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ANDREA’S SIGN

2024-01-17 11:25

Redazione

People,

ANDREA’S SIGN

INTERVIEW Andrea Vallicelli by Gigi Radice

 by Gigi Radice

 

 

 

Not just sailboats. From Brava to the last wallywhy, Vallicelli designed fast regatta and cruising boats as well as supercomforable motoryachts. He’s an ambassador of the Italian boating in the world.

 

 

 

Andrea Vallicelli and his long-time partners burst onto the Italian yachting scene at a very young age. It was the end of the 70s, the golden days of offshore racing, and designers were key players for speed. Everyone knows Carlo Borlenghi’s awesome photo of Brava almost capsizing: well, that boat - built by Minneford for Pasquale Landolfi - marked Studio Vallicelli’s rise on the great international scene. 

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Brava was built by Minneford in 1979 for Pasquale Landolfi. She is the boat that set Studio Vallicelli on the international scene as well as Carlo Borlenghi who shot this spectacular photo.

Azzurra, the first great Italian adventure at the America’s Cup, came right after: 40 years have passed since those lucky days which left an indelible mark starting a successful era in which we are still protagonists. Today, Vallicelli is one of the references of Italian yacht design. His experience has spanned from those racing boats to megayachts and university lecturing: he was among the very first in Italy to teach yacht design.

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Azzurra was born in Andrea Valliccelli’s Studio in Rome. Left to right, Antonio di Stefano, Andrea Vallicelli, Paola Catella, Alessandro Nazareth, Vittorio Mariani, Nicola Sironi and Patrizia Ferri.

AZZURRA TURNS 40 THIS YEAR. WHAT IS LEFT OF THE FIRST PARTICIPATION OF AN ITALIAN BOAT IN THE AMERICA’S CUP?

At the time I was very young, I was 29 years old. I was the oldest of that amazing working group. Except for my wife Patrizia, who was 30 years old anyway - just a year older than me - all the guys in the studio, Vittorio (Mariani, Ed.) and Nicola (Sironi, Ed.) included, were younger. Azzurra was a bold move: even from an entrepreneurial point of view she was a real gamble. The consortium that entrusted us with the task of designing the boat bet on a structure which was an innovation in the America’s Cup. At the time, all American syndicates were made up of private individuals and not companies.


WHO WERE THE MAIN REFERENCES OF THIS CONSORTIUM?

The most active on the project were Gianni Agnelli and H.M. Karim Aga Khan: thanks to their charisma, they had been able to involve a lot of Italian entrepreneurs. Alongside was Luca di Montezemolo, also on the board of directors of the consortium.

 

WHO WAS FOLLOWING YOU MORE CLOSELY?

Actually Azzurra’s father was Pasquale Landolfi, who organized the purchase of Enterprise, the test boat. That was a crucial step because at the time all tests and trials were done by racing against a test boat. The purchase of Enterprise, though, was also what sparked off the whole challenge.

 

WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

Landolfi learned from Nicola Sironi, who was in Newport, that Enterprise was for sale, but none of us could actually afford her. Landolfi put an option on the boat in less than 24 hours and then signed the deal for the purchase.

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HOW WAS CINO RICCI INVOLVED?

I was the one who suggested to have Cino form the crew: he was the most suitable person for that delicate role together with Mauro Pelaschier who, by then, had been sailing with us on Brava for a couple of years.

 

AZZURRA WAS ALSO AN AWESOME HUMAN EXPERIENCE.

Unrepeatable, I would say. The energy felt in the consortium, during the preparation and also on board was breathtaking. The first Azzurra was a Garibaldian experience: as Cino said, we were climbers in front of an unclimbed face. Everything we had to deal with was new, even Rome’s naval tank. It was a huge effort, but we faced it with great pleasure: we were so enthusiastic. We felt like walking a foot above the ground. We managed to involve the Yacht Officine Pesaro shipyard and University of Pisa’s aeronautics.

 

IN THE END, A VERY FAST BOAT WAS BORN...

