Friday, 5 February 2010

America's Cup: Profile of Matteo Plazzi (ITA), BMW ORACLE Racing

Matteo Plazzi. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW ORACLE Racing.

by Peter Rusch

After leaving his university degree half way through, navigator Matteo Plazzi (ITA) has enjoyed a sailing career that has moved from strength to strength. His first Cup experience came in 1987 with Italy's Azzurra Challenge and he's never looked back:

"I started as a kid with small dinghies and then when I was about 18 or 19 I started sailing IOR boats and spent more and more time on the water I haven't really stopped since," Plazzi says. "When I was starting my degree at University at the same time I was doing a lot of sailing and I had to make a decision. That was when I said to my family, 'thanks, but I am going to try and live from sailing' and that's really when I started."

Highlights of his career to date have been the America's Cup with Prada/Luna Rossa (three times) and before that the around the world race with Winston in 93-94. He won the Admirals Cup with Brava along with three One Ton Cups.

On the USA, he is the navigator, working with tactician John Kostecki (USA) and skipper and helmsman Jimmy Spithill (AUS).

"As navigator I am trying to give information to the tactician and helmsman - real information, facts for the discussion - so that they can make decisions. I use instruments and computers and use the numbers to help the other guys."

The amount of information at his fingertips is astounding, as the technology on board continues to get more impressive.

"I think technology is changing the work of the navigator as the computers get more powerful," he explains. "On this boat especially, we have so many more sensors that we use to monitor stress and performance, (for example). The technology that we are using today is much higher than what we've used in the past."

Another difference, of course, is simply the nature of the beast itself. USA is a speed machine, especially compared to the old ACC boats.

"The sensation is quite different," Plazzi says. "Three or four times faster than an ACC. In choppy conditions, the movements are very sharp and the boat is vibrating quite a lot. Everything happens quite fast. But when you are flying on one hull in flat water, it is amazing how quiet the boat is.

"It's always exciting being on the boat and sometimes scary. We're trying to push but always stay in control, but we've been pushing harder and harder to find the limit and that's something we have to do."

Racing is now just days away. How does he feel about that?

"The race with Alinghi will be fun," he says. "The entry at the pre-start, for the first race will be very exciting. We don't know what will happen and we'll have to decide what to do in that moment. It will be great."


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