Azzurra take to the high seas

Yacht Club Costa Smeralda team out on the water off Valencia

Friday October 16th 2009, Author: Jill Campbell, Location: United Kingdom
In preparation for the Louis Vuitton Trophy, due to take place in Nice over 7-22 November, the members of team Azzurra have been undertaking practice sessions in the waters off Valencia. The Italian team, born of the partnership between Giovanni Maspero and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, arrived in Valencia on 12 October and will spend one week honing their skills in round-the-cans racing. Led by skipper and helmsman Francesco Bruni and with Tommaso Chieffi calling tactics, the team is racing aboard SWE63, the boat used by Victory Challenge in the 32nd America’s Cup.

Over the past few days the team has been getting to know the V5 AC boat, similar to those being provided by the organisation for racing in the Nice event. During training their have enjoyed thermal breeze of 10-14 knots accompanied by sunshine and blue skies. In the second half of the week Azzurra took part in match-race regattas with the French team K-Challenge with Sebastien Col and Jochen Schuemann aboard.

Azzurra takes its name from the first Italian challenger for the America’s Cup which was launched by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in 1983 and captured the attention of the nation. Azzurra finished third in the challenger series of regattas in Newport, USA and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda was asked to act as Challenger of Record for the 1987 America’s Cup held in Fremantle, Australia. The legacy of Azzurra is one which brings with it a great responsibility but which the new team, composed of a mixture of highly experienced sailors and dedicated young Italian talents, is proud to face.

“It is a pleasure to see the name Azzurra on the water again after a quarter of a century.” commented veteran America’s Cup sailor, Chieffi. “Representing such an important name in international regattas is both an honour and an undertaking. From the sporting point of view the basis is there. Giovanni Maspero has put together a group young sailors who are capable and motivated.”

Bruni added: “We are enthusiastic about this new adventure and happy to have the chance to train intensely before the regattas in Nice. Being the skipper of a team that bears the name Azzurra brings me great joy and responsibility. I grew up with the legend of Azzurra and so this is a real honour for me. Training is going really well with the crew, being able to speak Italian on an America’s Cup boat is a great novelty!”

Team manager Alessandra Sensini, ISAF World sailor of the year in 2008 and the only woman to have won four olympic medals in sailing, is with the crew in Valencia. “Training is going well, the breeze has allowed us to get the most out of the time on the water," she said. "The group is close and we are calm, yet concentrated and determined. A lot of the crew competed in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in Auckland in February and thanks to this experience they have been coordinated since day one here in Valencia.”

Riccardo Bonadeo, Commodore of the YCCS and President of the current Azzurra consortium was also at the head of the Azzurra challenge in 1983. “Seeing this young team carry forward the name Azzurra with such enthusiasm and determination is thrilling. We have great faith in the group and are looking forward to seeing them compete in Nice.”

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