On Saturday June 18th 1983, Italy made a spectacular entrance to the America’s Cup arena in Newport. Azzurra, the elegant 12-metre yacht from the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) skippered by Cino Ricci and helmed by Mauro Pelaschier, won its first race by beating the French champion France 3 sailed by Bruno Troublé by 1 minute and 34 seconds in the opening race of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Just two years before, the Italians had neither a 12-metre, nor any high level match racing experience, and had not designed or built such yachts for more than 50 years: in 1929 with La Spina (Vittorio Baglietto designs) and in 1930 with Emilia (Attilo Costagusta’s designs). Suffice to say, their debut performance surprised a lot of people.
The beautiful story of Azzurra first took shape in mind of the famous yachtsman Vincenzo ‘Cino’ Ricci and some members of the YCCS in the autumn of 1980, at the conclusion of the Sardinia Cup. They decided to challenge for the 1983 America’s Cup. On March 31st 1981, their challenge was presented and accepted by the NYYC and soon after the consortium ‘Sfida Italiana America Cup 83’ was created. It was supported financially by Prince Karim Aga Khan and Gianni Agnelli but also sponsored by 17 Italian companies. Cino quickly surrounded himself with a team, helped by Frenchman Laurent Cordelle. Both men had sailed together for nearly 20 years, and at the beginning of 1982, Enterprise (1977 Sparkman and Stephen design, and unsuccessful candidate for the 1977 America’s Cup defense) was at their disposal for training on the Adriatic, at Marina di Ravenna.
Meanwhile, in October 1981, the naval architect based in Rome, Andrea Vallicelli, assisted by his partners Vittorio Mariani, Nicola Sironi, Patrizzia Ferri and Georgetti & Magrini in Milan, began drawing the future boat. At one point some of the Sfida members intended to recruit the American-Italian Mario Tarabocchia, a co-designer with the eminent American Olin Stephens, who had drawn up the execution plans of Intrepid. But Tarabocchia turned them down, preferring to stay in the United States.
Very quickly, the Vallicelli and Georgetti & Magrini offices produced two projects and two models were tested against that of Enterprise in the Italian Navy tank test basin, the INSEAN in Roma. Computers then analysed the results and in January 1982, the Azzurra drawings were handed to Marco Corbau, the director of Yachts Officine Pesaro yards in Pesaro. After five months of extensive work – the construction of the aluminum hull was the object of particular care – the blue Italian 12-metre was launched on July 19th, 1982. Training with Enterprise began right after that, and once the sailmaker, Guido Caralazzi of the Nord Italia (North Sails US), had fit up the Azzurra sails it was clear the Italian champion had an excellent potential.
“There will be a series of fascinating races in which we are going participate with the humility of the last arrived, but with the conviction to be up to the standards exacted in this peerless event!”
That was the prediction of Prince Karim Aga Khan during the christening ceremony of Azzurra. And it was indeed the case! The Italians would sail 49 races in the 1983 Louis Vuitton Cup, winning 24 times, highlighted by a win over the future winner of the 1983 Cup Australia II (in the10th race of the 2nd Round Robin).
Azzurra competed without problem in Semi-Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup and finished in third place, behind Australia II and the English boat Victory ‘ 83, but in front of Canada One. The Australians of Advance and of Challenge 12 and the French yacht France 3 didn’t qualify for the Semi Finals.
The return to Italy for the Azzurra crew was a triumphant one. In 1986-87, Azzurra served as a trial horse to its successors Azzurra II, III and IV and then was solely owned by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. It was retired in Port Cervo, Sardinia. It is still there on display and the object of thoughtful care. For the Italians involved in the America’s Cup, it is an inescapable symbol of triumph and success.
Sail number: I 4
Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy
Unsuccessful challenger candidate in Newport, RI, USA, challenger in the first ever Louis Vuitton Cup in order to select the official Challenger for the 25th America’s Cup Match in 1983.
Third out of the seven challengers in the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Consortium ‘Sfida Italiana America’s Cup 83’, H.H. Prince Karim Aga Khan, Gianni Agnelli.
12-metre International Rule, sloop
Marco Corbau, Yachts Officine Pesaro, in Pesaro, Italy.
Sailmaker: Guido Cavallazi, Nord Italia (North Sails) in Carsco. Bianchi e Migliori in Fiumichino. Eiffel in Verona.
Andrea Vallicelli & Co. and Georgetti & Magrini (Milano)
Design team: Andrea Vallicelli, Vittorio Mariani, Nicola Sironi, Patrizzia Ferri, Georgetti & Magrini.
Tank Test Facilities:
Italian Navy, INSEAN at Roma.
February to July 1982 (five months building).Launched: July 19th, 1982 in Pesaro, Italy.
Christened on July 19th, 1989 by H.H. Begum Salimah, Prince Karim Aga Khan’s wife.
Skipper (team manager and tactician): Vincenzo ‘Cino’ Ricci
Helmsman: Mauro Pelaschier
Navigator: Tiziane Nava
Hull Material: Aluminum alloy
Mast: Aluminum alloy, built by Sparcraft USA from Andrea Vallicelli’s design.
Sail Cloth: Kevlar Mylar laminated – made in USA
Winches: Lewmar Great Britain
Electronics: Aethera, Ancone.
L.O.A.: 19.98 m
L.W.L.: 13.87 m
Beam: 3.81 m
Draft: 2.71 m
Sail Area: 166.85 m2
Spinnaker: 280 m2
Mast Height: 25.18 m
Displacement: 25.650 tons
Rating: 12 Meter
Azzurra was very successful from the architectural point of view. Its overhangs are relatively long and the hull lines are prolonged towards its ends following a rather uniform manner, on a bustle, which is finishes aft. The rather short keel harmoniously joins the hull painted in blue.
The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, presently still owns Azzurra. It is on display at the Centro Sportivo of the YCCS.
In 1983 Dr. Motta, the lawyer to the Azzurra consortium, commissioned the same naval architects as Azzurra, again assisted by Giorgetti & Magrini from Milan, to design a luxury yacht bigger than Azzurra which would capitalise on the technical development work of the Italian America’s Cup entry. The same yard, Yacht Officine Pessaro, put together the same team that built Azzurra to build with particular care an aluminium alloy hull of exquisite form.
As well as technical similarities, much of the material left over from the build of Azzurra, most of it aviation specification, was used in the build of Pacific Wave. The instrument panels, for example are titanium. The mast used was Azzurra’s spare one, unused and specially designed by Sparcraft USA.
The result of the combination of Azzurra’s design team and build yard combined with an interior by a renowned Italian interior and furniture designer Gae Aulenti is a phenomenal and unique yacht. In 1985 Pacific Wave was born and the brass plaque bearing the name Georgetti & Magrini proudly fixed to the bulkhead by an exceptional team of technicians and craftsmen.