America's Cup 2000, the Luna Rossa makes an appearance
The year 2000 marks the return of Italy to the America's Cup, an adventure which had begun in early February 1997. Patrizio Bertelli is a rich Tuscan entrepreneur: twenty years earlier, he had met Miuccia Prada, creating an occupational and personal partnership. The Prada brand at the time was a rising star and Bertelli, a great fan of sailing, wanted to try his hand in the Regatta challenge par excellence.
You can read the precedent article here: America's Cup 1995, the All Blacks of the sailing world triumph mightily
The project began in the Milanese studio of German Frers, a great designer, who helped pick out the guidelines to be followed: three IACCs to be purchased for training purposes, the club to launch the challenge (the Yacht Club Punta Ala) and the key men: designer Doug Peterson, Brazilian ace Torben Grael, Neapolitan skipper Francesco De Angelis, and veteran coach Rod Davis. The crew boasted many top-level Italian yachtsmen.
A name that was spot on
The aim was to win: the budget was 50 million dollars and after training in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the team moved to Auckland in January 1998 to prepare for the regattas in the Hauraki Gulf. The first new hull – ITA 45 – took to the waters on 5th May 1999. It was called the Luna Rossa: the official story states that the name came to Bertelli's mind as he watched a large full and reddish moon rise on a summer evening, during a dinner spent talking about boats on the hills of Tirli, near Punta Ala. Miuccia Prada's version is that the name was coined specifically to contrast with the Black Magic.
Whatever the true origin of its name, it started off really well at the Louis Vuitton Cup in the winter of 1999, in which nine other syndicates took part. As many as five Americans tried to bring the trophy home again, to repeat what had happened in Perth in 1987: the Team Dennis Conner, the PACT 2000, the America One, the Abracadabra and the America True. As well as the old acquaintances from San Diego: the transalpine team with Le Défi Français, the Japanese with the Nippon Challenge, the Spanish with the Desafío España Copa América. Last but not least, the Swiss beginners aboard the Fast 2000. The Luna Rossa only lost one race in the first two Round Robins. And at the end of the qualifier rounds, it remained ahead of the group despite two defeats.
Team New Zealand on their yacht "Black Magic" with skipper Russell Coutts at the helm tack around the first windward mark 19 seconds ahead of Italian syndicate Prada on race day three of the America's Cup on the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland 26 February 2000. Team New Zealand crossed the start line one second ahead of Prada, but extended that to one minute and 39 seconds at the finish. Team New Zealand now lead the best of nine race series 3-0. AFP PHOTO/Dean TREML/PHOTOSPORT (Photo by DEAN TREML / PHOTOSPORT / AFP) (Photo by DEAN TREML/PHOTOSPORT/AFP via Getty Images)
The semi-final round was not the simplest, after having previously used the new hull ITA-48, De Angelis returned to the tried and tested ITA-45, which the Kiwis already referred to as the ‘Silver Bullet' owing to its top performance. The Luna Rossa ended the race in second place and faced the America One for the Louis Vuitton Cup: the skipper was an old friend of Italy, namely Paul Cayard – the ‘director' of the Moro di Venezia – but had now crossed to the other side, becoming the highly skilled arch-enemy, given his vessel was only slightly inferior, but his budget was simply not comparable to Bertelli's.
The battle remained in the history of the America's Cup. It consisted of a heart-stopping series of challenges: first at 1-1, then 3-1 for the Luna Rossa, then 3-4 for the America One, which appeared to have suddenly gone up a gear. The Italians, however, climbed back up and the result was 4-4 by 37 seconds. The ninth race, on 6th February 2000, had no future: the 34-second lead at the first buoy was defended in an exemplary way by De Angelis's and Grael's team. For the second time in history, Italy won the Louis Vuitton.
The Luna Rossa surrenders
The final of the 30th America's Cup took place between 20th February and 2nd March. For the first time in the history of the event, the Americans were mere spectators, without their own vessel in the regatta. In Italy, the hope to succeed remained, but it was immediately clear that this particular dream would not be coming true. The Black Magic NZL-60 was a missile, sailed by a crew composed largely of veterans from San Diego with Sir Peter Blake guiding them from dry land. The result was 5-0, with a race comprising far from impressive deficits (from 48 seconds to two minutes and 43 seconds) but rather with the feeling that there really wasn't much more that could be done.
Russell Coutts even granted himself the luxury of leaving the helm in the final match-race in the hands of the young Dean Barker. The trophy remained in Auckland, Sir Peter Blake saluted among the applause and decided to devote himself to sailing the oceans, the Luna Rossa (rightly) stuck with it: a few minutes after the Black Magic had crossed the finish line, it launched the new challenge.