First of all, I would like to inform all regular readers of VSail.info that this isn’t a typical interview I have been doing for the last seven years. For the first time ever I did it for VSail.info and a major mainstream newspaper, Germany’s Die Welt in this occasion, and as a result it contains some more generic questions, intended for a wider general audience that doesn’t necessarily knows all the details and intricacies of the America’s Cup. This format will be repeated over the next 12 months with other major newspapers around the world and the only downside I see to this arrangement is that the interviews will appear here after they are published on the respective newspaper.
However, in conjunction with Bertelli’s and Max Sirena’s, Luna Rossa skipper, remarks in the press conference even the most knowledgeable America’s Cup observer can have a precise idea of Bertelli’s opinion on our sport’s pinnacle event. It comes as no surprise that Bertelli shares Grant Dalton’s views on the AC72 yacht and the current America’s Cup edition. In fact he clearly stated in the press conference that his goal is to have a Louis Vuitton Cup final between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand because regardless of the winner, they share the same vision.
According to Bertelli, the issue isn’t whether the future America’s Cup is raced on monohulls or multihulls. The fundamental issue is to have a boat that really lowers costs and allows teams to have a competitive campaign with a budget of 50 million euros. In his view, the America’s Cup can still be the toughest and most prestigious race in sailing and have about eight teams.
VSail.info: Where does the name Luna Rossa (Red Moon) come from?
Patrizio Bertelli: When we challenged the New Zealanders their boat was called Black Magic and, in contrast, we decided in a very simple way to find a more poetic name. We made a long list of names that contained the word Luna (Moon) and at the end we chose Luna Rossa.
VSail.info: Are you a sailor yourself?
Patrizio Bertelli: Yes, and when I was younger, in the 1970′s, I used to take part in various competitive regattas in Italy, always as an amateur.
VSail.info: What pushes you to participate in the America’s Cup for the fourth time?
Patrizio Bertelli: The America’s Cup is a long route one takes because the goal is to win it. You have to insist, never give up and try to win it, if you have the necessary means.
VSail.info: Will you try a fifth time if you don’t succeed now?
Patrizio Bertelli: Yes, of course. I have already stated that.
VSail.info: You are a sailor yourself and, as you said, a competitive one. A number of famous America’s Cup recent team owners, such as Dennis Conner, Ted Turner or Ernesto Bertarelli, helmed their own boats while you don’t. Haven’t you ever been interested in helming Luna Rossa or at least being part of the crew?
Patrizio Bertelli: It’s mainly a question of age. When I started, I was already 52 years old and to me this is an unsuitable age for this kind of boats, let alone the fact there wouldn’t be a position for me. I could be a trimmer but even that requires good physical preparation. In addition, if you want to form part of the crew you have to be full time there, something I couldn’t do because of my business obligations.
VSail.info: Do you have enough time to dedicate to Luna Rossa?
Patrizio Bertelli: I dedicate the same time I have always done, always from a distance, but I closely follow the whole development process, all the issues that might arise. There are many instruments nowadays that didn’t exist in the past, such as internet or videoconferencing, that make contact much easier.
VSail.info: Sir Peter Blake, head of Team New Zealand, wished you good luck when Luna Rossa confronted them in 2003. Do you think one needs luck in the America’s Cup?
Patrizio Bertelli: If you are well prepared you can take advantage of the right opportunity, if you aren’t prepared you will not. Call it what you want, right opportunity or luck, but if you aren’t prepared you will not get it.
VSail.info: Do you need more luck in the America’s Cup or in the fashion business?
Patrizio Bertelli: In business you have the possibility of recovering from your errors but in the America’s Cup if you fail, your cycle is over! In business there is more continuity while the America’s Cup is a cycle that opens and closes every time.
VSail.info: What is the key in winning the America’s Cup? Is it money? Will the richest team win?
Patrizio Bertelli: For sure, if you are poor you won’t go too far in the America’s Cup. However, being rich isn’t a guarantee either; you need the right balance between resources and technology.
VSail.info: If you had twice the budget would you have twice the chances?
Patrizio Bertelli: If I had a bigger budget I would have started one year earlier, we would have more time. Bigger budgets mainly allow you to either do things with more people or during a longer period of time.
VSail.info: Why did you start so late then?
Patrizio Bertelli: Because organizers changed the rules and allowed buying the boat design from other teams. Initially, rules didn’t allow that. With the modification in the rules they opened precisely this opportunity to share the boat design with other teams.
VSail.info: Why did you collaborate with Emirates Team New Zealand instead of buying the basic design package organizers were offering.
Patrizio Bertelli: Nobody bought the design package from the organizers. It would have certainly been a very basic package, without the slightest depth.
VSail.info: Has Patrizio Bertelli the businessman learned anything from Patrizio Bertelli the America’s Cup team owner?
Patrizio Bertelli: From the moment I started sailing I realized that without any doubt it teaches you the use of time in a completely different way. It teaches you how to be patient, how to wait for the right moment. Sailing on monohulls is slower and teaches you how to a have a more thoughtful approach. I think that sailing has been very useful for my business.
