From Optimist to America’s Cup

Published on July 31st, 2023

When the America’s Cup teams launch their race boats next year for the 37th edition, it is likely they will all have two people on helm – one on the port side and one on starboard. Switching sides is that hard, so the need to develop helms is among the features for the 2024 event.

For the Italian team, their two AC75 helms are Jimmy Spithill (AUS) and Francesco Bruni (ITA), but waiting in the wings is the youngest member on the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team. Here is a profile:

The wind in his face, sea salt on his mouth, the adrenaline of the race, his desire to win: the great, true, and unique passion of nineteen-year-old Marco Gradoni – one of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli helmsmen – has always been sailing, no matter what. As long as it’s competitive.

When he won his first Optimist World Championship, at the age of 13, he wasn’t fazed by the success because he had carefully prepared for it. “From the very first day, I believed I could become world champion.” And to prove that it wasn’t a chance result, he won the Optimist World title two more times.

It was an extraordinary result that earned him, at just 15 years old, the title of Rolex World Sailor of the Year (the youngest ever). After leaving the Optimist class, Marco shifted to the Olympic 470 Mixed Class and (in partnership with Alessandra Dubbini) conquered the Under 24 World Championship and European Championship.

Cheerful, outgoing, and a big fan of the Roma soccer team, Marco is a natural talent. “The feeling I get when I fly on Luna Rossa is fantastic. I feel the responsibility of my role, because I know that even the smallest mistake can cause serious damage, but I’m not afraid, I just have great respect.

“Working in a team is very different from my previous career: you must understand the people around you, get along and respect different personalities, but I’m learning a lot. From everyone. I’ve learned a lot from my cyclor friends in terms of sportsmanship; they make impressive sacrifices. Truth is, I would say of everyone here at the base that I want to be like them.

“My daily motivation is going on the water because it’s my second home, and then to sail these boats, which are the future of sailing. For me, being on board, being with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, is an incredible opportunity. And a great privilege. I feel ready to go to Barcelona and spending time with ‘the giants’.”

Following the publication of the AC37 Protocol and AC75 Class Rule on November 17, 2021, the AC75 Class Rule and AC Technical Regulations were finalized on March 17, 2022. The entry period opened December 1, 2021 and runs until July 31, 2022, but late entries for the 37th America’s Cup may be accepted until May 31, 2023. The Defender was to announce the Match Venue on September 17, 2021 but postponed the venue reveal, confirming it would be Barcelona on March 30, 2022. The 37th America’s Cup will be held in September/October 2024.

Teams revealed to challenge defender Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
INEOS Britannia (GBR)
Alinghi Red Bull Racing (SUI)
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team (ITA)
NYYC American Magic (USA)
Orient Express Racing Team (FRA)

Preliminary Regattas
September 14-17, 2023 (AC40) – Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain
November 30-December 3 (AC40) – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
August 2024 (AC75) – Barcelona, Spain

Additionally, 12 teams will compete in the 2024 Youth & Women’s America’s Cup.

Additional details:

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