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Cayard's Offshore Running Mate to Provide Opposition in Cup

By Bob Fisher

PUNTA ALA, Italy

BravaQ8
One of Paul Cayard's close associates in his offshore racing is to skipper an Italian challenger for the America's Cup. Francesco di Angelis, who has been nominated to skipper the Prada America's Cup Challenge, has been the helmsman of the highly successful Farr-designed ILC-40, Brava Q8, winner of the class's world championship and member of the winning Italian Admiral's Cup team in 1995 with Cayard.

More than two months of intense speculation preceded the announcement that a challenge has been received for the Cup from the Yacht Club Punta Ala. It came as no surprise, but this late announcement, less than two weeks to the cut-off date, shrouds the potentially most potent attack on the Cup this time since it has resources and talent that few can match. The financial resources of its sponsor are unquestioned — the Prada challenge is funded by the eponymous fashion house, famed for its leatherwear. Head of the fashion house is Fabriccio Bertelli, who is the owner of a classic yacht.

Prada's first move was to secure the services of two yacht designers who between them have been partially responsible for three of the last four finalists in the America's Cup, Doug Peterson and German Frers. Both satisfied the Italian residential requirement before the February deadline. Peterson, it should be remembered, was a leading force in Bill Koch's America³ program, and while not overtly admitted, was responsible for the narrow beam concept. He carried this further when he shared the design responsibilities for the successful New Zealand challengers of 1995. Frers was the lead designer of the Il Moro di Venezia, the 1992 challenger.

Undoubtedly, the group's biggest coup has been in the purchase of all of Koch's America³ assets including the three IACC boats, Kanza, America³ and Mighty Mary, together with all the design software and database. The Italians secured this invaluable package from under the noses of the NYYC's PACT2000 team — which had announced earlier that it had bought it — and it provides the Italians with a massive start over many of the other challengers: six years of experience backed by a highly successful record. Many believe that had Conner and the Stars & Stripes team been able to sail Mighty Mary, the Cup might still be in the San Diego Yacht Club.

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Bob Fisher is a renowned nautical scribe living in Lymington, England.



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