VSail.info: What about the other way? Has the fact you are a businessman given you an advantage in sailing?
Patrizio Bertelli: Certainly. Being a businessman teaches you to value situations in a more thoughtful way, even if it’s instinctive. You can be instinctive but rational as well. Instinct isn’t always irrational. Very often your instinct is just the sum of many rational moments in your life. You accumulate so much experience that at some stage it manifests itself in a seemingly instinctive way. It’s not that you are instinctive; you manifest yourself in an instinctive way. In reality it’s the sum of so many things put together. For me, very often the word “instinctive” is wrong. It seems as if there’s there is always emptiness behind it. On the contrary, it can very often be full.
A very happy Patrizio Bertelli shows journalists every single detail of the brand new Luna Rossa AC72 yacht. Auckland, 26 October 2012. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / VSail.info
VSail.info: I assume that the Prada group sponsors a sailing team because you are passionate about sailing. Could Prada become a sponsor in another sport? Could the brand Pranda be associated with another sport?
Patrizio Bertelli: We, the Prada group, carry out projects where we are directly involved. Another example is the Prada Foundation where my wife and I are directly involved. In the America’s Cup, I’m the only one involved, probably my sons as well in the future. Basically, we don’t sponsor anything where we aren’t within the operation. That’s our main difference from other groups. We are sponsors but we are the ones that manage all aspects of the project.
VSail.info: Has the America’s Cup been positive for the Prada group? Do you think that sponsors see a return on their investment?
Patrizio Bertelli: For Prada definitely yes, because it is now intrinsically linked with Luna Rossa. We are not a generic sponsor but a sponsor that created the conditions that led to the birth of the Luna Rossa myth.
VSail.info: Do you think the America’s Cup should or could be a commercial event, an event that would allow teams to exist purely on sponsorship money?
Patrizio Bertelli: Sponsors will put money once they see there is public attendance and general interest. It’s very difficult for a sponsor to spend money before seeing what is going on. It’s very probable that after this America’s Cup we see an increase in the interest from sponsors. I think that the issue over monohulls or multihulls is a secondary problem. The main problem is to make rules so that the boats used in the world circuit are closer to the ones used in the America’s Cup. I find the idea of a circuit very interesting, both the one organized by Bertarelli as well as the current one.
VSail.info: Would you have been in favor of racing the America’s Cup in the current AC45 yachts instead of the spectacular but enormous AC72′s?
Patrizio Bertelli: I personally think that probably it would have been better to do the America’s Cup on the AC45′s. We could have raced the circuit with strictly equal AC45 yachts and then establish a constraining rule that would give each team some liberty to design their yacht according to their own criteria.
VSail.info: What do you think of the new catamarans used now in the America’s Cup? If it were totally up to you would you have continued with the boats used in Valencia in 2007?
Patrizio Bertelli: No, those ones aren’t suitable either. We need to have boats able to attract more teams, not only in terms of numbers but of age as well, younger ones. In order to attract more teams we also have to lower costs. We need to find a way so that one can run a competitive America’s Cup campaign with a budget of 50 million euros.
VSail.info: What budget does Luna Rossa have?
Patrizio Bertelli: It’s 45 million euros. It’s a short campaign and we only build one boat.
VSail.info: Don’t you think you take too much risk with just one boat?
Patrizio Bertelli: With these new catamarans I have to admit I don’t know. It might or it might not be a risk. The rules allow us to change many pieces of the catamarans. We can change the wing, the foils as well as the hulls. As a result, I think we will be able to create many configurations of the boat. In addition, having seen their complexity, launching two yachts on the water would require too many people. You definitely need a very big team to manage two yachts and the biggest part of such a team would be the shore crew. I think that we, together with the New Zealanders, did the best choice. They are building a second boat but just one boat will be on the water at any given time. They will not have two complete boats but one and a half. In addition, their yacht will remain ashore from December 15th to January 30th and they will change a number of parts in order to achieve a different configuration.
VSail.info: Your team is in New Zealand while your other two competitors, Artemis Racing and Oracle Team are in San Francisco, home of the America’s Cup. Do you see this as a disadvantage?
Patrizio Bertelli: In what regards Artemis we are not in a disadvantage since they haven’t sailed their yacht yet. As far as Oracle is concerned, they surely have an advantage since they have been training there since a couple of years. They know the race area, the currents, the winds and all that is very useful.
VSail.info: You will also have to move over there. Do you think that could be problematic?
Patrizio Bertelli: No, we’ll put everything on a cargo ship and take it. The boat and the wing will have to be transported in one piece each, the rest in containers.
VSail.info: Do you think San Francisco will be a good venue?
Patrizio Bertelli: As far as the scenery is concerned, I think so. We still have to see the weather conditions. I don’t know what July and August look like. Everybody is telling me it’s cold and humid with fog. I don’t know yet. We will see once we are there. The city itself is very beautiful, spectacular with the bay, the Golden Gate bridge and all the remaining sights.