Massimiliano "Max" Sirena: sea, passion and dedication

In 1983, the America's Cup speaks Italian for the first time: if it is true that it was only with the advent of Luna Rossa that this sport will be able to become of public interest in Italy, it should be remembered that, before the team of Patrizio Bertelli, other boats flying the Italian flag have tried to win the prestigious "Auld Mug" - the "old pitcher".

The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda is a pioneer in this sense, representing Italy for the first time with the Azzurra team in 1983, and then reappearing in 1987 together with Consorzio Italia. In 1992 it was the turn of Il Moro di Venezia, the creature of Raul Gardini, capable of winning the Louis Vuitton Cup and then surrendering in the final to the Americans of America.

Massimiliano Sirena and sailing: a love born by chance

It was precisely by following these first courageous feats that Massimiliano Sirena, born in Rimini in 1971, decided to put aside the windsurfing he practiced when he was very young in order to devote himself to sailing. A love born almost by chance.
In the end, the first love was the sea and tennis. I played almost 15 years of tennis and at the same time I did windsurfing and sailing regattas. At first I had no ambition, I had no competitive interest, but I liked to be at sea and windsurfing gave me the emotions I was looking for. Then, when I was 15 years old, I started to get on board some boats in Rimini for fun; it all happened very naturally, on Saturdays and Sundays, during the famous winter championships, I asked if anyone needed a person on board. That's where it all started and I started to travel around the world.
Sailing will become his life, despite a far from encouraging start: his youthful enthusiasm is in fact put to the test when, still twenty, he meets a member of the crew of the Moro.

You are too small physically for this sport, you will never succeed.

This anecdote is told by the journalist Fabio Pozzo on "La Stampa" in 2013, the year in which Sirena is proclaimed "Sailor of the Year": not only, therefore, have the harsh words received twenty years earlier been proved wrong, but, on the contrary, they have perhaps contributed decisively to motivating Max, who won the America's Cup in 2010 with the Americans of BMW Oracle Racing and then, the following year, to lead Luna Rossa to victory in the Extreme Sailing Series championship.

Massimiliano Sirena and Luna Rossa

It was with Luna Rossa that Sirena made her name in the world of sailing, taking part in the feat of 2000 (victory in the Louis Vuitton Cup) and in the subsequent editions of the America's Cup in 2003 and 2007, again as a bowman's assistant. A role that he abandons after his victorious parenthesis with Oracle Racing to return to the Italian team as skipper and team director during the campaign for the 34th edition that will be staged in 2013 in San Francisco.
I took part in all the challenges of Luna Rossa, starting, of course, like everyone else, from normal roles: I, in particular, was one of the bowmen. Five or six years ago Mr. Bertelli asked me if I felt like taking on a leadership role, managing the team in all its aspects. It took me a while to say yes.
How his story with Patrizio Bertelli's creature begins is always told by Fabio Pozzo in the article that consecrates him as one of the best in the world in the discipline: in 1995 Max is training on a boat of the future patron of Luna Rossa, the Njala, and, while he is busy mooring, he hears someone shouting apostrophe in a bad way: he has never seen Bertelli and can’t know that it is just him, who, impressed by the character of the young man, the team from head to toe.

You and me, either we become great friends, or I'll have you fired by the end of the day, I have to think about it.

How the story went is well known. In 2000, after winning the Louis Vuitton Cup, Luna Rossa challenges the Defender Team New Zealand: it's an unequal challenge, but the young forward helper does everything he can to pursue victory, ending up injuring himself in an attempt to remove a sheet that got caught in the keel. His blood ends on the side of the boat, a symbol of the determination of a man on a mission to make history in the oldest sports competition in the world.
Max Sirena will win the America's Cup on two occasions: in the aforementioned 2010 edition with Oracle Racing and in 2017, when, after Luna Rossa's retirement following the dispute over the change of class rule during the race, he joined - with the strong support of manager Grant Dalton - the crew of Emirates Team New Zealand, which defeated the Defender represented by Oracle Team USA in Bermuda. These are goals never achieved before by an Italian sailor, something for which many, at the age of 48, might feel satisfied.
I consider myself a very lucky person, because in many of the challenges or campaigns in which I have been involved I have managed to achieve the maximum goal. I have won many world championships, European, Italian, I have won the America's Cup twice. I consider myself a privileged person. But as a man of sport I think that the best moment of my career is the one that is yet to come.

