Former two-time America’s Cup champion Alinghi of Switzerland is returning after an absence of 11 years and teaming with Formula One powerhouse Red Bull Racing to challenge for the oldest trophy in international sports.
It’s the latest venture between a sailing team and a top motorsports team in a sport that has pushed the boundaries of technology in boats that approach freeway speeds as they skim above the waves on hydrofoils.
Alinghi won the America’s Cup in 2003, successfully defended it four years later and then lost it in 2010 in the culmination of a bitter spat between billionaires. Red Bull won the Formula One drivers championship with Max Verstappen in a controversial finish at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, its fifth drivers championship to go along with the four F1 constructors’ championships it won from 2010-13.
Pharmaceutical billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli and two-time Olympic champion Hans Peter Steinacher announced the launch of the new Alinghi Red Bull Racing on Tuesday at the sponsoring yacht club Société Nautique de Genève. Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner participated in the announcement via satellite.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing is the first team other than Challenger of Record INEOS Team UK to announce a challenge for the 2024 America’s Cup.
Bertarelli, who helped usher in the current era of billionaires in the America’s Cup, said Alinghi and Red Bull are equal partners.
“They will bring their competence, energy and strength in creating performing teams, and we bring our experience in sailing and winning the America’s Cup,” Bertarelli said “Alinghi Red Bull Racing will shine a new light on the event.”
Red Bull Racing is the latest motorsports team to join forces with an America’s Cup team. Mercedes is entering its second campaign with INEOS Team UK, headed by Sir Ben Ainslie.
During the 2021 America’s Cup, American racing titan Roger Penske was one of three principals backing American Magic. It’s unclear whether Penske will continue to help back American Magic, which is currently looking for a new yacht club to represent after being dropped by the New York Yacht Club.
Pirelli, which has been the sole tire supplier for F1 since 2011, backed Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team for the second time.
However, none of those racing powerhouses came up with the winning formula. Emirates Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa 7-3 in the America’s Cup match in Auckland. The Kiwis’ head of design, Dan Bernasconi, worked for McLaren F1 early in his career before moving to the America’s Cup.
Bertarelli, who was born in Rome and earned an MBA from Harvard, jumped into the America’s Cup fray when he poached several top sailors from defending America’s Cup champion Team New Zealand and won the Auld Mug in 2003 for his landlocked country. He took the competition to Europe for the first time and Alinghi successfully defended in 2007 in Valencia, Spain, once again beating Team New Zealand.
Shortly after that regatta, Bertarelli’s one-time friend, American tech billionaire Larry Ellison, sued the Swiss tycoon over rules interpretations. After a bitter three-year court battle, Ellison’s BMW Oracle Racing beat Alinghi in a one-off America’s Cup sailed in massive multihulls off Valencia. Alinghi sat out the last three multi-challenger regattas.
Bertarelli said he was encouraged by a talk he had with Red Bull energy drink co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz.
“While keeping the winning spirit that has always animated Alinghi, we want for this challenge to do something totally different, totally new, totally fresh,” Bertarelli said. “When we imagined with Dietrich Mateschitz the involvement of Red Bull in the America’s Cup, he said: ‘Our way is not to get into the sport as sponsors, but to blend into the team, to form a true partnership, to nurture young athletes and turn them into the best in their field.’”
Red Bull brings the expertise of the Red Bull Advanced Technologies unit that has supported Red Bull Racing.
"We will share our experiences, engineering and so on, and Alinghi Red Bull Racing will contribute to us as well, helping us to understand new worlds in the application of technology,” Horner said.
It's appearing unlikely the America's Cup will return to Auckland. Due to financial reasons, Emirates Team New Zealand is considering bids from Cork, Ireland; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Valencia to host the regatta in 2024.
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