BEST OF 2014. Happy birthday Plummer! 100 years ago the myth was born


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Ape_straulinoExactly 100 years ago today, the greatest Italian sailor of all time, Agostino Straulino, was born on Lošinj. To remember him, we bring you the article “Simply, Straulino” published in the April 2014 issue of the GdV, in which we review his life, victories and background. And we say, happy birthday, commander!

Tino was a righteous man
“, Tiziana Oselladore, who edited a splendid book dedicated to the Commander, tells me. Such a phrase, which in its simplicity perfectly renders the person. The man was Agostino Straulino. Tino for friends, indeed. The greatest Italian sailor of all time, capable not only of winning on virtually any boat he sailed, but also of leading, he a man of navy and sea, crews in every ocean, in command of the Corsair II first and the Amerigo Vespucci later. If he were still alive (he left in 2004) Straulino would be 100 years old on Oct. 10.


On the stairs of the house together with siblings and cousins.
On the stairs of the house together with siblings and cousins.

Straulino was born in Lošinj, in the Gulf of Kvarner, in 1914. To be born here, where the bora strikes with unprecedented power, is a sign of destiny. “
If you meet someone from Lošinj, rest assured that he is a sailor or, at least, was one
“, this is what they say. And young Tino does not disprove the saying. His father Peter carried cargo all over the world on his own steamships, while his mother, with six children to care for, had her hands full keeping an eye on her son, who was more in love with the sea than with school. At the age of eighteen, he graduated from the Nautical Institute of Mali Lošinj. His father, on the very day of his promotion, called him aside: “Listen, Tino, you would be of an age to go under arms as a volunteer, but I would rather you wait for the draft call, two years from now. Life in freedom is the most alive and real desire you have now, I know. It is my gift for your promotion. So take the boat, the beach house, whatever you want: for two years absolute freedom!“. And boat it was, an uncovered five-meter Lanzarda, with which the 18-year-old stays away from home even for whole weeks. An absolutely carefree youth, ending in a very specific year, 1934.

In October of that year, in fact, the draft call came and Straulino entered theLivorno Naval Academy as a midshipman. The change in habits imposed by strict military discipline is abrupt. It takes little, however, for Straulino’s sailing skills to make him stand out. The first major success came in 1938, with the victory in Kiel in the European Star class. A success achieved in the lair of the wolf, that Walter von Hutschler who in the same year had wrested the world title from the Americans, who had held it continuously since 1923. Already at Pollux’s bow is Nico Rode, for many years an inseparable training and racing companion. Nicholas “Nico” Rode, also from Lošinj and already a childhood friend, had proved to be the ideal partner until 1935. Strong and athletically prepared, With his over 100 kilograms (which added up to Straulino’s 85-90 kilograms) reached the ideal weight for a Star crew in those years. A sporting and personal partnership that would continue until the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

After the triumph at the European Championships, the entire sports world comes to a standstill: World War II breaks out. Straulino took part first embarked on the cruiser Garibaldi, where he remained until January 1942. Passes chased in the assault craft of the 10th MAS Flotilla, in the Gamma Groups, whose job was to attack enemy ships at anchor outside and inside ports. The end of the War deeply affects Straulino: Tito’s soldiers occupy Lošinj on April 20, 1945. With the capitulation, Lošinj becomes part of Yugoslavia. Italians, like Straulino, are forced to leave the island. “For my dad it was a great sorrow,” Marzia, his daughter, recounts softly. “We returned to Lošinj many years later, in 1963. I was 12 years old. Father was a man who was very attached to his land, almost afraid to return after all that had happened. He did not know how he would be received. Then he also bought a piece of land, where over the years he planted many pine trees, which he transported to Lošinj aboard his Kerkyra“.

Plumber_rodeWhen the war ended, he was assigned to domestic port demining operations. It was during one of these, in 1947, that he was hit in the face by a jet of mustard gas in an accident: he lost his eyesight for several days, only to recover it slowly, but it was a problem from which he would suffer all his life. Meanwhile, he returned to competition, again partnering with Nico Rode on the Star, establishing himself in a few as one of its top performers. The list of titles he won is impressive: European Champion continuously from 1949 to 1956, Italian Champion from 1948 to 1956, World Champion in 1952, 1953 and 1956. But the year to mark on the calendar with a red pencil is 1952. Straulino and Rode enter the Helsinki Olympics with a fast Star, Merope, after they finished among controversy with a fifth-place finish in the previous edition. The seven trials turn into a two-way battle with Comanche, the ultra-modern boat of American favorite John Price. Straulino and Rode finished three times first and four times second. It is the triumph, which also brings the Italian couple to the pages of Gazzetta dello Sport. After the breakup of the partnership with Nico Rode, there is a moment of tarnish in results, broken with the European and Italian titles in 1959, this time paired with Carlo Rolandi. However, the big goal is only one, the 1960 Rome Olympics, with the regattas taking place in the Bay of Naples. Straulino is the compulsory favorite, but something is not going right. And comes a scorching fourth place, the wooden medal, marking the farewell to the beloved Star.


