Sunday, 15 November 2009

LVT: It's not easy being Luigi

The PRO for the Louis Vuitton Trophy is up against some deep challenges

Principal Race Officer Peter "Luigi" Reggio (left) confers with Michele Ivaldi (right) of BMW Oracle Racing as helmsman Gavin Brady (center) looks on. Image copyright Bob Grieser/

by Chloe Daycard

Peter Reggio is an ISAF-certified race officer. He’s conducted races for the America’s Cup, Louis Vuitton Cup and Olympics, as well as a host of one-design and rating classes.

“Luigi” is well known for being communicative and amenable to the competitors’ wishes. But his humour and patience are being put to the test at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d’Azur.

“It’s a challenging venue, for sure,” said Reggio, who recently turned 60. “The wind is an issue, but nobody can control that. What we can control is the course and the way we set things.”

Even the things under his control are a little out of hand. Reggio has to contend with the extreme depths of the Mediterranean Sea when setting the racecourse. The northerly winds of the morning mean he has to be farther offshore to set the starting line. The farther offshore, the deeper the water.

“The depths are 270 metres along the shore,” Reggio said. “But we’ve got a couple of buoys set in depths between 680 and 720 metres. Not feet, metres.”

Those are depths between 2,230 and 2,360 feet. Anchors reportedly take 20 minutes to reach the sea floor. That’s one reason why Reggio isn’t anchoring his committee boat. It simply takes too long for the anchor to reach the bottom. Another reason is the amount of line required. He would swing through too wide an arc.

The windward mark and right-hand leeward gate mark (looking downwind) are set with drogues and typically dropped just before the yachts reach the marks. If a course change is required, a mark boat flies the “M” flag, signalling missing mark and places the mark in the boat.

“The pin is ‘set’ but we’ve seen it move in varying breezes and directions upwards of 280 metres,” Reggio said. “One day the buoy went upwind 185 metres. It’s got probably 950 metres (3,116 feet) of line in 720 meters of water.”

Principal Race Officer Peter "Luigi" Reggio watches ALL4ONE return to the start line after being OCS in its match against Synergy. Image copyright Paul Todd/

Reggio does his best to keep the committee boat in one spot, but it invariably drifts backwards a slight bit. Three crews were called OCS in Round 1, and at least one learned a lesson.

“Being called over early was tough for us,” said Synergy skipper Karol Jablonski of his match last Sunday against Emirates Team New Zealand. “The bowman was calling us up with 4 seconds to go. I have to trust my bowman (Bernard Labro), who’s got quote a bit of experience. On the other hand, it’s difficult to make judgements because the committee boat isn’t anchored. It’s difficult to judge the proper position, so you have to be more conservative.”

There are other stories from the racecourse of the leeward gate marks drifting, but Reggio said the competitors have remained largely quiet about issues like that.

“They know we’re doing the best we can,” said Reggio. “We know if things weren’t right they’d tell us.

“It’s not a right or wrong thing,” he continued. “They understand our problems as much as we do. They’re willing to work through it. It’s something that takes a good bit of understanding on their part to make it work, and it’s appreciated a lot.”

Louis Vuitton Trophy

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