It is one thing to win, quite another to dominate. This is what Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli did in the final of the Prada Cup, the regatta of those who launched the challenge to the holders of the America's Cup. The 7-1 against the Ineos Team UK is a result that will remain in the history of Italian sailing, to mark the third victory in the event. And it is also the second time - out of four finals - that the boat equipped by Prada and Pirelli has won the mandatory leg through to the America’s Cup: in 2000, again in the changing Hauraki Gulf, Luna Rossa prevailed over Paul Cayard’s America One.
A sailor well known to Italians, as helmsman of the Moro di Venezia who had given Italy its first success in the Louis Vuitton Cup (the forerunner of the Prada Cup) in San Diego, in 1992. The result has great value, beyond the roll of honour, because it was won against the toughest English challenge in half a century: big budget (110 million euros), the technical collaboration of Mercedes AMG and a crew led by a phenomenon like Sir Ben Ainslie, the sailor with the most medals won in Olympic history and above all the determination to bring the trophy back to his homeland, after 170 years from the defeat on the Isle of Wight.
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli turned out to be even stronger than the Auckland bookmakers: on the eve of the final, conditioned by the results of the selections - they saw the English favourites, quoting them 1.55 against 2.30 for the Italian sailors. In fact, the defeats against the Ineos Team UK in the first phase had created some concern for the Italian team, dispelled in the semi-final against American Magic, demolished 4-0. But it was a necessary step for the constant progress of the boat and crew rather than a punishing repair exam. Whoever thought of the disadvantage of having to race - while the English rivals could train - was mistaken: Bertelli's men were able to test a new set of foils and a longer rudder in competition, improve communication on board and move the mainsail regulator - the Ligurian Pietro Sibello - into the role of old school tactician. Because even when flying at almost 50 knots on a sailing boat, there is always a need for someone who can see (or smell) the breezes of the gulf.
The results were seen immediately, shattering the certainties of the crew of Sir Ben Ainslie who, despite being a legend, found himself displaced by the adversary (see, the continuous turns of Luna Rossa: a strategy worked out beforehand) and also began to question from the land, teasing the Italians beyond measure, urged on by the local press. If the technical improvements have been useful, as always happens in the America's Cup, it is clear that there has been a development by the crew: the head of the team and skipper Max Sirena was good at keeping the positive tension of the group high, using criticism (right or wrong) as motivation to improve. Hence the 'cleanliness' of the manoeuvres in the Prada Cup, the very few tactical errors and a ferocious determination from the start (almost always won) to the last buoy. Now the final battle, from 6 March. For the third time in history, the sailing homeland cultivates the dream of winning the oldest sporting trophy. "It is a great day for Luna Rossa and for Italy - said helmsman Francesco Bruni -, now we can start thinking about the challenge with Emirates Team New Zealand. We were perfect but we know that if we want to beat the hosts, we have to improve even more”. Believe it.