MILAN — Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli has inked a deal with Telecom Italia for the telecommunications giant to sponsor the new Luna Rossa sailing boat set to challenge for the America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain, in 2007.

Telecom Italia has taken a 49 percent stake in the project. The new Luna Rossa team was officially presented on Friday at Italy’s historical Yacht Club in Genova in the presence of Bertelli and Italian tycoon Marco Tronchetti Provera, head of Telecom Italia, as well as of tire manufacturer Pirelli. Tronchetti Provera isn’t a stranger to the fashion world either, having spearheaded the Pirelli P Zero apparel and accessories project.

Bertelli and Tronchetti Provera share a passion for sailing and Pirelli hosts Santa Margherita’s regatta every year.

Luna Rossa was previously entirely supported by Prada. However, two years ago, Bertelli sold the organization that manages the Luna Rossa boats to Maestrale Holding SrL, which is wholly owned by the Prada family, in an effort to streamline the luxury goods company in preparation for an eventual initial public offering. The Luna Rossa team will have a budget of 85 million euros, or $103.7 million at current exchange. The last time around, Bertelli spent $140 million on the sailing venture.

In Genova, Bertelli, head of the Luna Rossa Syndicate, took pains to note that the project was completely new, “with a new approach in all fields. Our team has been almost fully rebuilt, the only thing that is unchanged is our determination.”

As reported, this summer Bertelli tapped Anthony Romano, previously managing director and general manager of Calvin Klein Europe, to become general manager of the Luna Rossa team. Bertelli named the Australian James Spinthill, who was a member of the One World team, as helmsman. However, Bertelli kept Luna Rossa’s historical skipper Francesco De Angelis on board. De Angelis has been practicing with the team in Valencia since April in preparation for the races leading to the Cup, which kick off today and are scheduled until Oct. 17. De Angelis said the Prada Group has “lost no time.”

This is the third time Luna Rossa will take part in the America’s Cup. Luna Rossa won the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2000, qualifying it to race for the America’s Cup. Bertelli’s sailing boat then lost to Team New Zealand in a best-of-nine series of races. The sleek silver and red boat was eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Cup in New Zealand in January 2003.

This story first appeared in the September 28, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.