Passion and dedication

One of the best sailors in the world, Sirena is never satisfied: that fire that has always pushed him, the desire to set goals and then to achieve them, constantly exceeding his own limits, is what has allowed him to deny that sailor of Il Moro di Venezia, to get on the first boats, to train harder and harder and to give everything, always, to become what he is today. And now he is driven to dream of what for many is almost unthinkable: a third victory in the America's Cup, this time with Luna Rossa, bringing the "old jug" to Italy for the first time in a history that is almost two centuries long.

Doing this job is a new opportunity every day. Being here makes me very happy. My dream is to win the America's Cup with Italy, with Luna Rossa, it's my last goal in sailing. Then I can think of doing something different.

As skipper and team director, the long experience of Sirena - who, limited to the America's Cup, took part in seven expeditions - will be fundamental in managing a group that combines experience and youth: on the one hand, names like Gilberto Nobili (winner in the 2013 and 2017 editions, respectively in the role of grinder and performance specialist), Francesco Bruni (seven world titles in various classes), James Spithill, Vasco Vascotto, Pierluigi De Felice and many other famous names in the competition, on the other hand, the enthusiasm of Nicholas Brezzi, Davide Cannata, Matteo Celon, Umberto Molineris, Jacopo Plazzi, Andrea Tesei and Enrico Voltolini, arrived at their first campaign thanks to the New Generation project.
What gives you the charge?
To train every day with young people in their early twenties, whom I have seen grow up since they were children, is a great stimulus for me. What I like a little less about my role is being involved in political and diplomatic aspects with the other teams.
Even though he has been considered one of the best in his field for years, even though he has achieved unthinkable goals, Max Sirena is a champion of humility: he doesn't feel special, he is aware of the importance of hard work and constantly tries to pass it on to the team.
What are your strengths?
My strengths I think are my determination - I don't give up until I get what I want - and maybe the fact that I can talk to all the members of the team and always put myself on the same level. I would like to allow this crew to raise the America's Cup, to do it for Italy, to do it with Luna Rossa.
A result that will only be possible with hard training: the day of the crew of Luna Rossa is marked by strict schedules, a strict diet and many hours dedicated to athletic training, to develop the muscles and endurance necessary to face the races, where a sailor can even lose 5000 calories a day.

The importance of training for Massimiliano Sirena

Today the competition has changed a lot: in 2007 we reached the maximum speed of 13-14 knots, today we make 40. As a result, training has also changed, also because in today's racing boats the grinder is a real engine and it is essential to be physically prepared: for this reason we spend a lot of time in the gym, developing mockups with machines produced by Technogym, which is our supplier for gym equipment. So we can see how much energy it takes to move a particular system on board.
A dream, the last one related to sailing, to be pursued without particular rituals but with the same formula with which Max has built his entire career: commitment, work and determination. It's up to him to plan and schedule Luna Rossa's assault on the 2021 America's Cup.
Those who are part of this team must have the right attitude - motivated, willing to get involved - and the ability to relate with others by putting the team result first. It applies to everyone, even to me. Research and development are fundamental, for us it's an obsession, we live for this, we are from 12 to 16 hours closed to training, it's fundamental for us to feel good in the group, but without forgetting the most important goal that is to win. The biggest mistake we could make would be to take something for granted: there is nothing obvious in this world, it is a work in progress that continues until the last day, until the last race.

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