Sailing star Bertarelli: America’s Cup will be decided before it begins

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America’s Cup is decided before it starts

Sailing star Bertarelli: America’s Cup will be decided before it begins-america

Ernesto Bertarelli, here on his Extreme 40 catamaran in Oman, became the first European to win the America’s Cup. The Swiss are also an accomplished golfer

Source: Alinghi

Former bio-tech entrepreneur Ernesto Bertarelli has won the America’s Cup twice with Alinghi. Now the billionaire from Switzerland has new sporting goals, on the water and on land.

M.ith his success at the America’s Cup, Ernesto Bertarelli has achieved everything that was possible for him in sailing. The Swiss criticized the organization of the cup this year. His passion is now the Extreme 40 catamarans, the coming week of Act 2 of their world series in Singapore.

The world: Mr Bertarelli, crew members on your Alinghi team claim that you have won the America’s Cup three times.

Ernesto Bertarelli: That’s not true, we won in 2003 and defended the 2007 Cup against Valencia.

The world: They say you’ve won twice with your boat and once as a golfer.

Bertarelli (laughs): If you look at it that way, of course it’s true. The Swedish professional Alex Noren and I won the team championship at the Dunhill Cup in St. Andrews in Scotland last year. For me it was a similar high point in my life as the triumphs with the Alinghi. Noren and I are good friends. We met when he was still playing on the European Challenge Tour and came to a tournament at my home club in Geneva. We played together in the Pro-Am back then and have stayed in touch ever since.

The world: And then you received an invitation to the Dunhill Cup, where a professional and an amateur team up.

Bertarelli: Right, we were able to play together again, twice in a row. And then last year we won.

The world: There is great enthusiasm for golf in Scotland, with many spectators watching you on the last round. How did you feel about that?

Bertarelli: It was great and very similar to the America’s Cup races. When you’re there, you’re very focused on the match. I didn’t feel it that way that many thousands of spectators were watching us. But of course you know that they are there.

The world: Were you nervous, even more excited than at the America’s Cup?

Bertarelli: No, the joy prevailed. We both played at our best level. When the last lap began, we were five strokes back. My goal was to play well on the first nine holes to have a chance of victory on the second nine. I learned that sailing from Brad Butterworth, a tactician who has won the America’s Cup four times. He said that you have to be good in the first races to have a chance of victory before the last. That’s exactly how I behaved. On the 13th hole we caught up with our opponents and in the end we won because we were better than our opponents on the last nine holes.

The world: So you have two favorite sports, or are you more of a sailor?

Bertarelli: I think I’m better as a sailor. Whether it’s the America’s Cup or the Extreme 40 World Series, when I go sailing I compete with professionals – even the best professionals. In golf, my opponents are amateurs. And I’ve seen a lot more sailing.

The world: Today you mainly sail catamarans, for example the D-35 championship and the Extreme 40-Kats on Lake Geneva. See the competition as fairer compared to the America’s Cup, in which money plays a major role?

Bertarelli: I like both formats very much. I’ve always sailed multihulls, and I’ve even started. Around 20 years ago on Lake Geneva. The result was that I was getting better and better. After all, I was so good in Switzerland that nobody wanted to compete against me anymore. That was when I became interested in the America’s Cup.

The world: We are talking about the beginnings with Alinghi in 2000?

Bertarelli: Yes. The America’s Cup is a class that allows developments and in which new designs are created. If everything is allowed, as it was once in Formula 1, then the team that has the most money will always win. But that doesn’t have much to do with sport anymore, it’s all about the money. I was very lucky to take part in the America’s Cup at a time when the boats were similar and the rules did not allow much leeway.

The world: So money wasn’t the deciding factor in your victories?

Bertarelli: No, more important was the intellectual performance, the strength of the muscles and the team spirit. In my opinion, this configuration is the best. If we look at the competition this year, it’s different. The use of financial resources is decisive.

The world: In favor of Oracle?

Bertarelli: Yes, definitely. Without a doubt, none of the three boats that will compete against Oracle off San Francisco in September has a chance of winning.

The world: How do you rate this development??

Bertarelli: These conditions are not good for the America’s Cup. Especially since there are only three competitors left. If you look more closely, there are only two, the Swedish and the New Zealand. The Italian, Luna Rosa, only copies the design of Team New Zealand. And if there are only two design teams left as challengers, that says a lot about the competition. When we defended the Cup in 2007 we had eleven competitors, and when we first won in 2003 there were nine challengers. That’s what I call a competition.

The world: Are the Extreme 40 catamarans just a replacement for the big cup for you??

Bertarelli: No, they are great competitions. It’s like a boxing match. The arenas are small. You come from your corner and fight your way through. It is a good experience to get to know these aspects of sailing as well. It’s completely different from Olympic sailing or the America’s Cup. This type of regatta deserves its place in the sport.

The world: Sailors often have a dream that they would like to fulfill. Do you dream of circumnavigating the world, for example the Volvo Ocean Race?

Bertarelli: I was lucky enough to win the ultimate prize early on. I was even able to defend him once and I hosted a great event in Valencia. As a sailor, I have made all my dreams come true. I am sailing today because I enjoy it. I do it for myself and because I enjoy sailing with my friends, who are mostly professionals. It’s different in golf. I dream of playing a par round at St. Andrews one day. Or in Valderrama in Spain, where I am also a member. I’ve made my peace with sailing, I just love it. Competing with the best professionals is great. For example with Roman Hagara from Austria, who won two gold medals at the Olympics.

The world: Jochen Schumann, who won the Cup with you in 2003, even has three gold medals.

Bertarelli: He played a crucial role back then. He was a role model for the team: he was a gentleman and a hard worker. If Jochen is a typical German, then Germany can count itself lucky with its virtues.

The world: Have you never considered participating in the games yourself??

Bertarelli: I started sailing early, back then with my father. I only started sailing regattas as a student, it was too late. It was more important to my father that one day I would continue to run the family business. When I started to study at Havard Business School and talked about sailing, my father asked me if I wanted to go on vacation again. He would certainly not have been happy with an Olympic campaign from me. He promoted me as a sailor, but first the work had to be done according to the motto: work hard, then you can also pursue your pleasure.

The world: Would it be a pleasure for you to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race??

Bertarelli: I know there are a lot of rumors about an Alinghi participation. But the decision has not yet been made.

The world: Would you go on board yourself when it comes to takeoff??

Bertarelli: No, this is something for young, well-trained men.

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