Farewell Patrizio
August 3, 2007, 5:44 pm
Filed under: America's Cup

His skipper, the elegant Francesco de Angelis, had already left – “time to move on after 10 years” he said. His front man, Paolo Martinoni, lover of wine in nothing less than magnums and with classic patrician Roman looks, has left and gone for a month’s holiday in the States. Now the big boss, Patrizio Bertelli, has said he is pulling out of the America’s Cup after three attempts to succeed in what had become an obsessive passion.

“Participation in the next America’s Cup was carefully analysed and, while significant human and financial resources are already available, it was decided that, after three campaigns, a cycle had come to an end,” said a communiqué crafted by his consiglieri, Francesco Longanesi Cattani.

There were then the obligatory thanks to his sponsors, praise for the intense years of campaigning and the hope expressed that another Italian team would be able to compete in the next cup and keep Italy at the top of the game.

More of that later, but Bertelli will be missed. What others saw as tantrums and anger was always described by friends and even some detractors as passion. He has been a positive asset to the cup, added an essential ingredient of style and as he walks away, along with another company equally concerned about style, Louis Vuitton, so Ernesto Bertarelli’s America’s Cup Management will have to revisit its core strategy about what audience it wants to attract.

The equally passionate Vincenzo Onorato may be the most likely Italian to pick up the baton, and his Mascalzone Latino boats were showing impressive pace before they suffered a bit of a meltdown with five consecutive defeats. Onorato , who also races hard in Farr 40s and runs Italy’s Mobylines ferry group, had been a bit in despair as well as dispute with America’s Cup Management during the cup.

He was far from happy with the rather down at heel feel of the setting for the bases in the southern group and also found the smell from the drains rather unpleasant. He should have tried standing outside BMW Oracle’s palace in the northern group.

He also found himself under attack because he parked one of his ships just over the harbour wall to house hospitality guests. It had Mobylines writ large along the side, along with his whale logo. This was regarded by ACM as ambush marketing, something which exercises all those who want to keep a tight control on who appears where and says what. It is also incredibly pervasive. Few know that, when buying world cup soccer tickets in Germany, in the small print on the back, the transaction was described a s contract between the organsier and the purchaser.

In theory, if you attended a match wearing your favourite tee shirt and that tee shirt carried the logo of a brand that was in competition with one of the event’s official sponsors, then you could be refused entry.  Don’t you just hate that kind of invasion of your freedom.

Anyway, Onorato was also in the statement-making business. He started with the premise that “we all” wanted tough but ulimately fair-play-based competition. Ho hum. That “we all” wanted the chance to compete successfully. Ho hum.

After offering a sop to both Alinghi, the defender, and Oracle, a challenger, he then went on to say that he wanted to rip up the America’s Cup 33 protocol, renegotiate all the contentious points already raised by Larry Ellison through the Golden Gate Yacht Club, and offered to have an agreement signed by every challenger to change, by America’s Cup 34, to the 90-foot new class of yacht proposed by Alinghi. But after its design rule had become the subject of agreement between Alinghi and the Challenger Commission. Ho, ho, hum.

Not many would give Onorato much of a chance and by going so public he could be faced with the choice of either backing down or, like Bertelli, voting with his feet and his cheque book. See you in Copenhagen, Vincenzo.


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