The America’s Cup gets underway. “I envy those aboard these extraordinary yachts.” says Tiziano Nava
Interview with the champion from Laveno, who was part of the Azzurra and Moro di Venezia teams, on the eve of this year’s Cup. "I dream of victory for Luna Rossa; it would be a great boost for the whole of Italy."
If you developed a passion for sailing during Italy’s participation in previous America’s Cups, forget the images of Azzurra, Moro di Venezia, and more recently Luna Rossa of past years. These yachts were undoubtedly wonderful and historic, but profoundly different from those that, this January, will be competing in the world’s oldest yacht race, in the Bay of Auckland.
The yachts (there are 4, the defender and three challengers) competing in New Zealand, literally fly above the level of the sea, travelling at incredible speeds (even at 100 km/h) and creating unusual and amazing sights. This magic is made possible by the two moveable foils, which are connected to the hull by two special arms. This way of sailing has also profoundly changed a number of other classic sailing aspects, starting with the roles of the crew and their positions. We talked about this with Tiziano Nava, who was born in Laveno, in 1958, who now teaches sailing on Lake Maggiore, but in the past, had many adventures in the America’s Cup, starting with two aboard Azzurra (as the tactician) in 1983 and 1987, and aboard Moro di Venezia, which competed in a world championship in its category.
Tiziano, to start with, how does it feel to see the boats involved in this year’s America’s Cup?
“First of all, I can’t hide the fact that I’m a little envious of those on board. It would be nice to take the helm of one of these boats, even just for a few minutes, to understand what it’s like to be on a boat like these. I’m also very curious about how the boats will behave in one-on-one races. It is one thing trying to set a speed record on the open sea, but quite another challenging an opponent, reacting to their moves, creating your own tactics and steering these “missiles” as best you can in tight spaces. I really don’t think it’s an easy thing to do.”
Tiziano Nava poses in front of the America’s Cup
Do you think there might also be a greater risk of collisions between the boats because of their speed?
“I think so: the boats are going at 90 km/h or more, so I think there’s a bit more risk than with traditional boats. More than anything else, the time for decision-making is very tight; if you get the ‘maths’ wrong when you’re manoeuvring, there’s a chance of colliding. But in the preparation races so far, there has only been one case, albeit minor, of this kind.”
While browsing the website of Luna Rossa, it’s impressive to see the photos of the sailors wearing the gear, with their helmets under their arms. It’s a typical pose of racing drivers.
“Another analogy is the presence of a sort of cockpit, where the men on board are located; that space is somewhat reminiscent of a four-men bobsleigh. There are really lots of innovations, and we’ll see others, because this type of boat has only been used for a very short time, two or three years, so different solutions have been adopted by the various crews. Luna Rossa, for example, has two helmsmen, one for each side, namely Bruni and Spithill; the other boats have one, who moves from one side to the other. New Zealand, for example, has the helmsman passing in front of the mast, unlike the others. And then the positions of the men have also changed: of the eleven, no fewer than eight are in charge of operating the handles to control the hydraulic system that moves the arms of the foils. Of these, six do only this task.”
Photo by Stefano Gattini / Luna Rossa Challenge
Let’s talk about the purely sporting part; what expectations do you have for “our” Red Moon?
“I continue to dream of winning the America’s Cup. I’m well aware that this is a very difficult challenge, because the four teams in Auckland represent the best in the world in terms of sailors, projects and sailing technology. So all are very strong: both the English and Americans participating with Luna Rossa in the challenger race (the ‘Prada Cup’, which was once known as the ‘Louis Vuitton Cup’, ed.), and of course the New Zealand defenders. In fact, the New Zealanders have so far looked to be the strongest.”
But we mustn’t stop hoping for an Italian success.
“That’s right; also because, just think how great it would be to bring the Cup home, considering the terrible times we’ve been through. A victory in the America’s Cup would give a great boost to the entire Italian boat sector, and to all sectors connected to the sea. For this reason too, let’s hope that, for the first time, Luna Rossa and Italy win the trophy.”
Translated by Adriana Bocse, Sara Guarneri and Elisabetta Ciocca
Reviewed by Prof. Rolf Cook