Harnessing the ability to perform under tremendous pressure, Antigua’s Shannon Falcone is competing in the 32nd America’s Cup, the most prestigious sailing event in the world. Soon to be 26, youngest crew member aboard the Luna Rossa, Falcone has the determination and passion of a hungry sailor. His first footsteps as a child were on deck of his father’s 44′ Caccia alla Volpe.
In 1984, the Falcones, with three year old Shannon, set sail from Livorono, Italy, on a transatlantic race from Casablanca, Morocco to Guadeloupe. Ever since then, English Harbour, Antigua has been home to the Falcones. Carlo Falcone, local entrepreneur and an avid sailor, competes annually in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta on his 24m FIFE Classic, Mariella. Son Shannon followed in his fathers footsteps as a sailor and, at age 19, ventured off into the Atlantic and Pacific, with six oceanic deliveries of large yachts and one world circumnavigation under his belt.
Shannon Falcone quickly advanced into the racing spotlight competing in regattas around the world including the Rolex Maxi World Championships. In 2000/01, Mascalzone Latino America’s cup team approached Shannon and he trained for his first Cup four years later in New Zealand, 2003. From one Italian team to another, Shannon transitioned into a new post in 2004 at team Luna Rossa based in Valencia, Spain.
On the Mediterranean coastline, Valencia, Spain’s third largest city, won the bid for hosting the 32nd America’s Cup. With victory by the Swiss team Alinghi in 2003, the America’s Cup has returned to Europe. Switzerland, of course, is landlocked with no outlets to the sea—so after intense scrutiny Valencia was chosen to “lend” Switzerland its waters.
Event organizers had four years to design and develop new infrastructure at the port. A 700-berth marina was constructed at the heart of the cup action and literally minutes from the race course area. Reliable weather conditions attracted the organizers in the hunt for good sailing, though sailors saw unstable weather conditions for the Louis Vuitton ACT 13 fleet race held from April 3 to 7, 2007.
As Mastman (at 6 ft 5 inches and 260 pounds), Falcone’s position with team Luna Rossa requires extreme physical strength to enable him to hoist the Jib and Spinnaker to the top of the mast. He must have a good working knowledge of the bow as he completes that three man team for the sail handling procedures.
"You have to be passionate to stay competitive" says Falcone. "The challenge and adrenalin drives me but mostly, I enjoy working hard. Your life is dedicated to the cause, winning the Cup, there isn’t time for anything else."
For all teams, the training structure is intense, six days a week, and 10-12 hour days are typical. The day starts at 0900 with physical training, then several department meetings to discuss technical maneuvers, weather conditions and daily tasks. By midday, the team sets sail for an extreme four to five hour sailing session.
In the end, hard work pays off. Currently Luna Rossa is placed 3rd with 145 points, as eleven teams battle to lift the Cup from the Swiss team, Alinghi. "We are here to win" says Falcone. Aggressive and acclimatised to the America’s Cup waters, Luna Rossa is a favourite to compete in the finals held between June 23rd – July 7th 2007.
"The Volvo Ocean Race is my ultimate goal,” says Falcone—38,650 nautical miles, 11 international ports, and nine months to complete the race. "That’s my challenge…my ultimate dream though, is to continue sailing as long as I can, even if it’s not at the highest level."
This sailor has a vision to succeed and I suspect in years to come we will be hearing more about him via the international press. We wish Shannon Falcone and team Luna Rossa, continued success, stable weather conditions, and good sailing in the 32nd America’s Cup semi-finals and finals.