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BMW factory race-car driver (and BMW brand ambassador) Alessandro Zanardi took time away from his Ironman Triathlon preparation for a ride in another fast vehicle sporting BMW logos. Zanardi visited Team Oracle USA's base of operations for the America's Cup yacht races in Bermuda.

BMW is the official technology partner of Oracle Team USA as well as a sponsor of the 35th America’s Cup event, so Zanardi had plenty to see and do in Bermuda, but the best was his ride aboard Team Oracle USA’s “AC-50” high-tech “17” yacht. According to Alex, it was “breathtaking.”

As a champion athlete at the highest levels of his sport, Zanardi recognized the dedication, drive, and conditioning in the team members of the Oracle boat. He also loves going fast and he was not disappointed in his ride aboard this incredible watercraft.

When you watch the video below, you will see what Zanardi is talking about when he said, “Whilst you may refer to this yacht as a ‘boat’, I see it more as a plane—this yacht can really fly. The day on this race yacht was a fantastic experience, and I am very grateful to Jimmy and his crew for accepting me into their ranks.” Alex continued, “That was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life, and I have experienced quite a lot. I would like to thank BMW for this unique opportunity! To spend a day as a member of Oracle Team USA was something very special for me. Jimmy Spithill is a true legend and I have always been a big fan of what these sailing teams are doing. It demands maximum physical effort from every single crewmember—as intensive as an athlete at the Olympic games. I am very impressed. You can feel the same dedication and attention to even the finest details as in motorsport.”

Zanardi’s accomplishments in motor racing and in the Olympics was not lost on Oracle Team USA’s skipper, Jimmy Spithill, who said, “It was great fun having Alex on board as a crew member today. His reaction was just pure delight. He loved it. Although we compete in different sports, we still have a lot in common. Technology, innovation and precision—they are the key in motorsport and competitive sailing. It was very interesting to chat to him about the similarities between our sports. Alex is a true inspiration to any athlete. What I admire most about him is what he achieved after his crash. It did not mean the end of his career, but instead took it to a new level. Not only did he continue as a racing driver after the crash, but he also became a Paralympic champion. I don’t think anybody else has achieved that. He is living proof that you can achieve anything if you have the determination, enthusiasm and, above all, passion. That is precisely our approach to the America’s Cup.”

Zanardi has more in common with the crew on the “17” boat. The catamaran’s innovative steering wheel was developed by the engineers at BMW Motorsport who also designed the steering wheels for Zanardi’s BMW race cars. Alex required hand controls after losing both his legs in a horrendous IndyCar crash in 2001. The expertise of the BMW Motorsport people who created Zanardi’s steering wheel was incorporated in the development of the Oracle Team USA yacht’s steering wheel.

When Zanardi described his ride with Oracle Team USA as breathtaking, it had to be something special. Alex is no stranger to the water. He holds a yachtmaster ocean license and is often on the water.

The 35th America’s Cup regattas begin on May 16, 2017 with the qualifying events, culminating with the America’s Cup finals starting on June 17, 2017.—Scott Blazey

[Photos and video courtesy of BMW AG.]