Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: construction, maintenance and repair © Carlo Borlenghi
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: construction, maintenance and repair
In an America's Cup team, each person, and each department, plays a crucial role in the success of the campaign: the work of the individual, although far from the spotlight, has impacts the entire Cup campaign, and is interconnected to that of the others. The shore team, for example, is the beating heart of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, as boat captain Michele Cannoni, in charge of this department, explains. A professional sailor with over 20 years of experience in international regattas and two America’s Cup campaigns (Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli 2007 and 2021) under his belt, Cannoni coordinates the 35 people who make up the "shore team", that carries out all the modifications suggested by the sailors or designers and any repairs required at the end of a training session or a race.
The production of the prototype - designed and built at the Cagliari base - required a huge effort from the shore crew, as they set up the full infrastructure and equipment to make it possible. «In the sheds normally used to step, launch and carry out maintenance, we built two parallel ovens to laminate hull and deck», explains Cannoni. «To do this we started from scratch: we levelled the ground, built the supporting structure with adequate insulation and designed and built the humidification and heating systems to 'cook' the boat». These spaces, moreover, were designed to be "modular", considering that they were then used for painting, therefore also equipped with effective extraction and ventilation systems, «necessary to paint a complex custom design like the one chosen for the prototype. The team did an extraordinary job», he continues.
If Julien Meunier is the construction manager, the lamination 'wizard', Cannoni is the one who sets the timing, coordinating the 10 specialized areas and ensuring that there are no overlaps during the various steps. «During the construction of the ovens we worked 'normal' hours; as soon as we started the lamination, however, the boat builders (12 people) followed an independent schedule, working up to 12 hours a day (always daytime). While the boat was being painted (about 10 working days), we also had to finish the interior installation, so we had the mechatronics department working during the day and the painters working the night shift».
Together with Giuseppe Acquafredda and Shannon Falcone, Michele also manages the critical moment of launching the boat, an operation that takes place almost daily but which requires special attention, especially during the 'stepping' (when the mast is mounted on deck). «The mast is hooked to a crane and put in a precise position under which the boat (rolled out on a trolley) will be pushed», he explains. «The rotating mast stands on a kind of ball, but as it has a very pronounced rake (inclination towards the stern), it is crucial that it is perfectly positioned; immediately afterwards the forestay and the shrouds are fitted and the rigged boat is transported to the dock. At that point - a bit like an aircraft before take-off - the mechatronics department comes into play and checks on all the systems (flaps, rigging, foils, etc.): immediately after the sailors step in for the final check before starting the session at sea». From the moment the tent is opened - weather permitting - to the moment the boat goes into the dock it takes 27 minutes, but before it leaves the dock two and a half hours will have elapsed.
Managing 35 people with different personalities and needs is not easy, nor is establishing and sticking to the timeline of operations, but Cannoni can rely on his long and multifaceted experience. «Having been a professional sailor for over 20 years helps me to understand both the dynamics of a boat and the needs of the sailors and the shore team, so I believe I can help set the right pace for various departments working on the same goal». The shore team is certainly the most 'stressed' department in terms of working hours and shifts, but it has its rewards. «It's a beautiful job, but not an easy one», Cannoni admits; «you have little time for 'normal' life, but when you toast a victory, that repays you for everything. You have to have passion and a strong motivation: mine is to win the America's Cup».