Luna Rossa’s Draper adapting to Cup lifestyle

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010/06/2013 - San Francisco (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup -

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23/05/2013 - San Francisco (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup -

Chris Draper debuted with Luna Rossa Challenge on the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) at Naples on April 11, 2012. Four days later he and his Luna Rossa mates were standing atop the championship podium, winners of their first ACWS regatta.

The victory could hardly have come at a better time for Luna Rossa. One week earlier the team had been introduced to the Italian media. Italy is a sports-mad country, and the America’s Cup ranks high in the competition for eyes and hearts. At the ACWS Naples earlier this year in April, the Saturday racing had better ratings than qualifying for the F1 race at Bahrain.

Even though Draper, 35, is an America’s Cup newbie, don’t believe for a second that he’s nervous or unprepared. “Pressure is for the unprepared,” Draper says. “I’m probably frustratingly meticulous, but I consider that a strength. The more prepared you are the less pressure there is to perform. I like to think I can stay level headed when things are full on, and that’s what racing the AC72 is about; keeping cool under pressure.”

Draper is one of the many sailors who have migrated from the 49er high-performance skiff dinghy to the America’s Cup. Sailors such as him and Nathan Outteridge of Artemis Racing are past 49er world champions and Olympic medalists. Draper says the action on the 49er relates well to the hectic action aboard the new AC45 and AC72 wing sail catamarans developed specifically for the 2013 America’s Cup.

“49er racing is so tight and fast and on small courses, so there are tricky boathandling maneuvers,” says Draper. “You have to manage the boathandling and react quickly, staying on top of the tactics while dealing with the intricacies of sailing the boat, and that’s a lot of what this America’s Cup is about.”

When it comes to sailing the AC72 it’s hammer time. Draper had never raced a yacht with a steering wheel until he stepped up to the AC72, but he still understands that the best way to succeed is to keep the pedal down.

“You’ve got to constantly push the boat as hard as it can be pushed,” says Draper. “The boats are enormously powerful and there’s a lot to consider when you’re approaching a mark rounding at 40 knots, have to jibe and then head up and around the mark. You have to manage the maneuvers and the preparation time. But you can’t back off for one minute. If you’re not pushing as hard as possible you go significantly slower.”

As a helmsman for the Italian challenger, Draper follows in some mighty footsteps. In 1992 Paul Cayard led the Italian syndicate Il Moro di Venezia to the Louis Vuitton Cup Championship and a date in the America’s Cup Match. In 2000 Francesco di Angelis took the first iteration of Luna Rossa Challenge to the Louis Vuitton Cup Championship and America’s Cup Match. In 2007 it was James Spithill who led Luna Rossa to the Louis Vuitton Cup Final.

All three are familiar names in Italy, even though only one of them is Italian. For Draper, the hardest part has been learning to take it all in.

“There are probably times when I spoke up and shouldn’t have,” says Draper. “I like to think that I’ve learned a lot about the ways to work within a big team. Now there are times when I’m quiet or address matters in a different way. It’s character building. I’ve absolutely loved the past two years.”