Drum roll…who will be the 2014 Sailor of the Year? Come and find out at the TAG Heuer VELAFestival


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collage-sailors1Time is running out, the quality jury is finalizing its work. Who will be the new 2014 Sailor of the Year from the five nominations you chose with over 12,000 votes on our website? Will it be one of ocean navigators Andrea and Gaetano Mura? Or Marta Maggetti, the young heir to Alessandra Sensini? And why not Gilberto Nobili or the design duo Mario Caponnetto / Michele Stroligo, architects of Oracle’s success in the America’s Cup?


Come find out during the Day of Champions at the TAG Heuer VELAFestival in Genoa on April 11. You will be able to meet the greatest sailors, talk to them and ask for advice: but to celebrate the Sailor of the Year, and the winners of the TAG Heuer Passion, High Performance and Innovation awards, you will have to wait until 6:30 p.m., when the Evening of Champions will begin in the major events area, with sports journalist Mino Taveri leading the games.


Here are who are the “papayees” for the award:

gilberto-noblesGILBERTO NOBILI, 39

“My sailing story began in a bicycle store in 2001,” says Gilberto “Gillo” Nobili, born in Castelnovo ne’ Monti (Regio Emilia) in 1974. “There I met Romolo Ranieri (three America’s Cup campaigns on Luna Rossa), introduced to me by a mutual friend. He squared me up and asked if I wanted to audition as a grinder. At the time I was practicing athletics and river canoeing, but I decided to accept the challenge. I was working as an IT consultant in Milan: I told the office that I was going to spend a couple of weeks in Punta Ala with the Prada guys. The two weeks turned into months, and I never went back.” So much so that Gillo has yet to graduate with a degree in engineering because, according to him, “the America’s Cup doesn’t leave me time.” On Luna Rossa in 2003 and 2007, he moved on to Oracle with whom he won the last two America’s Cups. On board the AC72, in addition to being a grinder, he was responsible for developing the wireless navigation software: “We made sure that each crew member had a wireless unit where useful data was displayed, calibrated according to the person’s role. No cables or batteries-a nice weight savings and, above all, a clear advantage in on-board communication. No one needed to ask others for information. In navigation, we were using as many as 30 wireless devices.”

Why we nominated him. In both 2013 and 2010, he won the America’s Cup with Team Oracle as an absolute hero, becoming one of the very few Italians to have won the jug twice. Embarked as a grinder, he does not just turn the winches. A big head, he has been instrumental in the implementation of Oracle’s wireless navigation software. And to think that until 2001 he was a canoeist!

aht-ISAF-Youth-Marta-Maggetti--RSX-F-MARTA MAGGETTI, 18 YEARS OLD
Despite her young age (she was born in Cagliari, Italy, on January 10, 1996), Marta Maggetti’s sports record is studded with rainbow successes. The shy little Sardinian girl, on the strength of the Cagliari Windsurfing Club, turns into a racing beast when she is aboard her board. In 2010 he made a name for himself by winning world and European Under 15 titles in Techno 293. Marta grows but the results do not change: in 2012, again on Techno, among the Under-17s she is again world and European champion. 2013 is the turning point: Maggetti switches to the more challenging RS:X. Getting used to it takes very little: in 2013 he won silver at the Under-19 World Championship and gold at the Enel RS:X Youth World Championship in Civitavecchia. Of course, it triumphs in the most important national regattas and at CICO 2013. As Dan Peterson would say, “Phenomenal!” He made the grade, and he deserved all of them.

Why we nominated her. Alessandra Sensini’s heir is named Marta Maggetti, a young board specialist on the strength of the Windsurfing Club of Cagliari: at 18, she won the world title at the RS:X Youth World Championship in Civitavecchia in October 2013 and took silver at the Under-19 World Championship in Cyprus in July.

