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Sail Racing International alongside Alinghi Red Bull Racing Team

The year was 1999. That year Sail Racing International made its debut on the sailing scene. In a quarter of a century, the Swedish company specialising in the production of technical garments has gained the attention of an ever-widening audience of sailors. A route that culminated with participation, as official supplier, alongside many teams involved in top-level regattas such as SailGP and, of course, the America’s Cup. A success that is not dictated by chance but rests on Sail Racing International’s ability to meet the needs of those who practise a sport such as sailing which, in recent times, has had a strong acceleration both in terms of technological content and performance, thanks to the introduction of foils. Hence the need to develop and study garments that meet precise functional requirements without compromising comfort. Sailing turned out to be an extraordinary research laboratory that allowed the company to transfer this wealth of expertise also to the many collections designed to be used in everyday life. A way of feeling like a sailor even away from the sea. Today Sail Racing International is once again back on the sailing competition scene, ‘flying’ alongside Alinghi Red Bull Racing. A further step that, as CEO Joakim Berne explains in this interview, propels Sail Racing International into the future.

Ceo Joakim Berne

At the 37th edition of the America’s Cup you will be alongside Alinghi Red Bull Racing Team. How did this collaboration come about?
For over a decade, we’ve had the privilege of closely collaborating with former Red Bull athletes Hans Peter Steinacher and Roman Hagara, supporting their Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team. When Red Bull decided to establish an America’s Cup Challenger alongside sailing icons Alinghi, former winners of the America’s Cup, they reached out to us. Following a technical clothing selection process, we were happy to emerge as the preferred brand among the athletes.

Sail Racing
Alinghi Red Bull Racing AC75 BoatOne of Switzerland with Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin performs in Barcelona, Spain on June 4,2024. // Samo Vidic / Alinghi Red Bull Racing

In detail, can you tell us, how is this collaboration articulated?
After being approached by team representatives, we provided our technical high-speed sailing collection, the 50-kts Race Edition, for their selection process. The positive outcome prompted further discussions about the overall aspects of a partnership with Michel Hodarda, co-CEO of Alinghi Red Bull Racing. We share the same ambition and approach, which enabled us to finalize an agreement rather quickly. Before signing and committing to each other, we were invited to meet Ernesto Bertarelli, Chairman of Alinghi Red Bull Racing and a two-time winner of the America’s Cup.

Sail Racing
Arnaud Psarofaghis of Switzerland and Alinghi Red Bull Racing seen prior to the sailing on AC75 BoatOne in Barcelona, Spain on June 4, 2024. // Samo Vidic / Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Did the team request special specifications for the clothing to be worn on the AC75 and, in particular, did you play an important role in the development process of the collection?
We maintain a close collaboration with all our sailing athletes throughout our product development, ensuring their involvement at every stage. Before market release, our garments undergo rigorous testing, with feedback from athletes serving as an important component. In the most recent venture, we’ve tailored a collection specifically for our team, carefully considering the unique demands of sailing the AC75. Moreover, we’ve crafted individualized solutions for each athlete, tailored to their respective roles onboard. The team’s commitment and active engagement have been highly valued throughout the entire process.

Sail Racing

Compared to traditional sailing competitions, does racing in foil mode require a different approach in terms of technical garments?
Yes. First and foremost, we need to protect our athletes against impact, which involves integrated protection in specific areas. We also utilize super-light constructions to minimize weight and reduce drag. Additionally, it’s crucial to construct a kit that is comfortable and instills confidence for each position, like a second skin.

In terms of materials used, what are the most important innovations introduced?
We have implemented new fabrics, new constructions and innovative improvements.  But we will not be more specific at this stage, all will be revealed in due time on the racecourse. 

Sail Racing
Nicolas Rolaz (C) of Switzerland and Alinghi Red Bull Racing seen prior to the sailing on AC75 BoatOne in Barcelona, Spain on June 4, 2024. // Samo Vidic / Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Once upon a time, there was wool; today, evolution in the field of synthetic fibers has taken giant steps. How much room is there still for innovation in this sector?
As the sport evolves, we always strive to be in the forefront keeping our athletes protected, comfortable and cool. I believe we will see a lot of more interesting innovations in the near future. Having said that I also think nature materials such as wool can have a revival, possibly mixed with new fibers.   

Sail Racing

The crew is made up of eight people each called upon to perform a specific role requiring a more dynamic approach (see the cyclists) and a more static one (see the helmsmen). Does this also change the type of clothing to be worn?
Each team member will have custom garments making sure they can deliver their best performance during racing. Ultimately, our ambition is to create custom garments that are more than just apparel; they are enabling our team to push the limits of what’s possible on the racing course.

