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Alinghi Red Bull Racing launches new Swiss-centric challenge for 37th America’s Cup
'Swiss-made' sailing team is headquartered in Écublens near Lausanne
Swiss billionaire and high-performance sailing fanatic Ernesto Bertarelli is back in the America’s Cup after a hiatus of 11 years.
Previously, representing the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), Bertarelli’s Alinghi sailing team won the 31st and 32nd editions of the America’s Cup against Emirates Team New Zealand (sailing for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron).
However, following a prolonged legal dispute, in 2010 a Deed of Gift match raced in giant multihulls in Valencia, Spain saw Alinghi lose to the US Golden Gate Yacht Club’s BMW Oracle Racing.
Despite widespread media coverage in recent weeks Alinghi have been tight lipped on rumours that they had teamed up with the SNG once again for a tilt at AC37 – scheduled to take place in 2024 at a yet unannounced venue in AC75 foiling monohull yachts.
Today, at a press conference in Geneva, SNG commodore Pierre Giraud and vice commodore Axel Meyer formerly announced the club’s fourth America’s Cup challenge, before inviting Bertarelli on to the stage to reveal ‘Alinghi Red Bull Racing’ the result of a new partnership with Austrian sports drink manufacturer and sports team owner Red Bull.
Clearly delighted to be making a return to sailing’s oldest and most prestigious competition Bertarelli said that winning the America’s Cup is an ‘unforgettable experience’ and that he had been ‘considering a return for a long time’.
“We were the first team to win the America’s Cup at our first attempt, and the first team to bring the Cup to Europe. I think we did a pretty good job of staging a great regatta [in Valencia] with 11 challengers.
“After 11 years we are back – but we never quite left,” he said. “When we stopped the America’s Cup, we didn’t stop racing. We have been sailing fast foiling boats and with a new generation of sailor – Swiss born.
“The click for me was the incredible potential of AC75 in relation to the pure science of match racing,” Bertarelli confessed.
“While keeping the winning spirit that has always animated Alinghi, we want for this challenge to do something totally different, totally new, totally fresh,” said Alinghi founder Ernesto Bertarelli.
Joining Bertarelli on the platform was Austrian double Olympic gold medallist Hans-Peter Steinacher co-skipper of the Red Bull Racing GC32 crew which narrowly defeated Alinghi to win the GC32 World Championship in Sardinia earlier this year.
Bertarelli said Steinacher – who along with fellow Austrian GC32 co-skipper Roman Hagara won Gold in the Tornado catamaran class at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games – would play a key role in the Swiss challenge for the 37th America’s Cup.
Bertarelli revealed that he and Steinacher had been in discussions for quite a while with Dietrich Mateschitz – the Austrian billionaire businessman who owns 49 per cent of Red Bull – about a joint America’s Cup challenge.
“We have shared values,” he said. “Performance, technology, and a focus on supporting youth. “Red Bull will bring wings to our sailing team.”
Much has been made in recent weeks of the announcement by the British Challenger of Record – Sir Ben Ainslie’s Ineos Britannia – of a close partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team.
It was no real surprise then to see Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team boss Christian Horner join the press conference via video link – just days after the team’s fifth world championship victory in Abu Dhabi, which came at the expense of Mercedes-AMG Petronas.
In a voice still hoarse from the celebrations in Abu Dhabi Horner said he believed there was there was plenty of synergy between Formula 1 racing and the America’s Cup.
“We are going to take the F1 DNA and use it within the boat,” Horner enthused. “Perhaps the rivalry [with Mercedes] will spill over from the track.”
Also introduced as Alinghi America’s Cup campaigners were GC32 skipper Arnaud Psarofaghis and sail trimmer Bryan Mettraux – both Swiss – as well as Kiwi Brad Butterworth – a key member of Alinghi during the three previous America’s Cup victories – head of tech operations Silvio Arrivabene, and co-general manager Pierre-Yves Jorand – also both Swiss.
“I have been with Alinghi for 20 years now and getting into this new challenge with Red Bull is very exciting,” commented Butterworth, a four-time winner of the America’s Cup. “The America’s Cup is a technology race which is won on the water with race strategy and tactics. Red Bull has demonstrated that time and time again in F1 and in many of the other sports it competes in.”
Jorand, meanwhile, took the opportunity to end speculation that Alinghi might chance its arm with a challenge under the ‘emerging nation’ category specified in the Protocol for the 37th America’s Cup – opening a loophole that would enable the team to hire AC75-experienced sailors from other nations.
Instead, the plan is for the sailing team to be based on a 100 per cent Swiss approach – Jorand suggested.
“When you have won the Cup twice and you are mounting your fourth challenge, then I don’t think you can claim to be an emerging nation,” he said with a smile.
“We have plenty of talented young [Swiss] sailors. They were born on foiling boats like the Moth. They focus on numbers instead of tell tales – and those are the skills you need to take on a foiling America’s Cup monohull.”
In conjunction with the America’s Cup, Alinghi Red Bull Racing will also field teams in the debut of the Women’s America’s Cup Regatta, as well as in the return of the Youth America’s Cup.
“Growing the sport and its sailors has always been an important focus for both Red Bull and Alinghi. So Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s commitment to these regattas is strong, and I think it’s going to be inspiring to see these talents in action,” said Steinacher.
Grant Dalton CEO of America’s Cup Event and Defender Emirates Team New Zealand said he was happy to welcome back a team with the heritage and success of Alinghi to the America’s Cup.”
“It is fantastic for the 37th America’s Cup event which combines history with technology and pushing the boundaries of innovation,” Dalton said.
“However, now with the best of Swiss sailing, partnered with one of the most recognisable brands in the world of extreme sport and the power of Red Bull Advanced technologies, this well and truly highlights the significance of Alinghi Red Bull Racing as a Challenger.
“I think I can speak on behalf of all AC37 teams both existing and new in saying, we very much welcome the competition.”
Closing the press conference, Bertarelli revealed he had no plans to race aboard the Swiss AC75 but did expect to join the crew during training sessions.
The next milestone moment for Alinghi Red Bull Racing, he said, would likely be an event held early next year at the Red Bull Racing F1 team facility in the UK, designed ‘to showcase the team’s joint capabilities’.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing will headquarter its operations near Lausanne, in Écublens, Switzerland, where the hull will be built according to the requirement of the Deed of Gift, the ancient governing document of the America's Cup.
A core crew led by Alinghi's GC32 sailors Psarofaghis and Mettraux will begin training during the winter period.