Forty-six years of history is a long time for a regatta. It was 1969 when a group of friends from the small port of Barcola had the idea and one of the great stories of Italian sailing was born, the Barcolana, now ready for its new edition this weekend (Oct. 10-12). We trace its life through some of the issues and, more importantly, stories that have impressed us the most. And remember, we are also there with our initiative.
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1969 IN 51 TO GO
Do you have a sailboat? Then you can participate. You run without compensation and without tonnage. Boats divided according to waterline length. Whoever comes first in real time wins. It is the “magic” formula of the Autumn Cup, found not by four friends at the bar, as in Gino Paoli’s song, but by a small group of Barcola marina enthusiasts who ask, almost with hat in hand, the FIV Authorities for a regatta. An end-of-season date is given, the second Sunday in October. First, noble yachts with tonnage, state-of-the-art sails, ratings are on the scene. The group of friends makes the rounds of sailing clubs, insists on invitations, even prospects prizes in the form of bottles of wine. Fifty-one eventually answered the roll call, on a sunny Sunday with the wind blowing lightly from the southwest, which fishermen up here call “garbin.” “The Little One,” in Tuesday’s sports report, speaks of an “outstanding participation success.” At the finish line first comes “Betelgeuse” by Capt. Piero Napp, who learned to pull edges at the Triestina della Vela, and who served as bowman for years to his friend Giorgio Brezich, eternal subscriber to the Italian Snipe title. Napp (who for the occasion embarks his wife, Umberto Rizzi and Aldo Vidulich) does not know that day that he signed with his Alpa 9 the first page of a great little sailing history. He also wins because he borrowed the spinnaker of a third class, the “Samurai,” which almost touches the water, but offers an exceptional and off-the-charts thrust in other races. His passion for the end-of-season regatta will never leave him again, and he never misses the event. No longer with his sailboat, but with one of his tugboats, the “Pegasus,” which has been hosting the Jury for decades. Real hospitality, not just a boarding, made up of participation and smiles, and delicacies packed by Mrs. Marisa’s hands. Piero Napp is the only one in the history of the Barcolana who has always participated with different vessels doing the race, in his own way, with a tugboat.
1970 THE PELASCHIER SAGA
Pelaschier’s story begins with Francesco in the 1920s in Koper. The progenitor of a family devoted to the sea in all its aspects, from fishing to sailing, he raised among his seven sons Adelchi and Hannibal, both of whom had a particular penchant for sailing. They all undergo, at about the age of three, the same treatment, Francis’ children. They are simply thrown into the sea to learn to swim, and shortly after, only a few years later, put in a boat with a rudder in their hands, to learn to sail.
The treatment will bear fruit: in 1939 Adelchi will win his first Italian title in the Dinghy class. Many successes will follow, all the way to Olympic successes: between 1952 and 1972, a member of the Pelaschier family will always be present. Adelchi began, in 1952, in the Finn class; in 1956 the two brothers, Adelchi and Hannibal, would be simultaneously present in two different classes, Finn and Dragoons; in 1964 it would be Hannibal again who would maintain the family tradition, again in the Dragoon class, and then pass the baton to his nephew, Adelchi’s son, Mauro, an Olympian in Finn in 1969 and 1972.
Having moved from Koper to Monfalcone, the Pelaschier family lives as close to the sea as possible: the house is adjacent to the Oscar Cosulich Sailing Society, so there is not much of a wait to arm the boat and go. Arming and going out to race, sail, but also go fishing, even to place, aboard Svoc’s historic Istria, the race courses.
Then it is Mauro’s time, who suffers the same treatment as his father: in the water at age three, in the boat at five. Adelchi publicly states that he does not interfere in his son’s sailing career, but many remember his booing, and his novice son’s timely tacking. Mauro Pelaschier is the story of today, of a family closely tied to Monfalcone and the Gulf of Panzano; he is the helmsman of Azzurra, chosen by Cino Ricci to take Italy to the America’s Cup, the sailor who managed to popularize sailing on television.
1971 SIGOVICH FROM LUSSINPICCOLO
John Sigovich was born in Mali Lošinj in 1929. In the local shipyard, he is one of the young carpenters, who are entrusted with the construction of wooden boats, up to twenty meters in length. Living on an island means having a close relationship with the sea and boats, and that profession Sigovich likes very much, so much so that he became one of the most well-known, and in-demand, carpenters. The geopolitical events of Istria caught him while he was intent on sanding and bending wooden planks, to build small sailing ships: at 27, in 1956, he had to leave his home, and like many refugees leave for other shores. It lands, after the typical wanderings of exiles, in a land with fresh water, in Toscolano Maderno, on Lake Garda. There, at the age of 30, he set up his first shipyard. Carpenter is not a word that fits well with someone who builds sailboats, and young Sigovich becomes a shipwright, and his small sailboats-many of which resemble the fishing flounders of his Lošinj-become wildly popular. In 1971, Sigovich decided that the Barcolana could be a good advertising vehicle for his new project. So he loaded his Carla, just over five meters long-a boat resembling a working hull, yet hiding a vocation for racing-on a truck, and took it to Trieste. That year’s Barcolana saw about sixty boats at sea, already a lot for the time. It’s light wind Barcolana, and Carla, amazingly, puts everyone in line, and wins overall. Success is immediate: many clones of Carla will be sold, and Sigovich, from that day on, will never forget the sea of Trieste. When large hulls began to be commissioned at his yard, he took the courage in his hands, and moved to Trieste: launching hulls on Lake Garda, in fact, can be quite challenging. Of the seven hundred boats built in a long career, most were made in Muggia, in the eponymous Sigovich shipyard, where Guinness World Records inspectors have come twice: in 1978, when he built Europe’s largest fiberglass sailboat (it was 24 meters long), and in 1990 when he built a 38-meter sailing cargo ship. The large, handmade boats are Sigovich’s pride and joy, but Carla has remained in his heart because she reminds him of a feat, and more importantly, an emotion.