Aboard the Corsair II
Aboard the Corsair II

These are years in which, between regattas and commitments with the Navy, Augustine is hardly ever home. “But it was normal for us, he was a typical naval officer, he was always or almost always embarked“, Marzia recounts further. “When he was with us and not in the regatta, my dad was a really nice person“. Just “nice” was his favorite adjective, it stood for a real superlative, the way of saying that he really liked something. “Even in the boat we laughed a lot, he could joke. And by the way, even when he was in command of the Corsair II and the Vespucci, he actually had a lot of fun “torturing” his crews, who only later realized the importance of those sailing and life lessons. And that in fact they loved their commander so much.“. That’s right, because after the years of success between the buoys, in 1961 Straulino, then a frigate captain, led the Corsair II to Los Angeles, via Panama: final destination the 2,225-mile Transpacific Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, then one of the longest races in the world. is a first for an Italian-flagged boat, important enough to have Beppe Croce, the historic president of the Italian Yacht Club, on board for the duration of the regatta. The Corsair II, a splendid yawl designed by Sparkman & Stephens is a first-class RORC 20.90 meters long, with a maximum beam of 4.88 meters and weighing 42 tons, ranked fourth in class out of thirteen participants.

Year 1965. Straulino boarded the training ship Amerigo Vespucci again (this was his fourth time), but this time as commander. Under him he performed some of his most memorable feats, such assailing out of Taranto harbor or the tremendous storm he faced in the North Seas. Straulino’s competitive spirit does not fail even on the big sailing ship. As when he engages in a speed duel lost at the start with German clipper Gorch Foch, who is much more soaring. When it looks as if the Amerigo Vespucci is destined to be overtaken, the German sailing ship rests determinedly moving away. Tales are intertwined, but most agree that a flashing message went out from the bridge of the Gorch Foch at that moment: “You are the most beautiful ship in the world with the king of sailing as commander.” It will be his own crew, at anchor in the Gulf of Naples, that will cheer him on when Straulino wins the 5.5 Class World Championship in 1965.

The Amerigo Vespucci sails out of the Apulian port under Straulino's command. A feat that remains in the annals.
The Amerigo Vespucci sails out of the Apulian port under Straulino’s command. A feat that remains in the annals.


In these years (and still for several decades to come) technology is not yet a dominant part of sailing. A sail that is revealed in the close relationship between man and boat. Straulino has been talking to the boat for years, seeing it as an animated being, urging and cheering it on, as it approaches the finish line, for it to make the final effort. But Straulino is also a very practical man, capable of spending hours in the tuning of his boat, which he cares for as if he were a child. A dedication that accompanied Tino throughout his life, even when he began racing, in the 1970s, in the IOR Class. “From Straulino I learned precisely respect for the craft and the sails,” says Gigio Russo, now CEO of North Sails Italia, who at only 16 years old, in 1972, boarded first Kerkyra II and then Ydra with Admiral. “But he was also a man who was very interested in the technological evolution of boats; even when he was now out of the racing world, if we met he would ask me about the technological evolution. I am convinced that he would have been able to take them to the maximum“. It was with Ydra, a 37-foot third class designed by Dick Carter and built in aluminum by Abeking & Rasmussen for Marina Spaccarelli Bulgari, that in 1973 Straulino and his crew won the One Ton Cup, the first organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, and the Giraglia. From here on, many have said that Agostino Straulino moved away from competitive sailing. In fact, every time he got into the boat again, he won. Mythical triumph in 2002, at the Admiral Acton Trophy, in the Over 60 category, with a crew of over 80s. But these were the years of long cruises with his family, one or two months on a boat enjoying the sea and the wind, first on Lošinj, then on the Magdalena, aboard his Kerkyra III. A life for the sea, because, as all who knew him said, “He and the sea were one.”

*The photos you see are from the book “Straulino Lord of the Sea,” edited by Tiziana Oselladore (Comunicarte Editions, pp. 176, 25 euros). A splendid portrait, also in pictures, with texts by Piero Ottone, Renato Corsini, Beppe Croce and Straulino himself.
Another fine volume dedicated to the commander is “The Master of the Wind,” written by Giuliano Gallo (Nutrimenti Edizioni, pp. 176 – 16 euros).




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