Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Kiwi takes the Rascals' wheel

Five losses in a row?!! I hadn't even realised until Vincenzo Onorato pointed it out yesterday. After such a strong start, that is a disappointing run of form for Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia.

Is it the right thing to change helmsman at this stage in the game though? Substituting Flavio Favini for Kiwi Cameron Dunn seems like desperate measures, but then again, I suppose the time has come for desperate measures. This time next week, 11 teams will have been slashed to just 4.

Team head Onorato commented: “Five losses in a row have seriously affected our morale, it would be wrong to deny. In today’s sailing team meeting the burn from the losses was evident. However my men are not depressed but angry, with a real desire to recover and that is exactly the way I’d like them to be.

“We’ve also felt the fatigue from the last days. The Cup is a long and strenuous commitment, for this reason I have decided to change the helmsman, for tomorrow’s race, from Flavio Favini to Cameron Dunn. We have very qualified and capable replacements and now is the time to make use of them. I would like to thank all of those who have shown their affection and still believe in us: Mascalzone Latino is still very much alive!”

So can Dunn make a difference? Mascalzone suffered a torrid match race season back in 2005, and then Cameron Dunn was put on the wheel for the final day in Trapani. If memory serves me right, the team won both matches.

The problem for Mascalzone Latino is that they have tried to remain true to their Italian roots. Onorato is a true romantic, and wants to see an Italian team succeed where so many have failed in the past.

Trying to maintain a nationalistic team in an event where the nationality rules are so relaxed is like trying to sail with one arm tied behind your back. Probably the only nation that could fill a Cup boat with 17 home-grown sailors who are truly world class is New Zealand. And even they've got three
Americans in the afterguard. Indeed some are suggesting ETNZ is foolish not to have a British helmsman!

In Italy's case - strange though it is for a nation whose passion for the Cup runs deeper than any - there are few if any world class match racing helmsmen from Italy. Paolo Cian has re-established his credentials steering for Shosholoza but it's hard to think of any others. Francesco de Angelis made the sensible move of stepping aside to make way for Australian James Spithill becoming the helmsman of Luna Rossa. They look much stronger for it.

As I have mentioned before, one of the best moves Mascalzone has made in the last year is the appointment of Jes Gram-Hansen as starting helmsman, and the Dane has transformed the team's fortunes in the pre-start box. Flavio Favini's record as a fleet racing helmsman is exemplary, but match racing doesn't stop when the start gun fires. Perhaps Cameron Dunn's appointment is a reflection of that.

Let's hope the Kiwi's move to the wheel (plus the boat's new paint job ;) gives the Rascals back their Mojo, to borrow a Peter Isler phrase.

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