Italy expects as the new Luna Rossa sets sail | Pirelli

Italy expects as the new Luna Rossa sets sail

Italy expects as the new Luna Rossa sets sail
Italy expects as the new Luna Rossa sets sail

There was a moment when he was speaking on Cagliari's Ichnusa pier in front of an audience of fans and insiders that Max Sirena made it clear that the gleaming new boat about to be named is not a finished item. “The boat we are about to show everyone is only a prototype,” said the Italian skipper about his Luna Rossa. “We will start from here, from the results and the sensations we will experience while training on the water, to design the hull that will try to bring the America's Cup to our country.”

A few moments later, Prada's co-CEO Miuccia Prada smashed a bottle and the tarpaulins hiding the new version of the world's most famous Italian hull came down: thus starting Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli's path towards the races to be held in Barcelona in 2024. Everyone seemed to have been infected by the warm and electric atmosphere that characterises every new beginning, in sport and in life.

Excitement in the air

In a case like that of Luna Rossa, it is evident that the difference between expectations and reality – a reality that, moreover, will only materialise in the future – is a necessary, inevitable but also virtuous fact. It is a sort of generator of positive emotions. For all those who love sailing, it was enough for a simple prototype to be unveiled – and therefore also Luna Rossa, inevitably – to experience an explosion of enthusiasm. “Explosion” is not an exaggeration, and to appreciate this one only has to review the film footage of the event in Cagliari: the naming ceremony and then the launch, minutes apart, were accompanied by applause and stadium-style cheers, then toasts and lots of smiles. One could clearly perceive how everyone present had experienced a long wait, and that their waiting had finally come to an end.

There's no doubt that the atmosphere was helped by the strong emotional charge and the enormous historical-symbolic significance of such ceremonies, which, among other things, take place overlooking the sea. Those who were present in Cagliari, immersed in the scenery of the Golfo degli Angeli and familiar with the world of sailing, felt that they were in the right place at an important moment; sensing that the events unfolding before their eyes had an enormous sporting, industrial, even cultural significance. But they would have been thrilling moments for anyone, even for those who have no idea what a regatta is and how prestigious is the America's Cup, one of the oldest sporting competitions in the world that continues to be held to this day – the first edition actually taking place in 1851.

A new look

Another fundamental aspect when dealing with the difference between expectation and reality is that of surprise. Or rather: if reality can only be offered as a preview and/or in part – as was the case with Luna Rossa's new prototype – then there is a need to offer an element that can astonish those watching. For example, an innovative, bold yet elegant design, rich in colour. The choice of Luna Rossa's designers fell on the classic red of the Italian boat, which this time was mixed with white and black within geometric patterns of great aesthetic impact. Patrizio Bertelli, Luna Rossa's patron, explained that: “It is a modernist camouflage with an eye to the past, inspired by military ships of the 1910s and 1920s.” To create this “dazzle” appearance, a complex and innovative colouring method was used, divided into three stages, one for each colour. But the choice goes beyond aesthetics, it is another case of distance, of the difference between expectations and reality. Bertelli explained this: “Our designers did this on purpose, this way we will hide Luna Rossa's lines from the spies of the other boats that want to participate in the America's Cup.”

The challenge launched by the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team is obviously sporty, but also technological. And it could not be otherwise, as it is a visionary boat that literally flies on water. It seems to come from the future, yet the ultimate meaning of such a project has been the same for almost two centuries: to attack the sea and go fast. In fact: very fast. It's a goal that will be pursued over time, but one which has already been partly achieved: the prototype for the AC75 that will take part in the America's Cup qualifying races having reached 50 knots since the first training sessions in the Gulf of Cagliari.

Home team

The Gulf is a place that will have an enormous influence on the whole Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli project, but which has proved crucial during its early stages. Sirena noted this on the day of the launch, exuding a certain pride: “This is the kick-off of an entirely Italian project, as the new prototype was designed entirely at our base here in Sardinia, in Cagliari. It is a choice that makes us proud of ourselves, of what we have done, but it also fuels our responsibility for what we are going to do. We worked at home on an innovative boat, and this gave us a huge boost, also because it was an important exercise from a human point of view, it united us a lot as a team. We have pushed in many areas and we want to continue to do so, although it will not be easy.”

The sporting result is at stake, but it is also a question of the positioning and prestige of “Brand Italy”: after all, we are talking about Luna Rossa, an institution that has been representing the country for a long time and is therefore closely connected to our industrial and socio-economic fabric. In this sense, the connection with Pirelli has enormous value, it is an important part of Luna Rossa's history and also of its future. As Marco Tronchetti Provera, Executive Vice President and CEO of Pirelli Group, emphasised: “We are once again on board to espouse the values of sport and innovation that we have always shared, to strengthen a project in which we believe so strongly, to support a boat and a crew that have the potential to excite us again. And to win.”

A ”complex and original” boat

The support of Pirelli and the other sponsors has been crucial for a monumental – and multi-stage – project such as the one that will take Luna Rossa to the next America's Cup. In this sense, the numbers are frightening: to fine-tune the prototype launched in Cagliari, a group of 25 people and 40 other members of the design team accumulated a total of 30,000 man-hours of work; if we consider all areas of the hull, over 5,000 square metres of the latest generation carbon-fibre were used, plus other innovative materials. From a technical point of view, the boat that hit the water at the Ichnusa pier features a wing mast, sails that adopt North Sails technology and a slightly smaller bowsprit. The last will no longer be used for a Code Zero sail due to changes to the event's protocol, but will act as a support for the technical equipment on board. By virtue of all this, Bertelli spoke of the new Luna Rossa as a “complex and original” boat. Hard to find better, more spot-on words.

The research and development process is now in the hands of the designers and a renewed team, supplemented by new talents: it is up to them to fine-tune the dinghies, sails and all the equipment; it is up to them to regain confidence with the sea and the sense of racing; it is up to them to create a strong synergy that can make Luna Rossa even faster. For the qualifying races for the America's Cup title held by Team New Zealand, eight sailors – no longer 11 as in the last edition – will have to be selected from the pool. It will be a crucial choice, because after making the final in 2021, the expectations around Luna Rossa are high and, as the new prototype proves, supporters are looking forward to the real boat. They are waiting for a reality that is under construction, but that promises to be ambitious, successful and therefore even better than expected.

By Alfonso Fasano