The 32nd America's Cup was over, and I had failed.
My idea of 'changing the game' to give superb young olympic athletest the chance to win [with +39 Challenge -ed] had been crushed against greed, money, and bad fortune. My formerly Olympic-honed body was now fat like a balloon having worked my ass off for two years to follow my dream with +39, and it was a complete mess. The boat impounded, my friends within the team almost lost, and the only mast we had was broken by a blind Team Germany while I was egging for money in Sicily for the LV Cup. It ended when Percy and the lads grabbed us a 1:20 lead over the Spanish and the jib sheets broke - we did not even have the money for decent sheets.
It was all over, and this time forever.
No comeback like my medal in magic Sydney in the Finn after a disastrous Games in Savannah. No comeback at all. I can say now that I was depressed...what to do?
Go sailing was the only answer my mind gave me, but since I'd stopped in 2002 after a fiery match race with Ainslie in the last race of the Finn Europeans, sailing had, in my mind, gone mad. More and more masochism, more and more rules, and less and less fun.
So I went back to my yard, where my partner and CEO of Devoti Sailing had been working like crazy to keep it all together while I madly followed insane AC dreams. The yard was like a Swiss watch, they picked me up at the airport, happy to see me back, and we shared a bottle of good red wine - maybe more.
We talked about a new boat - a seaworthy singlehander that was easy, fast, and fun, and we started working. I went back to Valencia and a few months later, Roman handed me the keys to the first D-One prototype for sail testing. When I sailed the boat for the first time (using a Finn mast with runners to keep the rig in the boat), I felt happy like a small child. It was never about making money - it was therapy and a new challenge - getting a Class going where you could make friends like in the old days, away from protest rooms and 7-hour days on the water. A beer after the race would be natural again instead of heading to the gym or to bed...
Sailing for fun again, my life changed. One day, I was sailing in light air off Valencia, and the mainsheet popped out of the cleat. I fell in the water and the boat capsized, and with the main stuck between the runners and me at 120 kg and tired as hell, I couldn't get back in the boat. It kept tacking and falling over on me, and as I laughed exhaustedly, I began to get a bit worried. An America's Cup skipper and silver medal winner drowning in a force 2 during a hot Valencia summer day - the thought that this might be the end of me just made me laugh harder as I tired even more.
Just then, I heard a small motor and looked up to see a RIB with a pitying Optimist coach looking at me, desperately hanging on. "Do you need help? You shouldn't be out here if you don't know how to sail..." He pulled me onto his RIB and sailed my D-One back to the dock. It was an ignominous beginning to the D-One, but since then, how things have changed! Despite the economic crisis, orders keep popping in, even on your side of the pond. We had 22 enthusiasts from 70-100 kg racing ten days ago, and by the end of June, we will see more than 30 on Lake Garda. In October at our Gold Cup we'll see 50 or more. We have a smaller rig almost ready, and Roman is working non-stop to pop boats out after basically redesigning most of it...I thank him for that!
This time, no crooked man will stop my dream from becoming reality, and just the other day I became sure of it. In Bracciano, I sat under an olive tree at the Yacht Club watching some D-One racing. In a nice Force 4, I saw 22 colorful gennakers flying downwind, and I must say I got a bit emotional. I went to the bar and ordered a stiff double whiskey, and that night, I talked with all of my D-One friends, just like in the good old days when my nickname was... Mad Luca
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