Alinghi Famille

The question as to whether you ever really leave Alinghi or if the sporting team ever leaves you, is one for the history books and those lucky enough to touch the flame. What’s true is that Ernesto Bertarelli has created a sailing ‘famille’ with Alinghi where passions run deep and loyalty is pretty much absolute.

Talk to anyone that’s either currently involved in the team or a part of its winning history and you get a moment of silence followed by deep gratitude. It’s the time of their lives. They love it. Many of the Alinghi team have been with Ernesto since its formation in 2000, some go back even further to that very first Formule 40 and Bol D’Or winning days. It’s in their DNA. Alinghi runs deep.

©KOS Picture Source /

And I have to say, they are a great team to work with and report on. The team are friendly, polite, no-nonsense and helpful. At the Moet Cup in San Francisco back in 2003, they opened their base to all-comers in the media and one of my most memorable sails ever was steering SUI-64 underneath the Golden Gate Bridge with Jochen Schumann directing proceedings and an absolute dream-team of Kiwi legends before me.

I could get used to that kind of yachting. Trim was perfect. The grinders were an absolute unit of muscle and the spinnaker gybe was about as close to perfection as you can get. Smoother than the finest silk. I actually felt almost talented.

©Carlo Borlenghi

And with the ‘Famille’ coming back into the America’s Cup after an 11 year absence, the spirit of Alinghi and its European style mixed with hyper-competitiveness is just so tantalising a prospect as to be almost something of a dream.

If ever a competition needed a kick-start to wake and shake up the other teams, the arrival of Alinghi has the Cup world on tenterhooks. Everyone will be watching their every move. In an instant they’ve become the point of reference as the gold standard and it will be fascinating to see how the others respond. My guess is that from a communications standpoint and a team profiling level, the others will look like rank amateurs.

The machine is just clicking into gear right now. The stock is very high and getting bought. Goodwill is being engendered and Alinghi is the team you just can’t help but watch and want to know the inside track. Only American Magic has similar goodwill fostered from disaster and the sheer brilliance of Terry Hutchinson that you’d be a hard nut not to support but it’s on another level to Alinghi. What we’re looking for is the sporting excellence and sheer joy of friends sailing together that only the Swiss team can offer.

©KOS Picture Source /

Many of you reading this will be absolutely familiar with that marvellous feeling of sailing with a group of friends, half way through the season when everything just clicks. Those moments of flat gybing in big breeze not losing the kite and exiting with pace and power when all around are broaching.

You’ll know the feeling of getting the right information up the second beat, hitting the shifts like an Olympic marksman and rounding out the top mark 30 seconds up and thinking ‘this is easy’. And you’ve looked around at happy faces, all pulling their weight, going the extra mile, trimming like demons and acting as one.

This is the unit. This is the team. This is the crew. This is everything. Well imagine doing that week in and week out from the America’s Cup to the club race on Lake Geneva to the Bol d’Or and you’ve got the Alinghi team. Year after year, Ernesto has stayed true to his loyal cohorts and continued to push whether that be in the Cup, the Deed of Gift match, the Extreme 40’s or the GC32’s – he’s done more sailing than just about anyone on the planet. It’s remarkable.

©KOS Picture Source /

Now it all comes back to the white-hot crucible of the America’s Cup and not even the most precluding, eye-wateringly expensive Protocol in history has deterred him.

This is a man who sold the family business Serono, alongside his amazing sailing sister Donna, to Merck for $13billion. Cash. That’s a lot of money and the family office, Waypoint Capital, is one of the biggest global investors in biotechnology and life sciences – alongside a $20m investment in Aston Martin (interesting) – hiring some of the finance industry’s top professionals to maintain and build that fortune.

The Cup is a monetary blip – a few million here and there for fancy chase boats and lumps of carbon are fly-spit, where the real investment comes is in people and it’s here where Alinghi excels.

©KOS Picture Source /

We can be certain that the team assembling and the contracts being issued and green-lighted are going to be top drawer. What will be fascinating will be to see the path that Ernesto has designed and the politics he’ll be engineering to not just get to the top table but to feast like a Medici.

The Cup community is on high alert as they know what’s coming and the levels have just gone stratospheric. If you’re Ineos or Team New Zealand, you know you’ve got it all on now. The detail will be stunning. The communications will blow you away. The profile will leave you in their wake. You’ve got to work very hard to just stand still now.

Everyone wants to join Alinghi.

8 thoughts on “Alinghi Famille

  1. I noticed this in Russell Coutts’ interview with Shirley Robertson a few years ago— even though he didn’t want to talk about the AC very much at all, and even given that he parted from the team under less-than-pleasant circumstances, when she asked what the 2003 campaign was like, he said the team had a great environment and kept emphasizing that “we were having FUN” and that he thought any team where the crew weren’t having fun at the end of the day was at a disadvantage.

    (Which is, of course, very much a contrast to Julian Guthrie’s alleged Ellison quote “What, do think you’re here to have fun? What’s fun is when you WIN.”)


      1. I wrote a fictional story about team family dynamics last summer as part of a writing project with my friend (at the time, we predicted an ETNZ-American Magic AC36 final and that their second AC-75s would have the same names as their first, both of which turned out to be untrue), with the twist of being set in a world where the yachts have personifications, I don’t know how well it would hold up to someone who actually knows the players involved:


  2. You are really worrying me now Magnus……it sounds like you are salivating over the participation from those Swiss…..not jumping the fence I hope?


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