Our interview with Renzo Guidi, Luna Rossa's famous "seventeenth man"
The first America's Cup winner
We publish an interview on 2007 signed by Guido Parigi Bini dedicated to one of the men who made the history of Luna Rossa, Renzo Guidi, the most famous "seventeenth" that the America's Cup has ever had.
"I'll nail you down there, at the bottom of Luna Rossa's cockpit," Patrizio Bertelli told him. That was how Renzo Guidi's adventure in the America's Cup began, almost as a joke and much out of superstition. At the age of seventy-five, when it was time to retire, he would become the most famous "seventeenth" that the America's Cup has ever had. On a Cup boat the seventeenth is the place reserved for the owner, or one of his guests.
But while everyone else on board is working, sweating, swearing, winning and losing, he has to be silent, almost motionless in the stern, as if in a bell jar. He is only allowed to see: he cannot speak, suggest, swear or rejoice with his other companions. An impotent idol. He has to keep it all inside. And sometimes, more than a privilege, it can become a suffering.
Renzo Guidi, a hotelier from Castiglione della Pescaia, who recently celebrated his eightieth birthday and who every morning does ten minutes of stretching after opening the windows of his room overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea with Montecristo, Giglio and Elba in the background, smilingly recalls how Bertelli "nailed" him on Luna Rossa's stern.
"One day, when my first experience in the Cup had just begun, he phoned me and said: 'I have to pop over to Auckland to set up the boys' base. Are you coming with me? We go and come back'. I packed a few things and after a 30-hour flight we were in New Zealand. The next morning he throws me out of bed: 'They're organising a series of regattas with the training boats,' Patrizio says, 'all the teams are there, you go on board. I come to see with the dinghy, I want to understand the sea, the race course, how the others work on board.
They lend me a wetsuit," remembers Renzo Guidi, "and it's a good, hard race. We win. The next morning Bertelli goes on board to be the owner, and they lose. The next day it was my turn again, and we won. Patrizio tries again for two days, and they lose. I come back up, and we don't stop winning. That's how I found myself 45 times in a row on Luna Rossa's stern, up to the victory in the Vuitton Cup, up to the final challenge in the America's Cup with the New Zealanders".
But what has Renzo Guidi, more of a sailor than a hotel operator, had in common with Patrizio Bertelli, more of an entrepreneur than a sailor, for over thirty years?
"It's a friendship that began in the early 1970s. Patrizio Bertelli was 25 years old and had the ambition to do regattas. And obviously to win. So he ended up in Castiglione della Pescaia, where a skilled "inventor" of racing boats had made a certain reputation: Vasco Donnini. He bought bare hulls from Bulleri in Fiumicino, then sawed, stretched, shaped and rigged them in his own little workshop and came out with winning boats. The "Tuscany" series. Boats just over nine metres long. Bertelli bought one and asked Donnini to find him someone to crew it. This is how Renzo Guidi appeared on Patrizio Bertelli's horizon. They became inseparable sea companions.
We went to the Italian sixth class championships in Livorno," recalls Guidi. I've never been interested in regattas. I like going to sea without a precise destination, feeling the breaths and smells, respecting and fearing it, being at one with the boat. I went to Livorno more out of politeness than the frenzy of the championship. But in those days I learned to know and appreciate Patrizio, not only as a friend but also as a sailor. He wasn't a fanatic, the wealthy man who spent money for the pleasure of winning. He also loved the sea, and he had a great gift: he was a formidable organiser. He foresaw everything, everything had to be perfect on board. Even on a nine-metre boat. He allowed the crew to concentrate completely on the race. And of course you won.
Twenty years later, when the adventure of Raul Gardini's "Moro di Venezia" was still in the public eye (it was the first time the America's Cup had been shown on television), Bertelli bought an old American 12-metre and started racing in France, organised for the wealthy nostalgic America's Cup fans.
"One day, at the beginning of March 1997, Patrizio phoned me and said, 'You know, German Frers claims that I'm the only Italian who can do the America's Cup, the real one. He's the best naval architect, he's convinced me, we're going to New Zealand. Good,' I replied, 'so I can see you on television. No way,' Bertelli replied, 'you're coming too. If you want, you can watch the regattas from the TV on the Ulisse (the Prada owner's cruiser). I stayed in Aucklan for six months straight, but not in front of the TV.