Prada furore

First teddies thrown out in the America's Cup

Thursday October 3rd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
Fielding a slow boat in the America's Cup is tantamount to instant defeat so it comes as little surprise that following their disappointing form in the build-up to the Louis Vuitton series confirmed by their 42 second defeat on Tuesday at the hands of Larry Ellison's Oracle, heads have begun to roll within the Prada camp.

What is surprising is which heads.

On the first - and to date only - day of racing in this first round robin it was noted that the former Kiwi match racing skipper Gavin Brady was not on board. |n the Prada afterguard was skipper Francesco de Angelis, Torben Grael calling tactics, Michele Ivaldi on strategy and Matteo Plazzi navigating. Crucially the fifth man was not Brady, but America's Cup veteran Rod Davis, who steered for the start before passing the helm to de Angelis.

With Brady sidelined there followed much rumour and speculation about his future with the team. But this may simply have been a red herring. Prada have confirmed that Gavin Brady is indeed in the process of reviewing his contract, but then most America's Cup teams have talented 'names' who have not made the last 16 and Brady's situation is far from unique.

But the shock came earlier this morning when the Italian team issued a terse press release announcing the departure from their campaign of Doug Peterson, widely regarded as one of the top America's Cup designers:

"Effective from today Doug Peterson is no longer Design Director of Prada Challenge 2003 and no longer holds any operative role within the team."

Peterson has been on two out of the last three America's Cup winning syndicates - with Bill Koch's America3 in 1992 and then Team New Zealand in 1995. For the 2000 Cup he joined Prada and working alongside German and Mani Frers created Luna Rossa, which go the Prada team through to the America's Cup, where admittedly they were squarely despatched by Team New Zealand. "He has a bit of everything and is an unquestioned genius," reads Peterson's biography on the Prada website.

Prada's design team is a remarkable, international collection of 24 people from naval architects to structural designers to sail designers to mast designers to systems developers to fluid dynamistics to VPP specialists.

Aside from the now redundant Peterson the team includes Juan Kouyoumdjian, the Argentinian naval architect responsible for the controversial wingmasted IMS 50 Krazy K-Yote 2, and three Brits: architects David Allan-Williams and Ian Howlett, and Will Brooks who works on the structural side.

Patrizio Bertelli, CEO of Prada is holding a press conference tomorrow morning where more may be revealed. But with Peterson's departure it seems likely we can expect to hear the sound of chainsaws going late into the night down Syndicate Alley.

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