«Luna Rossa is the symbol of the Made in Italy we should be proud of». The words of Max Sirena, skipper of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, challenger in the 36th America’s Cup. Using AC boats to symbolise Made in Italy is an idea that dates all the way back to the very first Italian challenge by the Azzurra Consortium in 1983. Raul Gardini and Moro di Venezia turned it into a mission in 1992 and it remains the signature of the team headed by Patrizio Bertelli which has now just delivered its fifth challenge. This time, however, the debut of the AC75 ensured that Luna Rossa really was the absolute distillation of all good things Made in Italy. Starting with the research that backed up the work of the design team.
A case in point being Altair Italia which, as managing director Andrea Maria Benedetto, explains is: “A company specialising in simulation in leading-edge fields and sectors. We provided the design team with the data to optimise the internal structure of the AC75’s hull and deck as well as other components, including metal ones”
Esteco’s optimisation software, on the other hand, helped reduce design times. “Our job was to optimise the computation processes by providing what you might call distilled data to the designers who then made their choices from there”. Wärtsilä Italia and Teorema Engineering were also involved at the software end, developing machine learning and AI-based solutions. The two processes ultimately produced an algorithm that helped develop the AC75s.
On a slightly different level, Pirelli was not just the co-title sponsor aboard the Luna Rossa AC75s. For the 2007 Cup, its Advanced Materials team, headed by Luca Giannini, had already supplied the Italian IACC v.5 with revolutionary pneumatic battens. This time out, it developed specific polymers for the AC75. “Their range of application was the rudders and the foils, obviously not all of either, however. I will stop there,” explains Giannini who has to be extremely careful with his words as Luna Rossa will be competing in the next Cup also.
That same confidentiality is demanded of Persico Marine, the yard that built the two AC75s, having already built the 2007 and 2013 boats. (The AC75s took 70,000 man hours of labour per boat, ed.’s note) “We really did feel part of the team,” says managing director Marcello Persico, “and it was a challenge within a challenge”. This is because Persico Marine is headquartered in Nembro, just a few kilometres outside Bergamo, the very heart of the area in which Covid-19 ran rampant in early 2020. This was a huge blow but one Persico Marine survived. In fact, aside from the two AC75s, it also built the foil arms for all of the teams competing in Auckland. “We built 16, four for each team, and assigned them in a kind of a draw,” concludes Persico.
Another company involved in supplying the teams with those crucial elements for the AC75 was Eligio Re Fraschini, a company that makes specialist composite and metal materials. “We made all the carbon-fibre plates that Persico Marine used to finish the foil arms and cooked them in our six bar autoclave,” explains project manager Fabio Rusconi. “Most importantly of all though, we worked with Luna Rossa on building the rudders, elevators, bowsprits, part of the foil arms, a changeable, and a wing”.
The other Luna Rossa “wings” came from Angelo Glisoni whose company specialises in fins, keels and profiles. “Once we received the designs,” explains Glisoni, “we developed and coordinated the production process: from the materials, which could have included special steels, titanium, bronze, to the milling work, production cycles, controls and final assembly of the components. And there were a lot of the latter. Having the machines alone wasn’t enough, you needed experience too. But we have been doing this since 1986”.
Experience is something that Harken’s Italian headquarters has in spades too as it has been offering all the teams in the America’s Cup entire packages that include winches, columns, handles and deck hardware, for many years now. “Aside from winches and deck hardware, we supplied Luna Rossa with special titanium trailers for the mainsail traveller, says Emanuele Cecchini, commercial director, “which as the video shot aboard revealed worked very well even under the serious loads aboard the AC75”.
This brings us to Dyneema SK99, a material used by Gottifredi Maffioli, a company founded in 1926 that supplied ropes to the Italian expedition that conquered K2 in 1954. It made all the lines aboard Luna Rossa. “Our partnership with the challenges goes all the way back to 2000,” says Luigi Maffioli. “That was when we invented PBO-sheathed sheets which are now the order of the day on racing craft. For the Auckland challenge this time round, we supplied lines with diameters of between 13 and just three millimetres”.
It is through these incredibly thin lines that the power of the hydraulic plant designed by onboard hydraulics wizard Gianni Cariboni is transmitted: “We developed a special pump with nine pistons for Patrizio Bertelli’s team that guarantees constant hydraulic fluid delivery which saved the grinders a lot of energy”.
The Made in Italy puzzle aboard Luna Rossa was completed by sails developed by the sail design team with North Sails Italia. “They are made using 3D technology from carbon-fibre tapes on a mould in Minden, Nevada,” says general manager Daniele Cassinari. “They arrived in from the US in a single piece which we then refined to its final from, adding the pockets for the battens, the eyelets and various other components. All by hand. It is this final phase that makes all the difference. And it’s our secret”.
After boats, gear and sails, the crew worked with Dainese on the Sea-Guard life jacket which protects the body from impacts and has pockets for location finder, knife, and even an oxygen supply and mouthpiece should the wearer be trapped underwater by a capsize as almost happened to Terry Hutchinson on American Magic.
Sticking with safety, Oakley, a Luxottica Group brand, developed the helmet for the crew which also had the support of Technogym and its workout machines to help them boost their fitness.
Another Italian company involved was Pardo Yachts which supplied a Pardo 38 powered by three 300 hp Mercury engines as support boat.
Legendary Italian sports watchmaker, Panerai, founded in Florence in 1860, was both official timekeeper for the Prada Cup and official team sponsor with the Luminor Luna Rossa adorning the wrists of Max Sirena, Francesco Bruni and James Spithill.
Last but very far from least, we have two international Italian icons that flanked Luna Rossa on its gloriously thrilling adventure: the world’s most imitated yet inimitable cheese made by the Consorzio Parmigiano Reggiano and the Cantine Ferrari’s delicious bubbly. Because Made in Italy means Italian Food too!