Best of 2013 – Winning a “long one” with your boat? Of course you can!


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In the 1990s in many sailing clubs there was fun to be had with Layline Skipper’s Game, a board game in which contestants, equipped with dice and a boat-shaped token, competed on a stick course. Recently launched was the 151 Miglia board game (the regatta that runs on the Livorno-Marina di Pisa-Giraglia-Formiche di Grosseto-Punta Ala course) where each player has a budget to prepare the boat and must make sure that the sailing proceeds without any breakages or hitches. A playful alternation that well photographs the current situation of sailing in Italy and abroad: today, coastal and stick races are registering an inexorable decline in terms of entries, while the so-called “long” races are increasing their fleet of boats in defiance of the crisis. Adrenaline-fueled competition is replaced by a desire for adventure, the figure of the pure racer is preferred to that of the sailor, and, last but not least, there is a greater chance of victory even for boats that are not of the latest generation.


For a few years now, “long race fever” has been hitting boat owners, and the trend is borne out by the numbers. The aforementioned 151-mile race, in 2010, the year of its inception, had 53 boats at the start, which became 83 as part of the next edition and 114 in 2012: this year (it starts on May 30) the numbers may grow further. A total of 201 boats took part in the last edition of the Giraglia while 74 hulls lined up on the starting line of the Trieste-San Giovanni in Pelago-Trieste. And again: 124 boats at the last Brindisi-Corfu, 57 at the Rome for 2 and for All, 48 at the East 105 (on the Bari-Herceg Novi route in Montenegro), 62 at the Long Bolina – Wind Trophy staged in early May. These are just a few examples confirming that, among shipowners, the desire to sail is back. And some went even further than the Mediterranean: at the last ARC (3,300 miles from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia) there were as many as 15 Italian boats. This is not a national “disease,” because the trend is repeated abroad: think of the fact that it took only 24 hours to run out of available seats (300) at Fastnet 2013. The Race Committee was forced to expand the number of entries to 340, and with IMOCA 60s, Minis and multihulls, this will reach 380.

how much is missingANYONE CAN PLAY IT
Unlike stick racing, where it is now necessary to rig ultratechnological sail games and embark professional sailors on board to bring home the result, on a long course (we define “long,” for convenience, as a race of more than 100 miles) several factors come into play that make the ranking much more random. First and foremost, the weather conditions, which mean that no one at the start can declare themselves beaten at the start: an apt tactical choice, or a simple stroke of luck, can be worth much more than ORC and IRC compensations by rewarding a boat that, on paper, is capable of expressing inferior performance compared to another. Of “sludge-digging” boats (no offense to their respective owners) surprise winners at the expense of racing behemoths can be counted galore. Two years ago at the Giraglia it amazed to see the triumph in ORC by Pietro Supparo’s Hallberg Rassy 41 Gianin VI: a boat designed in the late 1960s complete with a very heavy anchor on the bow, 2-mast rigging, rollafio, 300 bottles of water loaded on board. The secret? A combination of crew prowess, weather conditions (the boat suffered a lot from the wave but in that edition the sea was always calm) and a favorable rating compared to the opponents: especially in the ORC system, it is easy for dated hulls to count on advantageous fees. In practice, you can afford to get hours behind more fierce boats and beat them in the final standings. Also linked to the Giraglia is the name of Alabianca, a 1984 Polaris 33 that has participated in no fewer than 18 editions: the owner, Camillo Capozzi, won in Overall and CHS (a tonnage regulation that predates IRC) in 1997 and 2006, in B division in ’93 and ’96, and the coastal and combined in Grouping B in 2009. His crew is pretty much always the same, sleeps in the boat and has only one large genoa, an old-fashioned Olympic jib and the so-called seaweed, a wind jib salvaged from a sunken boat. Winning a long race is within your grasp: just prepare the boat properly in terms of safety, share the cockpit with a proven crew you trust, prioritize the seamanship side over the racing side and, Aeolus permitting, you can take some satisfaction while having an experience you will tell your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren about. The story of the regatta, the comparison with other fellow adventurers is certainly another important ingredient of the success that offshore racing is experiencing.

Find Davide Besana’s book at


Have we convinced you? Had the cases cited not been enough, we would call to the witness stand the cartoonist-velist Davide Besana, a man who at the Giraglia, aboard what he calls a “chest” (Midva, a 10.61-meter Three Quarter Ton from 1982 designed by Ron Holland and built by Petronio and Pecarich from laminated wood), took first and second in the 2010 and 2011 long races and won the combined races in both editions. And he also wrote a book on it, simply titled “How to win the Giraglia” (the cartoons you see are just a few of the many that enrich the book): a handbook from which to glean useful advice on boat and crew preparation valid for any offshore race (hull, sails, safety, shifts, galley and more) but which, above all, oozes with emotion. Besana writes, recalling the final stages of the long race he won in 2010: “Last few miles along the coast with that terrible fear that grips you when you know you can make a mistake and throw away months or years of preparation, and we are on the finish line, with three-quarters of the crew squashed on the dunnage to help Midva through the wave. Pum. Cannon. Mulas (Sandro, the tactician, ed.) faints. I breathe shallowly to calm myself from tension. We did it“.



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