Luna Rossa and the New Generation project, where tomorrow's champions are growing

Long considered an elite competition, reserved for a small circle of enthusiasts, for a long time the America's Cup has been ignored by the Italian public. The oldest sports competition in the world just could not make a breakthrough in the heart of a country that also had a long tradition in the maritime field.

To change history, after the first unsuccessful attempts made from 1983 to 1987 by the Azzurra and Italy teams - to whom we have to give credit for opening the way - was Il Moro di Venezia, the first Italian boat to win the Louis Vuitton Cup in 1992, thus earning the right to challenge the America's Cup champions. Despite a 4-1 defeat in the decisive regattas, Raul Gardini's creature, captained by the charismatic American skipper Paul Cayard, allowed the sailing world to be noticed for the first time by Italian sailing enthusiasts while at the same time launching a fundamental message: nothing is impossible, not even challenging the most renowned teams in the world.

A message that became topical again at the end of the 20th century, when in the waters of the Gulf of Hauraki, New Zealand, Luna Rossa managed to repeat the results previously achieved by Moro, triumphing in the Louis Vuitton Cup before falling in the final against Sir Peter Blake's Team New Zealand. If on the water the team set up by Patrizio Bertelli had only caressed the success, the echo that the 2000 feat had among Italian sports fans and the public was extraordinary. Who doesn't remember the long nights spent without sleep by millions of spectators in Italy following the races of the team helmed by Francesco De Angelis?

Max Sirena was part of that historic crew and today he is preparing in the role of team director and skipper to assault the 2021 America's Cup. Still in New Zealand, still on the hunt for Team New Zealand and, above all, still with Luna Rossa. For over twenty years Max has been chasing the dream of bringing the America's Cup to Italy for the first time, remembering the enthusiasm that suddenly exploded around his first undertaking and doing his best to keep it alive, with the awareness that the passion of a whole people can help make possible what at first sight seems impossible.

Living here, on the inside, you don't understand what Luna Rossa is on the outside. During the launch, with so many guests, so many boats outside and a crowd of onlookers filling the dock, I realized how important it is. It amazed me, because I remembered the enthusiasm of 2000, but we also know that in sport you easily forget and that twenty years have passed. And instead the passion of the Italians for Luna Rossa, a symbol of our country, has remained unchanged. So far this has been the most beautiful moment of my adventure here.

Speaking is Enrico Voltolini, one of the youngest members of the crew set up for 2021 by Team Prada. Enrico is part of the New Generation program, born from the desire to give continuity to the challenge and strengthen the bond with Italy by joining some of the most experienced and titled sailors in the world what can be called a "new generation". Young promises that can infect the entire team with their enthusiasm and, in turn, benefit from the advice of those who have been doing this job for years. The goal? To create a synergy capable of pushing the entire project towards victory in 2021, while at the same time laying the foundations for the campaigns of the future.

Luna Rossa New Generation: the future of the team

In the New Generation, it is possible to meet talents from the most diverse backgrounds, chosen to join the team only after long and careful selections. Voltolini, for example, firstly, was a promising swimmer, where he came to be among the top five in Italy at youth level. He began to dedicate more time to sailing, which he has always been passionate about, with the transfer for study purposes to La Spezia. Lodigiano, born in 1986, discovered that he was particularly successful in the Olympic classes, to the point of attracting the interest of Max Sirena, who advised him to try sailing with Luna Rossa in 2011. Having made other commitments, Enrico is forced to give up what could be the opportunity of a lifetime, which fortunately presents itself again in 2017. He does it at the hands of Pietro Sibello, one of the best Italian sailors and responsible for the project that Prada has reserved for the young recruits: this time it is impossible to say no.
In my group there were about twenty candidates and, at the end of a week of exercises, we were selected in two, me and Davide Cannata. A few weeks later we met again in Cagliari to practice with the TP52: only we were selected and the "old" of the team were present, we started working on the development of the new boat and the training sessions. I was now a full member of the Luna Rossa team.

Remembering the same days, there was also another of the young promises that are now part of training the New Generation, the Ravenna-based Umberto Molineris. Born in 1990, he achieved great results in 49er with his fellow-citizen Jacopo Plazzi, with whom first he reached the world top 10 and then joined the Luna Rossa project dedicated to the champions of tomorrow.

