International Race Officer Peter “Luigi” Reggio says he’s worried about whether the next America’s Cup will go off smoothly or whether there will be enough strong contenders, but he also thinks it’s worth a shot—a reasonable gamble in a sport that could use a bolt of excitement to attract casual fans.
Luigi told a packed room at the November AYC membership meeting that he was worried that the America’s Cup organizers were trying to do too much too fast. And he said he had an uneasy feeling that Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison was trying to stack the game too much in his favor. But he also said he thought the technology and showmanship could advance a sport that doesn’t translate well to television.
Luigi is a rarity among race officers: someone who’s earned his living running races for the last 15 years. He’s done America’s Cup, Louis Vuitton Cup,the Olympics, and a host of other races from Finns to Melges. During 2008 he says he was so busy running races that he spent only 35 days at his Connecticut home.
His winning philosophy: he’s there to serve the sailors. He knows that his job is to provide lots of good races so sailors go away having had a good time on the water.
With the big-time races, sometimes that proves challenging, with commercial and political interests putting pressure on the PRO to put them first. One of those times came during the 2008 Olympics when at the very end of the racing day, organizers demanded that he start the 49er finals even though conditions were terrible and the forecast for the next day was much more favorable. All the 49ers crashed or capsized in rough water and heavy wind, setting off a wave of protests and complaints.
Luigi came to AYC as part of the US Sailing Speaker Series, sponsored by Old Pulteney Single Malt Whiskey. His trip to Phoenix was bracketed by work in Korea and the Canary Islands as he circles the planet running sailboat races.
Coming up: ISAF Sailor of the Year Anna Tunnicliffe tells us she thinks she can make the AYC February meeting!