Saturday, 15 May 2010

LVT: Team Azzurra Prepares to Race on Home Ground

Azzurra '83 on Display at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport

Azzurra competing against Emirates Team New Zealand in Nice. Image copyright Stefano Gattini.

by Jane Campbell

The countdown is on with just over a week to go until the start of racing in the third event of the Louis Vuitton Trophy, scheduled to be held in La Maddalena, Sardinia from 22nd May to 6th June. The crew of Azzurra, flying the burgee of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, have spent the past weeks training (in Valencia on America’s Cup boats) and competing in regattas (Olympic classes, match-race and one-design) and are now preparing to return to Porto Cervo. The YCCS Clubhouse which will be the team’s operational base during the La Maddalena event.

Team Azzurra, together with fans and spectators arriving in Sardinia, will be welcomed by the YCCS’s legendary International 12 Metre yacht Azzurra which has been completely restored to her original splendour and is now on display at the arrivals zone of Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport. Azzurra rose to fame when in 1983 she became the first Italian participant in the America’s Cup, reaching the semi-finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Her restoration was entrusted to the Maxi Dolphin shipyard in 2009 and entailed nine months and 6,000 hours of work. The hull was completely recoated with an epoxy matrix. The surface was repainted to recreate the exact original colour scheme, thanks to a sample found in the archives of the Valliccelli offices.

In order to bring the deck to its original condition, the restoration team had to study in detail all the images and drawings of Azzurra at the time of her launch. The deck, which over time had suffered the effects of oxidation, had to be completely taken apart, anodized and polished; some elements, which had been lost, had to be meticulously recreated from scratch. Azzurra was recently exhibited at the Milan boat show before being brought to Olbia where she will remain throughout the summer season.

Azzurra '83 is installed at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport. Image copyright Alessandro Sorgia.

The Louis Vuitton Trophy – La Maddalena will begin on 18th May with official training sessions for the teams aboard the four America’s Cup Class boats provided by the organization: ITA 90, ITA 99, USA 87 e USA 98. The format of the event provides for an initial Round Robin where each team will meet each of their opponents in turn. The top eight teams will then progress to the next stage where the top classified teams will compete against those in the bottom half of the classification. The winning teams will then go on to race in the semi-finals and finals.

Ten of the strongest teams in the world, representing eight nations, will compete in the Louis Vuitton Trophy in La Maddalena and a further two renowned Italian teams will participate alongside Azzurra: Mascalzone Latino Audi team, Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup, and Luna Rossa. America’s Cup Defender BMW ORACLE Racing will also participate, as will Emirates Team New Zealand, winner of the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Auckland (March 2010) who were defeated, however, by Azzurra in the event held in Nice (November 2009).

Riccardo Bonadeo, Commodore of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and President of Azzurra, is pleased to see the team sailing in home waters: “These will undoubtedly be spectacular and highly technical regattas, not only due to the extraordinary level of the participating teams, but also thanks to one of the most challenging and striking regatta courses in the world. The presence of three teams flying the Italian flag is sure to attract a lot of interest from the general public, both nationally and internationally, and will boost tourism in the area. Sailing as a sport has a strong following in Italy and I hope these wonderful races and Azzurra’s undertakings will inspire a host of young sailors.”

Giovanni Maspero, Azzurra’s Team Principal adds: “The Louis Vuitton Trophy in La Maddalena represents another significant step which will strengthen the excellent work the team has done. We’ll be racing on home waters and this will certainly put extra pressure on the crew, our supporters have high expectations but it is important to remember that the level in this event will be the highest of the series, Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle are back in competition with their full crews and looking to perform well from the start. Azzurra, in addition to preparation carried out in Valencia, has a great crew in her favour as well as meticulous organization ashore which allows the athletes to take to the water feeling motivated and relaxed. Each event is an end unto itself, a clean sheet on which to write the next chapter of challenges that Azzurra will strive towards.”

The ten teams participating in the Louis Vuitton trophy in La Maddalena are:

Aleph, FRA, skipper Bertrand Pacé
All4One, FRA/GER, skipper Jochen Schumann
Artemis, SWE, skipper Paul Cayard
Azzurra, ITA, skipper Francesco Bruni
BMW ORACLE Racing, USA, skipper James Spithill
Emirates Team New Zealand, NZL, skipper Dean Barker
Luna Rossa, ITA, skipper Ed Baird
Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, ITA, skipper Gavin Brady
Synergy, RUS, skipper Karol Jablonski
TEAMORIGIN, GBR, skipper Ben Ainslie