Photography by Alinghi Red Bull Racing
09 June 2022
A 14-strong Swiss team will join sailor Arnaud Psarofaghis on board Alinghi Red Bull Racing for the 37th America’s Cup.
“Going on this adventure with friends I’ve known since childhood and people I’ve been working with for over 20 years is very exciting,” Psarofaghis said.
“Even if I haven’t necessarily sailed with them, this bond is a great advantage. We understand each other, which will make communication so much easier. And that’s vital, because on board, good communication is key.
“And off the boat too: we know when one of us is going through a rough patch, how to talk with them, and when. The only thing that counts is performance and it’s with this in mind that the teams will be put together.”
You may not know these young sailors yet, but you’re going to see a lot of them from now through autumn 2024.
With a background in Olympic sports, flying boats, or the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, they started to be recruited last summer and will be divided into the following roles: tactician, helmsman, foil trimmer, sail trimmer and grinders.
“It wasn’t an easy choice, we’re lucky to have excellent potential in Switzerland,” head coach Nils Frei confided.
He’s the one who conducted the recruitment jointly with Pierre-Yves Jorand, co-general manager in charge of sports operations. The first sailors who were chosen contributed to the decision-making.
“Character, attitude and development potential are as important as skill,” Jorand added.
“We’ll be driving a Formula 1 with several people in the cockpit: one on the brake, one at the steer, one on the accelerator, and one on the gear lever. It’s all about teamwork.”
To assemble the crew, the needs of the boat were determined together with the designers. Among the new sailors, the youngest is 2014 Optimist world champion Nicolas Rolaz aged 22.
“It’s an honour for me, a dream come true,” said Rolaz. “I started sailing during the previous America’s Cup victory in 2007; Ernesto Bertarelli and his crew had shown that it was possible to reach the top even if you’re from a landlocked country like Switzerland.
“Flying the Swiss flag at the America’s Cup is like the holy grail, but it’s above all a chance to reignite the flame and revive the team’s victorious past.”
However talented they are, these sailors have had no experience in the America’s Cup yet. A high-level training schedule has therefore been put in place on the water with renowned coaches and internationally recognised designers.
Alongside the sailors, the power group will provide the energy on board.
“The class rules oblige certain systems to function on manual power, especially everything that has to do with sail trimming,” design coordinator Adolfo Carrau explained.
“It’s the strength that these athletes contribute that enables the sail trimmer to do his job. The designers have identified the positions and forces needed to have maximum power for the type of effort provided: though races are calculated in minutes, training takes hours.
“The team members must therefore really be strong, especially since there will only be four of them on board, compared to eight grinders in the previous edition.”
Based on this information, the recruitment focused on the Swiss rowing and cycling federations.
“The physical tests and the medical support at Hôpital de La Tour as well as track records of these athletes caught our attention; even if they don’t have sailing experience, they excel in top-level sports, winning, and performance despite pressure,” said Frei.
“Rowers are extremely versatile athletes due to their strength, power, and endurance. But we still had to explain to them what this event represents; it’s a career choice, a life choice.”