'This Luna Rossa is a different group in the sense that each challenge is its own story and this one is really a new team. I've always operated like this is a different group,' says skipper DE ANGELIS. 'The first challenge was really interesting because we started from nothing in 1997 and then raced in the Cup in 2000. But the second was very complicated. It was a very good, talented group but we didn't produce.
'With this one we're still writing the story. We have a good group with a lot of ideas and a common goal. We have enough experience but also a lot of youth [SPITHILL is just 26 but on his third Cup campaign and the current ISAF Match Racing World Champion] and enthusiasm.'
Luna Rossa was the first team to set up shop in Valencia, Spain, before any of the other challengers or the Defender, although it did not officially lodge its challenge until later in 2004. The Italians built a training facility at the local Yacht Club and started getting time on the water during the months the Louis Vuitton Cup would be contested before anyone else did. The team did not race in the opening Louis Vuitton Act in Marseille, France, but sailed well in the Valencia Acts in 2004 and has had a good season in 2005, staking its ground firmly amongst the 'big four'.
BERTELLI's men struggled to beat any of the other top teams in both the Valencia and Malmö-Skåne, Sweden match racing Acts in 2005 finishing fourth in both, but finally broke through with a win over BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) in Trapani, Italy. All top four teams finished tied on 9-2 records, with Luna Rossa emerging in third place on the tie-break. And whilst getting wins over Alinghi (SUI), BMW ORACLE Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand is a clear priority for 2006, DE ANGELIS cautions against making judgments too early.
'The tools are not equal and you have to work with the tools that you have. We have to consider what the reasons [for the losses] are. We're all still using the old boats and I don't think anyone has been able to overcome the differences from the past. We're all improving, but the starting point wasn't' the same,' he says. 'Alinghi is looking even faster than before. The rest of us are all making progress, but not enough to get over the top, so it's a type of frozen environment. This is the technical side. From the sports side we can all improve, but I think at Luna Rossa we're on the right track.'
In contrast to the steady improvement the team showed in the match racing, in the fleet races, Luna Rossa burst from the gates winning Act 5 in Valencia, and then fell back over the course of the year to a sixth place finish in Trapani.
'From a sporting point of view, the fleet races that just finished were a bitter way to end the season,' DE ANGELIS admitted at the end of the racing in Trapani. 'We didn't sail to our potential. I know what we have to work on, however and I'm happy that we're among the leaders in the match races.'
The Next Step
Of course the next step for Luna Rossa, as with all of the challengers, is to figure out how to beat Alinghi. The Defender was perfect in match racing until the last day of the year, and despite losing a couple of matches, posted a 31-2 record. Unless the challengers improve as a group, the Cup is going to be safe with Alinghi. According to DE ANGELIS, at least part of this advantage is a holdover from the last Cup, but it is clear to him that Luna Rossa, indeed all of the challengers, have to improve. The advantage of the Louis Vuitton Acts is that the racing gives the team that opportunity.
'If you look to the guy on top we all have a lot of work to do. I think Alinghi have done very well to develop even better than they were last Cup,' DE ANGELIS says. 'The racing has been useful for everyone. It's an opportunity to see what Alinghi is doing. We all have a big task and a lot of homework to do over the winter. We'll see if the new boats that people bring out in the spring are a big enough step to close gap.'
Luna Rossa will also have a new boat in 2006, but DE ANGELIS is not fully committed to when it might be launched or whether it will be raced in the Louis Vuitton Acts next year. The sailing team is currently offsite sailing in various events around the world and will meet up again in Valencia in March. Meanwhile, the design and boat-building teams continue to work through the winter while the stylish new base is being completed at the Port America's Cup.
The new base is perhaps the best examples of the fresh, new look for this team. The panels making up the outside walls of the base are translucent and laminated with actual sail material from previous campaigns. The ultra-modern look is nautical, bold, stylish and 'fast' looking. If the new boat proves to be the same, this third Luna Rossa challenge may be the one that goes all the way.
Luna Rossa Challenge: Match Races in 2005
The following table shows all race results from the three Match Racing Acts of the 2005 season: Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 4, Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 and Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 8. The right column shows the total amount of points gained against each team throughout the year. The bottom row shows the total amount of races won per Louis Vuitton Act.
|© ACM 2005|
Luna Rossa Challenge: Fleet Racing in 2005
The following table lists all finishes during the three Fleet Racing Acts of the 2005 season: Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 5, Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 7 and Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 9. The curve of the results charts the progress of the team over the year.
|© ACM 2005|
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