morrow Luna Rossa is in the final of the America’s Cup. The Ligurian, Michele Cannoni talks to LN: “Winning will be hard but we will do our best”

Interview with the captain from Recco, Michele Cannoni, born in 1977, on the eve of the oldest and most famous race in the history of sailing

10 March 2021 | by Redazione
Michele Cannoni

There is also a little bit of Liguria in the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team. From tomorrow, in Auckland, they will be challenging the home team, the Emirates Team New Zealand in the highly anticipated finale of the America’s Cup, the oldest and most famous trophy in the history of sailing. One of the Ligurians participating in this difficult enterprise is the captain, Michele Cannoni, from Recco, born in 1977.

In this case the saying, “Tell me whose son you are and I will tell you who you are” is true. His father, Marco, in addition to having worked for 32 years as an officer of the Coast Guard, is an expert sailor, often participating in competitions and captaining larger sailing vessels. Even his mother, Donatella, known to everyone simply as “Do”, has also always loved to sail.

Already as a child, Michele, together with his brother, Francesco, began walking on the deck of his grandfather’s sail boat, the Madda (12 metres, designed by Dick Carter), where, at the age of eight he sailed from Genova to La Maddalena and back, with a stop over in Corsica. Soon, together with his brother, he moved on from sail boats to larger competition vessels.

Michele has experienced the sea in all its forms: growing up with the athletic training of a water polo player, once he finished secondary school, he took a course to become a diving technician with a specialisation in cutting using a diamond cable system. After joining the register for professional divers in the Capitaneria di Genova, he worked in positioning a gas pipeline in Eritrea, in Massawa, as part of a project by the world fund for developing countries.

Michele’s passions are the great challenges, typical of a combative and competitive character like his, and obviously, sailing. His first important race was in 1992, on board the “Seilan 2” belonging to Bruno Tronchetti Provera, Portofino-Capraia and back. In 2001, on the “Edimetra” owned by Gismondi, he won the  Maxi Yacht world championship in Porto Cervo.

The path to reach Luna Rossa was completed in 2004, when he became a part of the team with extreme modesty in the face of so much mastery in the art of competitive sailing. He took  the job of assistant forward and helm grinder, a role that, in addition to needing a high level of mental concentration, also needs physical strength, something he achieves by constantly training in the gym doing specific exercises.

At the end of 2007 he left Luna Rossa and joined the Bella Mente Seven Team for 10 years, participating in the most important off-shore races in the world, winning the Transpac from Los Angeles to Honolulu, three word titles for max 72 and other important trophies bringing him to the highest international level.

In 2009, on the “Azzurra” belonging to the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, he won, alongside his companions, the “Louis Vuitton Trophy”, beating the high level Emirates Team New Zealand. In 2018 he rejoined team Luna Rossa, the pride of Italian sailing, where he became captain and manager of the entire vessel. Now, Covid permitting, he once again finds himself challenging, in the final duel, the Emirates Team New Zealand, current holder of the America’s Cup, supported by his biggest fans, his wife, Patty and his son Leonardo, 14.

Captain, can you explain to Liguria Nautica readers what you job is in a context with so much advanced technology?

My role is to check every detail of the vessel, from electronics to all the onboard equipment. In order to carry out this role, I collect all the feedback from the team at the end of each day, to correct or modify the functions with the appropriate team. In short, I’m the link between the technical team and the design team, to whom I refer the problems encountered in order to study the proper modifications, a job that keeps me occupied each time we go to sea. In addition, I have to ascertain the correct functioning of each system for safety and am an integral part, together with the team, of any substitutions in the various positions.”

Can you share with us how it feels to hold the “Prada Cup”, the passport to the “America’s Cup”, in your hands?

It is a powerful feeling, you finally feel free from tension, knowing that three and a half years of strict preparation were not in vain, knowing you had worked 13/17 hour days in the last year and a half, with very few breaks, maybe one Sunday every three months. Sacrifices we shared with our families, who followed us, being satisfied with the little time we can dedicate to them and adapting to every new location and a new school for the children.”

Captain, certainly your preparation strategies for the final challenge can’t be made public, but can you summarise how your days of preparation went?

“After the Prada Cup, we are now concentrating on the final titanic effort of taking the cup away from New Zealand, in their own waters. It will certainly be a very difficult job, but we are preparing, putting all our technical and tactical resources out there. They have paid off so far. As it is a marathon, the first team that reaches seven wins is the overall winner, so we are training every day, as if we were already competing.”

Can you share with us if you have any good luck routines before each race?

Being a multiethnical and multiregional team, we don’t have a magic formula that keeps bad luck away, but I believe each one of us has our own superstitious routine, like, for example wearing the same item of clothing during the race, keeping an amulet or touching a spot on the boat with reverence and respect, like when you go into church and turn to your favourite saint...”.

We would like to thank captain Michele Cannoni for the time he has given us during an intense preparation period for the great challenge, knowing that in a few days an entire country will be cheering on the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team.


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