Guest at the “Festival della Mente” in Sarzana, Italy, an important event that every year brings to this beautiful Ligurian town the best personalities of the scientific, artistic and (sometimes) sports world, Max Sirena, Team Director of Luna Rossa, talks about his twenty-year experience in the difficult game of the America’s Cup.
Interviewed by Michele Lupi, Max begins by considering that his surname, Sirena (mermaid in English), actually seems a good omen for someone who, like him, makes the sea his home, as well as his profession.
Max has already won the America’s Cup twice, the first in 2010, with BMW Oracle Racing, when Russel Coutts put him in charge of the futuristic rigid wing sail project that handed the victory to the Americans (“you’ll be my new Murray Jones” Coutts told him, referring to the famous Kiwi sailing technology guru), the second with Emirates Team New Zealand in 2017, an edition that saw Luna Rossa forced to retire from the competition and somehow “merge” with Team New Zealand, giving the Kiwis precious technological information (such as the idea of the cyclists and the foil control system that exploited a hole in the regulation) and people, including Max himself obviously.
The obsession for the America’s Cup, as he calls it, never ceases to be felt, and he remains as focused as possible on his great dream, which is also a goal, to bring he 100 Guineas Cup to Italy, with Luna Rossa.
Having worked for many years with Luna Rossa (he has been on board since the first edition, therefore since 1997) but also with international teams, Max explains that there are big differences between the way of working of the Latins and the Anglo-Saxons. The Achilles heel of the Latin teams, explains Max, is that despite having many advantages, sometimes they lack a bit of that coldness, “killer instinct” and method that instead characterizes the American approach.
In the last edition, for example, in Auckland, the three opposing teams teamed up against Luna Rossa to take away a great advantage, the possibility of navigating without the running backstays (cables of over thirty meters, in steel, which connect the mast to the stern of the hull, to ensure its stability) which would have guaranteed the Italian boat to have a speed edge between 1 and 1,5 kn.
Max accepts the verdict of the water, although the result is tight: the races were in fact much more fought than what the final 7-3 score might suggest, with at least two points left on the water due to trivial errors. The New Zealanders, he explains, conceived a better boat from an aerodynamic point of view, a boat created to travel in the air only, while Luna Rossa was still a hybrid boat designed for both elements, air and water. Max is very proud of the great feat done, expecially considering how it has been achieved: Luna Rossa has been a 100% Italian boat, in every single component, a sign that our country, which we often criticize, can boast incredible excellence in technology: as an example consider that the United States Navy buys all its nautical compasses from a small company in the Marche region.
The last Luna Rossa challenge has been an incredible message to the world, a testimony to what our naval technology industry is capable of. The boat was built at Persico Marine in Nembro, the mechatronics and hydraulic systems were from Cariboni (who also worked for the Kiwis), the sheets and ropes were from Gottifredi Maffioli, and many, many other technological companies have contributed to the historical achievements of the Italian boat.
Max was confirmed as the team director also for the next challenge, and ragarding his role, he explained how difficult it is to manage one hundred and twenty people, everyone with their specific needs, and often very strong personalities, because in both the design and sailing team there were people who made the history of the America’s Cup.
In addition, Max also explains the difficulty of this particular game, as he calls it, a game that consists of designing a boat that has to race after three or four years for two/three months, with very tight deadlines and key decisions to be made every day.
Perhaps this is where his only regret lies, knowing that maybe, with a couple of decisions gone differently, this time Luna Rossa could really have won it. On a sporting level, the sailing team, which had Jimmy Spithill, Checco Bruni and Pietro Sibello in the afterguard, raced in an incredible way, Max confirms. On a design level, with a few different decisions, perhaps it was possible to have a boat even superior to the New Zealand one. Despite this, Luna Rossa is ready for the next America’s Cup campaign, with Max Sirena firmly at the helm, ready to try again and give us the dream of bringing the cup of the hundred guineas to Italy.