40 years ago the feat of Fogar, the daddy of Italian lone navigators

fogar_10FOGAR 5It has only been forty years since the first Italian, Ambrogio Fogar, completed a solo round-the-world voyage in reverse “against the wind” in an eleven-meter sailboat from east to west, but it seems like an eternity. And, mistakenly, the sailing world forgot to remember that Fogar is the “daddy” of all Italian sailors, the first person who introduced sailing to Italians, before Azzurra, Moro di Venezia and Luna Rossa.
The first who proved that even an ordinary man without much sailing experience can accomplish a feat. A former insurance salesman in Milan, Fogar with an unending passion for adventure, had left the port of Castiglione della Pescaia on the morning of Nov. 1, 1973, aboard his “Surprise,” an 11-meter wooden boat that later became as famous as he was. There were no cell phones or satellite Gps, and to stay in touch by radio, one had to equip oneself with radio receivers and stand by the radio links of friends scattered around the world to get some news. He returned 400 days later, on December 7, 1974, to Castiglione della Pescaia hailed as a hero. Waiting for him were thousands of people.
An exhibition dedicated to him is open until Jan. 9 in Castiglione della Pescaia (For information tel. 0564 933678).
FOGAR 3A volcanic adventurer, Fogar was born in Milan in 1941. A flying enthusiast, he suffers a serious accident during a parachute jump, narrowly escaping injury. He switched to sailing and sailing: in ’72 he crossed the North Atlantic solo, much of it without the use of a rudder. Between November ’73 and December ’74, with the 11-meter sloop Surprise he completed the circumnavigation of the globe from east to west (against the headwinds), entering, first among Italians, the elite of great solo navigators like Slocum and Chichester.
In 1975 he gives to the presses for Rizzoli the book “400 Days Around the World,” where he narrates his adventure. The Journal of Sailing, unveils the deception: The book features a chapter almost entirely copied from the 1963-dated volume “Trekka around the World” by Canadian John Guzzwell. The pages of our magazine are the scene of a heated debate: Fogar admits that he copied, but is mostly concerned with claiming the authenticity of his feat. In 1977 Fogar left with the Surprise for a trip from Buenos Aires to Cape Horn along with his journalist friend Mauro Mancini. On Jan. 19, ’78, the boat sank, attacked by killer whales, and the two of them scrambled to safety on the self-inflating raft, without water or food. On April 2, the castaways are picked up by a Greek freighter, but Mancini does not make it. The finger is pointed at Fogar, guilty of “forcing” the journalist to participate in the venture. A letter that appeared in Corriere della Sera in 2010, written by Mancini before his death, portrays Ambrose as a courageous, balanced and good man, freeing him from suspicions of being an egocentric eternal fame hunter. Fogar died in 2005.



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