“There is a Genoese and a Triestine in Oracle’s design team.” This might sound like the opening of a joke, but it is all true. Mario Caponnetto and Michele Stroligo are an “award-winning firm” serving the Yankees. Caponnetto, born in Genoa 53 years ago, began his design career as a designer of submarine propellers in a military shipyard. He was part of the Moro di Venezia team in 1990-1992 and then returned to the America’s Cup environment in 2007 with Luna Rossa, for whom he worked until 2007 before moving on with Oracle. He is not a “scientist” lent to sailing, but a complete racer: in 1990 and 1991 he won the King’s Cup in IMS while also finishing second at the Italian J24 as a helmsman. During his youth activities he was part of the national teams in Optimist, Flying Junior, 420 (winning the 1980 European Championships), 470 and Soling. Thirty-year-old Michele Stroligo from Trieste is the youngest member of the Oracle Team USA design team-not bad for his first real work experience. A Caponnetto-like graduate in naval architecture and marine engineering, he caught Oracle’s attention through the text he wrote, “Experimental and Theoretical Comparison of the Strength Components of a Catamaran in Different Configurations.” Stroligo had told us, “I received an email for an interview after my text was published, and in July 2010 I joined the team.” Michele has a rowing background.

Because we nominated them. For the first time in the history of the Sailor of the Year award, we chose to “nominate” a couple, consisting of the “master and the “student.” Naval architect Mario Caponnetto is on his second victorious stint with Oracle’s design team, where he was considered the top expert in CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics). He was also one of the designers of the wing. His protégé Michele Stroligo, at 30 years old, is the youngest member of Oracle’s design team: he was in charge of hydrodynamic development and CFD analysis.

andrea-muraANDREA MURA, 49 YEARS OLD
“Eclectic” is probably the epithet that best describes, sailing-wise, Andrea Mura. Born in Cagliari, Italy, in 1964, on dinghies since he was 14, he won two European titles in 420, a World Junior 470, and took part in two Olympic campaigns in 470 (1984 and 1988) and Tornado (2004). His palmares includes ten Italian titles between Olympic classes and offshore sailing. In 1985, at the age of 21, he founded the sailmaker “Andrea Mura sail design” and collaborated with North Sails. From ’88 to ’92, he was engaged as a randist on the Moor of Venice. 2006 is the year of the oceanic turning point: Andrea begins his adventure aboard “Vento di Sardegna,” the Open 50 designed by Umberto Felci. He is the first Italian to win the Route du Rhum in 2010 (he will try again this year): “I went beyond fear because I had a goal to reach. During the race I learned to get in balance with the sea and discovered new and unexpected sensations,” he will recount in his book “Adventure, the Unknown, Fear.” In 2012 he triumphed at the Twostar (from Plymouth, England, to Newport, USA) together with Riccardo Apolloni, setting a new distance record, and at Quebec – St. Malo together with Apolloni, Luca Tosi and Tommaso Stella. It is also a record there. In 2013, the triumph at OSTAR. And forgive me if it is little.

Why we nominated him. Andrea Mura, aboard Vento di Sardegna, won in 2013 in real time the OSTAR, one of the toughest transatlantic races ever, and also had the honor of being called to participate in the Transat Jacques Vabre by Breton Gilles Lamiré, with whom he finished third. One of Italy’s most successful solo sailors, he is the epitome of the indefatigable sailor who cannot wait to set out to conquer the oceans. Now he is preparing for the 2014 Route du Rhum (from Saint Malo, Brittany, to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe), an ocean race he previously won in 2010.

gaetano-muraGAETANO MURA, 45 YEARS
Gaetano is the epitome of the “self-made” sea dog. He was born in 1968 in Cala Gonone (Nuoro), the splendid setting for Lina Wertmuller’s film “Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August.” At that time there were no sailing clubs or sailing schools locally. He cut his teeth as a deckhand on fishing boats, and at age 20 bought a dilapidated 23-meter vintage sailing ship, which he restored and used to make ends meet by doing charters. A self-taught loner, he participated in the 2009 Transat, and in 2012 began operations with the Class 40 BET1128. A sympathetic champion of humility, he called us several times in the editorial office protesting his candidacy (“with all the award-winning sailors around, did you have to choose me?”) and to express his astonishment at the voting performance: “Ajò, but can you tell who voted for me?” Really a lot of people, Gaetano.

Why we nominated him. Gaetano authored, along with Sam Manuard, a feat that has the unbelievable. During the Transat Jacques Vabre, aboard his Class 40 Bet1128, he dismasted while sailing upwind at 25 knots. Anyone would have retired: he did not, and with superhuman strength, he put the mast back up after attaching the halyard of the Code O to the bowsprit, managing to finish 12th. He told the story of the tree’s rearrangement in a humorous and “naive” way as if it were a run-of-the-mill chore.



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