 12 knots with the old boats, at least 25 knots in these catamarans. However, it’s not as much a problem of sailing upwind, as with the transition from upwind to downwind. The problem is when you bear away (you release the mainsail that is exposed to the wind, with maximum pressure and it cannot be controlled; the risk is to capsize forward). In short, everything is multiplied to the extreme. And we will not be at this slaughtering game. I hope that organizers, Oracle, the defender, understand.
Fabio Pozzo: What does Oracle have to do with this?
Patrizio Bertelli: They scheduled the challenger selection trials, the Louis Vuitton Cup, from July to August, in a period when the San Francisco bay is very windy. The America’s Cup finals, on the other hand, is in September, when there is on average 15 knots. They are there, watching us slaughtering ourselves, smashing everything, and wait. No, we will not be there.