AC World Series Naples brings AC45 fleet back on the water

Luna Rossa Piranha launches off the waves at AC World Series Naples 2012 (© ACEA 2012 / Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget).


A fleet of nine crews is expected when the America’s Cup World Series returns to the waters off Naples, Italy, April 16-21.

Entries have been received from series leader ORACLE TEAM USA, second-placed Luna Rossa, third-placed Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, J.P. Morgan BAR, Energy Team and China Team. A ninth crew is expected to be announced later this week.

Last year’s AC World Series Naples drew crowds estimated at 500,000, who were there in part to catch the debut of Luna Rossa Challenge 2013. Chris Draper led his Luna Rossa Piranha crew to a thrilling win in the final fleet race. The victory kicked off celebrations among the tens of thousands of Italian America’s Cup fans lining the Naples waterfront to catch a glimpse of their heroes.

ORACLE TEAM USA sailor Tom Slingsby (at right) will move from the bow to the helm at AC World Series Naples (© Guilain Grenier / ORACLE TEAM USA).


The conditions were as varied as any venue on the AC World Series. The fleet race finale was held in light wind and turned into a drifter at the finish. That occurred just two days after big wind and waves saw the AC45s powered up and leaping from the wave tops.

Crew lists are still being finalized, but quite a few familiar names are lining up for the final AC World Series regatta before the America’s Cup. Sailors such as Dean Barker, Francesco Bruni, Chris Draper, Yann Guichard and Tom Slingsby are expected to be on hand. The Naples event will also feature the return of Mitch Booth to the helm of China Team.

ORACLE TEAM USA has tabbed Slingsby, the Laser Olympic Gold medalist, to helm the entry team skipper Jimmy Spithill has sailed to the top of the table in the previous events. Slingsby raced the 2012 AC World Series Naples with helmsman Darren Bundock, but now gets the tiller as Spithill prepares for the launch of the team’s second AC72 in San Francisco.

“I’ve been in the tactician role, but now to steer in an America’s Cup World Series event, I can’t wait,” Slingsby said. “I saw my name on the wing the other day, and there was a realization that it’s going to happen. Having been the tactician and calling a lot of the shots on the water, it shouldn’t be too hard of a transition.”

Luna Rossa Piranha helmsman Chris Draper hopes to repeat as event champion (© Carlo Borlenghi / Luna Rossa)


Draper leads the Luna Rossa Piranha entry in an effort to repeat the magical success of 2012. The team’s AC72 tactician, Francesco Bruni, will skipper Luna Rossa Swordfish. Bruni replaces Paul Campbell-James, who will man the bow for the event.

“Probably the most surprising change relates to Paul Campbell-James, who moves from the helm to take on the role of bowman,” said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. “But this proves what we have always said. There is no role that is more or less important; these boats require sailors who are competent in all roles and everyone needs to understand what’s happening, but above all to do whatever is needed on board. Which is why these catamarans are fun for the sailors, but it is also what makes them so challenging to sail.”

Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker will lead his regular crew at AC World Series Naples (© Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand)


Barker and his Emirates Team New Zealand mates, including tactician Ray Davies and wing sail trimmer Glenn Ashby, will step into the AC45 after four months of training on their AC72. France’s Energy Team will be skippered by Guichard, who led the team to fourth place at the first AC World Series San Francisco last August.

Booth returns to the fray for China Team. Booth was China Team’s original skipper when the team was launched in 2011, but then moved to the commentary booth. In Naples he’ll be racing with a crew comprised of Chinese nationals.