In May 2012, St Mark’s Basin and the sea off the Lido provided the backdrop for the contest, whereas the historic Arsenal was the beating heart of the organisational “engine” – in Venice, the arrival of the America’s Cup had a flavour all of its own. The spectacle of the regattas was utterly unique and offered the crowds of enthusiasts and onlookers a winning combination of millennial history and art, alongside state-of-the-art sailing technology.
Coming thick and fast after the “Arzanà City of Venice Trophy” were the races for the world series of the America’s Cup. Arzanà Navi, and its chairman Alberto Peruzzo, decided to embrace the project, held in a tract of sea that has for centuries been a symbol of the Republic of the Serenissima, which was a key historical moment of Venetian maritime power and, indeed, of the whole history of the city.
The southern part of the Arsenal, which faces towards the city centre, with the gateway “watched over” by the two stone lions, was historically reserved for the Navy; this was also the part set aside for the exhibitions of the Biennale. Then there is the northern section, which over recent years has been given a new lease of life thanks not just to the restoration of parts of the walls but also to the housing there of the facilities of Thetis (since 1996), the CNR (National Research Centre) and the Consorzio Venezia Nuova (New Venice Consortium).
Venice is inextricably linked to sailing and to its lagoon, elements that have accompanied its many centuries of history, influencing its vicissitudes, relationships and transformations. Precisely because of this traditional link, Venice is the perfect venue for the contests that make up the most ancient sporting trophy in the world, the America’s Cup, which provided the perfect opportunity to flag up once again Venice’s love for the sea and the city’s seafaring soul.
The sailing competitions were also associated with a series of initiatives geared towards environmental defence and sustainability: as well as aiming to be a zero-impact event, through strict controls of emissions and the use of recyclable materials, the America’s Cup and the local organisers threw their weight behind a project for the defence of the oceans, which has seen Venice play a leading role in an operation to protect the marine environment.
The evolution of boat design was stylised and represented by the international artist Fabrizio Plessi in a work that was chosen as the prize for the winning team of the Arzanà “City of Venice” Trophy competition. The prizes were reduced-scale reproductions of Mare Verticale, the immense boat-shaped stele towering 44 metres high, which emerged from the lagoon at the entrance to the 2005 Venice Art Biennale. As the artist explained: “This chrome-plated steel structure, inside of which flowed a virtual waterfall recreated through the use of screens and monitors, constitutes a symbol for Venice.”