© Ivo Rovira / America's Cup
The young guns of Luna Rossa are seriously impressing
It’s becoming a very good habit. Luna Rossa had another sublime afternoon out on the Bay of Cagliari charging around in perfect conditions, making the most of a brief breeze that topped out at 16-17 knots before fading and all the while collecting gold-dust data as the A/B testing on the switched foils continued over short courses at a blistering canter.
The Italians simply look tantalising every time they go on the water. The skill level is so high, and it is a bar they just keep on pushing higher and higher on a daily basis. Talent oozes all around the team and there’s a healthy mix of battle-hardened experience and wide-eyed enthusiasm from the new generation that they are ushering through to the pinnacle of sailing at pace. Real strength in depth is emerging.
Out on the Bay, initial take-off was assured with minimal fuss, low traveller adjustment, minute mainsheet tweaks and total confidence all round. Today the Italians opted to go six-up when the breeze came on, rotating in crew as the programme advances and the desire to maximise potential is realised.
Six-up in breeze gives massive power to the LEQ12 and the helms had delicious windward heel, flat bear-aways and added horsepower. They chopped and changed though, rifling through the sail inventory from the J1 jib down to the J4 and looked comfortable on them all – tacks and gybes were slick although the concentration seemed to be on added straight-lining as only 20 manoeuvres were recorded, but these were quality moves at 100% either foil-to-foil or very brief touch and go’s. Awesome. This team has the LEQ12 so licked that there’s perhaps a comfort zone emerging? The sailors keep pushing though, and mixed it up with some time-on-distance runs using the leeward gate but it was a workmanlike performance all round and another banker in the programme.
The young guns of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli are seriously impressing. Ruggero Tita and Marco Gradoni are the coming superstars not just of Italian sailing, but the America’s Cup itself and it will be fascinating to see how they progress through AC37 in Barcelona. Untouchable for nearly three years in the Olympic foiling Nacra 17 class, a gold medallist at the Tokyo Games of 2020 (held in 2021), Ruggero Tita is set to be one of the stars of the future in the America’s Cup. For sure, he will have a big say in AC37 and is combining an Olympic campaign to Paris 2024 with the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli America’s Cup campaign. Speaking about the day today he gave a superb interview the day after his 31st birthday, saying: “Yeah it was really nice. I mean the sea breeze today was very strong up to 16-17 knots and we managed to sail pretty well and also the water was flat but with some swell underneath so kind of tricky. We did many jib changes and then the wind dropped so we had to give up.”
Comparing the Olympic Nacra 17 dinghy with the super-fast LEQ12 of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, ‘Ruggi’ as he’s known in the team gave a great insight, saying: “I think the biggest difference is that in the LEQ12 or the big boats you are all the way covered inside the cockpit and the feeling of the speed of the boat is much less. On the Nacra you are on the trapeze only staying attached to the boat with the foot-straps so you have much more the feeling of the speed even if you are going half of the speed or even less. So yeah, that's the biggest difference but in general I think the managing of the foil, the ride height, and the trimming of the sails, the traveller, it's very similar and there are a lot of things that we learn on the Nacra that we can bring here and vice versa, some things that we will learn here we can transfer to the Nacra.”
‘Ruggi’ is off to test himself at the Princess Sofia regatta, the traditional Olympic classes season opener that starts in Palma, Mallorca, next week and it’s this vitality of combining dinghy foiling with big boat foiling that is very much becoming a common theme across the very best sailors in this America’s Cup cycle.
Youth is shining and the Italians have some superstars in (and on) the wings.