Many said she was a copy of Enterprise, though nothing could be more wrong. Azzurra was, in fact, very different from bulb to stern. She was much faster.

 

AZZURRA HAD A SECOND ROUND IN 1987.

Yes, but it was quite a different experience. There was no more harmony among us and frictions also arose between Cino and me. In 1987 we spent much more time doing research, too much time. We were obsessed by the CFD and all that experimental stuff that was very new in our world. We got crazy numbers but we didn’t achieve any positive result, the second Azzurra was a sort of failure.

 

GRANT DALTON SAYS THE AMERICA’S CUP HAS TWO HOMES: NEW ZEALAND AND ITALY.

Azzurra marks the beginning of an Italian journey in this competition. Other consortia have participated with us, and even after us, achieving great results. First, Gardini with the Moro di Venezia and now Bertelli with Luna Rossa have challenged the defender.

 

AZZURRA DIDN’T WIN BUT BECAME A LEGEND, NOT ONLY IN SAILING, BUT IN ITALIAN SPORT. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN IT?

In fact, it is not easy to understand why. The most important reasons, in my opinion, are two. Azzurra sailed in the America’s Cup immediately after winning the Fifa World Cup. The boat, which was the Italian challenge to the America’s Cup, exploited that wave of enthusiasm and national pride. Aesthetics count, too. Azzurra was beautiful and Italians love beauty, they are attracted to it. She was fast, and Italians also love speed and sports cars. Thus, Azzurra was beautiful and fast.

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HOW IMPORTANT IS SIGNATURE IN THE NAUTICAL SECTOR?

Design, among the various art forms, is the one that combines the aesthetic and artistic dimension with one more linked to functionality. It actually happens in architecture, too, where image’s linguistic and aesthetic components give value to the signature.

 

AND IN BOATING? IS DESIGN USED WELL?

In Italy it is a little different: design is fundamental for the economy and is declined at a more aesthetic level. For sailboats, design was the guarantee of product quality: especially for top-of-the-range products. It’s less important for the production of charter boats. 

German Frers argues that design is important in product innovation. Actually, though, it is also the result of a partnership: in design, signature is definitely an added value.

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After years as bootleg engineer designing sailboats, now I’m back 

to being an architect on motorboats. Personally, I’m having fun.

 

 

 

 

 

FROM SAILBOATS YOU HAVE NOW MOVED ON TO DESIGNING MOTORBOATS. HOW DOES IT FEEL?

Let’s say that I make a virtue of necessity. Sailboats are no longer built, so we have started to focus on motor models. It has happened almost by accident, though.
 

WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

We were working on a sailboat design that was never actually built. We started collaborating with ISA Yachts. Now we basically only do motorboats. After years as bootleg engineer designing sailboats, now I’m back to being an architect on motorboats. 

 

WHY IS SAILING IN BAD SHAPE?

For me it is inexplicable. In 1977, Canados - who made motorboats - called us to have us design two or three sailing models. At that time, with the oil crisis and austerity, we thought sailboats would thrive. No way! All motorized. 

 

NOW HYBRIDS ARE VERY POPULAR.

Yes. With cars, the mild hybrids are all the rage. Let’s face it, though: it’s a scam. It doesn’t work and, above all, it doesn’t solve the problem. The solution could come from fuel cells, but at the moment it is not feasible: it can’t function due to a system issue.
 

WHAT ABOUT ECOLOGICAL TRANSITION AND SUSTAINABILITY?

We are doing enormous damage, and perhaps diesel fuel is not the main issue. Unfortunately, politics is ignorant on these issues. The problem, however, is very serious.

 

IT’S NOT A NICE PROSPECT.

That’s for sure. We need a different political awareness with a scientific approach. Which, I admit, I do not see on the horizon.

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Design, among other artifacts, combines the aesthetic and artistic dimension with the more concretely functional one. Like architecture. 

In sailing, it is not only a signature, it is the guarantee of product quality.