The selections to become part of New Generation allowed me to meet again many guys with whom I was used to racing with in Olympic classes. Luna Rossa was looking for athletes with a great physical performance, a fundamental talent to pass the first tests on the grinder machine. Subsequently, we were also put to the test in the water, a situation where I was able to demonstrate not only my physical qualities but also my ability at sea, on a boat. The selection lasted several months, until I received the communication that I had been chosen.

While it's true that in sport, in any discipline, experience can be a determining factor when the going gets tough, it's also true that these guys, who have never taken part in an America's Cup campaign, can balance their lack of experience with many other qualities. For example, familiarity with new technologies, increasingly important from edition to edition, or those physical and mental abilities - recovery, adaptation - that can help the crew in a decisive way. The New Generation also acts as a stimulus for the more experienced, who, on the other hand, have proved themselves good at sharing some tricks of the trade and beyond with newcomers.

In times of stress, which will certainly become more frequent as the 2021 appointment approaches, the experience of those who have already been there is in fact fundamental to remember that, although it is a mission of great importance, an America's Cup campaign is first and foremost the pinnacle of a passion, something with which one can also have fun. Molineris underlines the importance of a united group, which has always been the objective of the patron Bertelli, who considers Luna Rossa a large family in which technical and physical qualities must necessarily go hand in hand with those of character. No prima donna then, but a "band of brothers" with only one goal: to make history.

Luna Rossa is really like a family, and this helps a lot: even in the most difficult moments we always manage to make a team, thanks also and above all to the most experienced members like Vasco Vascotto and Francesco Mongelli, men with years of America's Cup experience behind them. When we're under stress, they're able to put the situation at ease, and their presence is very important for us youngsters.

From a technical point of view, the young people confirm the importance of having a complete sports training behind them, which is fundamental above all from a mental point of view to be able to compete with the best sailors in the world. Molineris, for example, focuses on the ability to get up after falling, ready to start again.

Surely having practiced different sports since I was a child has helped me, perhaps not so much in the construction of the physique, which in any case is largely due to sailing, but in the mentality, in the habit of seeing things in a professional way, to have responsibilities, to interact with companions and opponents, the ability to live the competition at 360 degrees, for better or for worse.

A detail on which Voltolini also agrees, which explains what his "extra gear" can be compared to pure sailors.

I believe that my other sports experiences have enriched my experience as a sailor. Comparing myself with other guys who have only ever sailed since childhood I realized how they have a technical but less sporty and athletic approach to this discipline, which in other countries is much more developed.

But in such a unique and avant-garde environment, the stimuli, in any case, are not lacking.

The thing that impressed me the most from the very first days is the fact that, if you have a good idea, in this team you have the chance to carry it on. You have no limits on what you can conceive, design or build, and this can only happen here, in an America's Cup campaign, and nowhere else.
With the New Generation project, Luna Rossa intends to train tomorrow's champions at home. Their names? Besides Molineris and Voltolini we have Romano Battisti, Nicholas Brezzi, Davide Cannata, Marco Celon - Claudio's son, on board during the 2000 races - Jacopo Plazzi and Andrea Tesei.
My dream, which is that of the whole team and it's useless to hide it, is to win the Cup. Anyway, I'll take these four years of experience with me, which will certainly help me in my training as a 360° sailor. This adventure - says again Umberto Molineris - has allowed me to grow as a man, technician and athlete, giving me the opportunity to test myself in many different fields. It's something I will always carry with me, an experience almost impossible to live elsewhere.

The same thought of Enrico Voltolini, who, together with his New Generation colleagues, dreams of one day taking the place of the "greats" and, for the moment, pursues a success that could change the world of sailing in Italy forever.

This is my first Cup campaign: I've seen things that outside this world don't exist, it's a precious, unique experience that has allowed me to meet people who, for professionalism and ability, it's really rare to meet in the world. This will certainly remain, but the only thing you can want from the America's Cup is to win it.

Words that, apparently, may seem dictated by youthful enthusiasm, of course, but which, instead, show how the team is working in the best way and how the most experienced have been able to motivate those who could be their heirs. In the America's Cup the important thing is not to participate, but to win: because, as the motto that has always accompanied the oldest sports trophy in the world says, "there is no second".

/related post

How To Set Short Term Goals And Stay Motivated All Year

New year, new beginning: here's how to create small short-term goals to keep the good intentions we ...