Sail Racing
Paul Jacquot of Switzerland and Alinghi Red Bull Racing seen prior to the sailing on AC75 BoatOne in Barcelona, Spain on June 4, 2024. // Samo Vidic / Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Sail Racing International was founded in 1999. How has the brand evolved over these 25 years and what is its philosophy today?
We have the same philosophy as back in 1999, we are focused on designing and constructing innovative and technical gear for high-activity sailing. Since the start, we have also designed, marketed, and sold a sportswear collection. The look and feel of this collection are still created with speed sailing in mind. We are still a tight-knit group with the ambition to be at the forefront of our game.

Sail Racing

Is the decision to focus on and invest in events such as the America’s Cup and SailGP part of a precise strategy? What makes them unique on the sporting and sailing scene?
Sail Racing was founded when we saw that the sport was evolving towards much faster racing than the apparel brands supporting the sport at that time did. Now, the sport’s development and speed are beyond what we could ever imagine. So yes! We were born for this kind of sailing, it’s in our DNA. Americas Cup and Sail GP is the pinnacle of our sport, it pushes the limits within sailing and creates a natural and aspiring pathway for younger generations.

Sail Racing

Today, technical and sportswear see The North Face and Patagonia has conquered an increasingly large segment of the public that likes to wear it outside the spheres for which it was designed. This applies to the mountains, the sea and more generally to outdoor activities. From your point of view, what are the reasons behind this success?
This evolution is part of self-expression and personal positioning. Following the pandemic we could see this trend growing even further where former office dress codes, etc. slowly disappear. Also, most of these high-end sporting brands are both technical and possess good quality supporting a comfy and durable look.

Sail Racing

Are the materials designed to develop the technical garments used by crews in the America’s Cup and other regattas of this level also applied in more traditional collections? 
For us everything starts with our premier technical sailing collections, serving as the cornerstone of our expertise.  We later use that knowledge when we design and construct technical and semi-technical garments for both winter expeditions and more functional everyday use. In many cases, they contain the same fabrics and components. 

Sail Racing

How many collections make up the Sail Racing offer today and which public do you target?
We continuously innovate within our 50-kts and Reference sailing collections. We also offer an extensive never out-of-stock-assortment. Additionally, we launch two seasonal collections annually – one for spring/summer and one for autumn/winter. Our main target group is the international sailing community. 

Which sales channels do you use?, Sail Racing Club House Stores, and selected retailers across the globe. We also have a department called Sail Racing Special Order, a dedicated personal service available for yacht owners and captains in need of new gear.

Sail Racing

What are your reference markets today and what role does Italy play?
Currently, our main market is Scandinavia, but we are seeing continued growth in the southern parts of Europe and the US. Italy holds a special place for sailing brands like us. A sailing mecca, stylish and highly dedicated. For us, it is very important to be well-received in Italy.  

Sail Racing
Cevey Arthur of Alinghi Red Bull Racing seen during a day of sailing in Barcelona, Spain on May 28, 2024. // Oriol Castello / Alinghi Red Bull Racing

What is your favorite collection?
My personal favorite lies with the 50-kts collection, which makes out for the very essence of our brand’s existence. Hence, we spare no efforts here resulting in innovative, state-of-the-art products that will stand the test of time. It also really pushes us forward as a company.

Sail Racing
Lucien Cujen of Switzerland and Alinghi Red Bull Racing seen prior the practice in Barcelona, Spain on January 30, 2023. // Samo Vidic / Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Finally, how did your passion for the sea start?
I started sailing at a very young age onboard my family’s boat. Growing a bit older, I continued to explore and shape my passion for the sport in the Optimist class, European dinghy, and so on. Now, I am fortunate to dedicate most of my days working close to the sport I love. In my free time, I make sure to be on or close to the water. I still get goosebumps every time I visit the Alinghi Red Bull Team base.

Sail Racing
Arnaud Psarofaghis of Switzerland and Alinghi Red Bull Racing (L) and Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT (R) perform during a Seat Swap in Barcelona, Spain on October 11, 2022. // Samo Vidic / Red Bull Content Pool

I have also read that when he can he likes to spend as much time as possible aboard Jupiter his Oyster? 
Jupiter isn’t my boat – it’s owned by our main shareholder. Nevertheless, I did spend a lot of my spare time onboard Jupiter last year. However, this year I will spend my time in Barcelona.

What is your favorite time on a boat?
I love the night when it’s pitch-black dark, especially when it is heavy seas. Even though it may sound strange, I feel very calm in those moments.

Last question what will Sail Racing be like in 25 years?
Hopefully, we’ll continue the same mission, dedicated to pioneering innovative garments for high-performance sailors. I wonder what speeds they will achieve by then? 

Matteo Zaccagnino

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