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Bertelli Rocks Prada

You have just come home after another tough day at the office. Before you can even kick off your shoes, your wife says your boss has just distributed this statement to the press:

"In a day when wind conditions were in favour of Luna Rossa -- who proved to have as much speed as NZL-60, if not faster -- suicidal tactics gave the race away to Team New Zealand on Russell Coutts' 38th birthday."

That was Patrizio Bertelli's take on his Prada crew's performance in Wednesday's one-minute, 49-second loss to Team New Zealand; a loss that left the Kiwis one win shy of a 5-0 shutout in America's Cup 2000.

What riled Bertelli and flabbergasted observers was how Luna Rossa sailed from the penthouse into the outhouse on the first windward leg.

Nine and a half minutes into the race Luna Rossa claimed the starboard-tack right of way and crossed in front of NZL-60 for the first time in four races. But then, as Coutts dipped the black boat behind Prada's transom, the Italians kept going left, as their opponents sailed to the right into a favourable shift.

When the boats crossed tacks again 11 minutes later, NZL-60 led by five boat lengths and was never threatened again.

On the way back in on the tender, Bertelli phoned in his statement, with instructions to distribute it to media in two languages.

Skipper Francesco de Angelis and tactician Torben Grael tried to shrug it off at the evening's press conference.

"He thought we made a birthday present to Russell," said Grael, the man on the hot seat. "Actually, it was, but it wasn't intended. We are the first ones to feel bad about it, and Patrizio has all the right to be upset, as well. We thought we were doing the right thing and it ended up it was not."

De Angelis said, "The statement is basically straightforward. Not much to say about it. That is his feeling."
"I didn't feel any panic before the cross," said Grael.
Then de Angelis, showing a touch of humour through his hurt, drew laughter when he added, "It doesn't help to have it before the press conference.

"I can say that the sailing team tries to find the strength that is in yourself. I don't know if that statement will make the team more angry.

I think everybody has the desire inside, and I don't think that will change much," de Angelis said.

Operations Manager Laurent Esquier said, "It's called the expression of a passion, that's what it is.

That's why he decided to do it at that point in time, just as he decided to jump into the America's Cup one day in 1997.

"So what? It's how he feels at the moment. You say what you feel."

But was Bertelli right?

Coutts said, "As we swapped tacks I thought it was slightly better where they were going for the first 30 seconds, and then as the situation developed it looked better and better on our side. Today was about as confused as I've seen out there in a while."

De Angelis said the Italians were fooled by the right-hand shift that gave them the lead, thinking it would swing back to the left. Instead, it kept moving right.

"We went right as long as we felt the wind went the maximum right, and then at that stage we crossed, thinking the wind would have shifted back left," he said. "It probably should have been treated like a persistent shift."

Grael said, "It's been interesting that the whole America's Cup [Match] has been persistent shifts instead of [oscillating] shifty winds that prevailed during the whole Louis Vuitton regatta.

"If we knew the wind was going to go farther right, as it did, we could have waited and tacked later, or as we were crossing we could lee-bow them and take the right, which would have been the right thing to do."

Both sides agreed that in the light single-digit wind, a slam dunk on top of NZL-60 wouldn't have stuck.

Besides the critique from Bertelli, Grael was roundly rapped on TV. There was a suggestion that Coutts' dip surprised the Italians and they panicked.

"I didn't feel any panic before the cross," said Grael, whose comments to de Angelis are audible on the telecasts.

"Before the cross I was saying to Francesco that we were going to go straight. I don't know if the expert commentators understand Italian."


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