AC34: Sailing Team Coordinator for Luna Rossa, interview with Steve Erickson

Michelle Slade’s April 13th interview with Steve Erickson for SailBlast gave us some insight into the new Prada/Luna Rossa effort. You’ll understand better how the two Luna Rossa boats performed at such a high level literally out of the box (container). There is also some tidbits on the cooperation with Team New Zealand – I would love to know how much Bertelli put on the table to close the deal with TNZ! Here’s an excerpt:

(…) Let’s talk about Luna Rossa’s performance over the past few days here?
SE: The first day for us was survival – it was real rough and real windy and we really didn’t want to capsize like Artemis and be up all night fixing stuff for not really a lot of points for the overall event. If you look into how the event works, you really have to be on your game come Saturday/Sunday. It was the roughest day we’ve been in the 45s and not that we took it easy but the guys did a nice job of just getting the boats around the course with the wing still in the air.

You did a lot better today?
SE: We did – today was a really nice day of sailing. When we came to Naples and the time we spent an hour north of here, that was the kind of conditions that we’ve been sailing in – just a nice 10-knots in relatively flat water – kind of what you expected when you come here. It’s spring time so it can be anything and there’s more coming so there’ll be some excitement this weekend.

How’s your crew development coming along?
SE: It’s the second day of our first event – the wing is new for everyone, the boat is a little bigger than the Extreme 40s, the experience is pretty balanced between the two boats with crew coming from the 40s, and half the team coming from the version 5 or some other form of monohull sailing so they’re getting up to speed with catamaran sailing. I think it’s going just fine considering just a few months ago a few of those guys hadn’t never been cat sailing. At the end of the day you get the good start, you play the shifts and you go fast and it’s a yacht race.

Are the boys getting used to the physical demands of the 45?
SE: I think the real work is getting the A sails up and down physically. That’s a big job for two people and it happens quickly. Yesterday on a few of the runs the boats didn’t even bother putting the kites up – farther into the race the positions were so defined as they were – the boats are pretty powered up just with the wing so you’re not going to double speed just because you have the A sail up. We just wanted to get through the day with the result that they were getting and be happy with that.

How’s the course in Naples?
SE: It’s my first event and the races almost seem a little long – 35 minute races. It was almost surprising as to how long the beats are but that said, it’s cool that they put the gate right down at the leeward wall – I would bet it’s within 75 yards of the wall – it’d be crazy to be down there at that railing looking down at the boats coming crashing into the gates – it’s pretty neat.

How did the training with Emirates Team NZ go?
SE: It went well – I pinch myself a little bit and use the analogy of the New York Yankees – to be let into an institution like Team NZ when I’ve been on the outside for 20 years – pretty interesting, there’s smart, hard-working people, people who’ve been at it a long time, and a lot of continuity. Grant (Dalton) has kept a real neat institution there. He’s a tough guy but I have a lot of respect for him. The guys who are good at what they do are very good. You find a lot of teams – including Luna Rossa – you spend quite a bit of time of the campaign getting to where you can just work together, speaking the language, using the same computer software, creating the same sailing techniques – that’s why Coutts and his merry men were such a force back in the 80s in match racing – they’ve sailed together for 25 years. People who put teams together and try to overcome a group like that…you’re always going to be coming up against those relationships that you can’t put together over night.

(…)

Seems the locals are really getting into the Naples event?
SE: It’s crazy! You look at the sea wall – it’s basically a 4-lane road which is what I’m kind of looking out at and if I glance up and down there’s about 300 hundred people just looking at the boats moored, just hanging out (7pm-ish local time). They’re into Prada they’re definitely into Luna Rossa, they’re definitely into sailing and there’s something about the America’s Cup. It’s been a part of Italy for quite sometime. And, the event is pretty cool – I’ll say that about it. It’s hard not to miss it. It’s literally physically taking up a big area of a very prominent nice waterfront – even if you wandered anywhere within a mile from here you’d be affected by parking and people and the chatter.

(…)

How’s your 72 build coming along?
SE: Hulls are getting close to being finished – perhaps another month. Then they’ll be shipped to New Zealand May/June to be assembled. It’s coming together – probably three months out. The idea is that we’ll sail it for the first time there. Our team’s energy has really been focused on getting through this regatta and Venice.

Read the whole thing »

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