Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Yachting: Luna Rossa mean business on return to Auckland

Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand will train and race each other on AC45 catamarans. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand will train and race each other on AC45 catamarans. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Luna Rossa are back in Auckland and ready for a year of testing and training alongside Emirates Team New Zealand.

But while Max Sirena, the skipper of the Italian America's Cup syndicate, admitted today to becoming emotional on arrival last week, he said there would be no room for sentimentality on the water.

The groundbreaking testing and knowledge-sharing partnership between the Prada-backed Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand was announced in November last year and involves a pooling of resources ahead of next year's America's Cup in San Francisco.

Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand will train and race each other on AC45 catamarans - the Italians put theirs on the Waitemata Harbour for the first time today - before moving to the larger AC72 double-hulled boats which will be raced in the America's Cup.

While the AC72s are being built the teams will also race and train on SL33 prototypes.

Sirena and Co were well supported by Kiwis in the 2000 America's Cup in Auckland - winning the Louis Vuitton Cup against AmericaOne before succumbing 5-0 to Team New Zealand - and the skipper said it was an "honour'' to be back.

"Auckland gave us a lot of emotion in the past years and for me personally I almost cried when I landed,'' he said. "Coming to mind were all the memories of the year we spent here in New Zealand so we are pretty happy. We have a lot of friends here and we really enjoy this place.''

Team New Zealand lead the AC45 world series, the series of match racing regattas leading up the America's Cup, which might vindicate the decision to jump into bed with the Kiwis, but Sirena said there was no way the Italians would be getting overly cosy.

"It's part of the sport. There is give and take. Now we are pretty good friends but in a year's time we will be opponents on the water but that is part of the sport and I don't see it as a problem, actually. After sailing we can go for a beer but as soon as we jump in the boat, everything is going to be completely different. We are friends for many years. I know most of the guys for almost 20 years but when we jump in the water there is no more friendship.

"There is going to be a big fight from now on until the end of the Cup so we want to be ready for that.''

He said training with Team New Zealand would "be a big advantage for us, but it's going to be a big advantage for them too because obviously there is a huge difference when you are training on your own or if you a sailing against another team. Even mentally it's a different way to approach the training or the racing so for us it's obviously a good thing because they're leading the AC45 series so far so for us we have to be like a sponge and absorb as much as possible off them''.

Perhaps not surprisingly, America's Cup holders Oracle were less enamoured with the partnership, the first formal collaboration between two teams in 160 years of racing, but it has been given the green light by the international jury.

- APNZ

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