1972 HER MAJESTY THE BORA
Meteorologists’ statistics say there are thirteen bora days in Trieste during the month of October. Scheduled for the second Sunday in October, the Barcolana thus has a one-in-three chance of being contested under gusts of bora, and in fact the bora entered the event ex officio for the first time in 1972. To hear the accounts of the racers there have been editions with 37, 40, up to 55 knots of bora. A problem? Certainly for family crews, who in that wind, when cruising, stay firmly at their moorings. Problems also for the experts, aspirants for overall success or category victory, who begrudgingly reduce canvas. Problems even for those who are unfamiliar with racing in hard conditions, but who do not give up, and experience in racing how to behave in strong winds. In this sense, the Barcolana sets the school in maritime terms. The Bora has become one of the “characters” of the Barcolana, and those who enter the regatta know that with the Bora they must, sooner or later, measure themselves. A home wind, the Bora of Trieste, which has inspired writers, poets, cartoonists and photographers, has many admirers, especially among sailors. That they speak of “Greek Bora” (north-northeast), “East Bora” (east-northeast), and know that from certain depressions of the plateau the lashings come down more violently, in some parts of the gulf the gusts spread evenly over the waves, in others they even return to land. They know everything, and teach those who listen, learning to go to sea without drama even when the “clear” Bora whitens the sunlit gulf, or the “dark” Bora conjures up North Sea scenarios.
1973 THE STORY OF FRESH WIND
Her name was Vento Fresco, and she was the boat of the Rizzi Family. In 1973 she was a solid sailboat, victorious in a mischievous Barcolana, characterized by hiccup winds, first strong and then becalmed, followed by “neverin.” Such conditions were perfect for Vento Fresco, but especially for its crew: dad Umberto, mom Angela, son Paolo. Dad Umberto is the family dreamer: he travels the length and breadth of the Dalmatian coast with Vento Fresco, and meticulously notes all the family’s adventures in a historic logbook. It is a logbook of the real kind, penned in oblique calligraphy, combining technical data, reported with the schematics of seafaring tradition (wind, landfall, miles traveled) with reflections on the sea and sailing, on his family. Mother Angela and son Paul, however, are free spirits. So free that they decided to use the family boat to participate, in 1985, in an ocean race, the Brooklyn Cup, 52 days of sailing, plus transfer, starting from Muggia. The race ends under the Brooklin Bridge, the family crew navigates the ocean in harsh conditions, with gales exceeding even 30 hours at a time. But the 11-meter Fresh Wind, that time, does not flinch. The story of Vento Fresco ends in 1993, on a day in early May. Returning from a Caribbean cruise, not the first for Rizzi, nor the last, the hull ran into a terrible, four-day-long storm. Paul’s last message, sent over the radio, speaks of a southeast wind at 50 knots, of Vento Fresco sailing along with him, at the hood, with a sail spun aft, to slow the pace. Then nothing more. The search begins, which lasts over two weeks, until the freighter Alidon spots a life raft, with Paolo Rizzi, and his shipmate, Andrea Pribaz. Seven days in the raft, for the two Trieste sailors, the end of a nightmare for the family, which mobilized half the world to search the ocean for a punt. But Fresh Wind did not make it. Sinking it, after severe wind lashings of up to 55 knots, is a big wave, as high as a three-story house.
1977 SCIARELLI, THE KING AT THE TAVERN
Carlo Sciarrelli, a great boat designer, has always said that he dislikes the Barcolana, and indeed says he continues to detest it, finding it“the largest gathering of the largest possible number of ugly boats“. And indeed one who has designed more than four hundred boats, dozens of them splendid, all made strictly of fine wood, cannot love more than that popular gathering of sea-going people, and signals, for some dramatically, that lonely bays in Dalmatia are destined to remain a memory. Sciarrelli, a self-taught genius, a former railroader, has sailed more than five thousand regattas “the real kind,” and sailed over ten thousand miles of ocean. He loves, precisely, “real regattas,” wooden boats, bronze winches, brass fairleads, clear paints, cotton sails. And he says he considers the Barcolana “a sneer” at other regattas. Yet he, too, could not resist the call of the Autumn Cup, and participated as early as 1970, showing off his “Bat,” the Thames-gauge cutter built in Essex in 1889, in “lustrofin,” which makes a fine display at the mooring of the Y.C.Adriaco. At the first editions, Sciarrelli’s boat is certainly the noblest, but not the only one among the old ladies of the sea. To the reporter who asked him why, hating the Barcolana, he had participated in it, Sciarrelli replied that “even the prince sometimes enchanters“, and drawing immediately afterwards a parallel between his participation in the Barcolana, which “The king who sometimes goes to the tavern“, helped emphasize one of the regatta’s ingredients, the kind that makes color: “In buoy you call water, water, and you get wine“.
1981 URANIA AND THE SPANGARO LINEAGE
“Urania,” for the people of Barcola, is a historical name, recalling endless, and singular, sea stories. Like the time the boat returned from Sansego towing a sea turtle, which was then kept for days on board, eating salad and cabbage from the gardens of Monte Radio. Or like the time Stelio Spangaro, the shipowner, was about to be arrested by the Yugoslav police to whom he refused to hand over his papers claiming he was in Italian waters because for him the Paris Peace Treaty was about others. Or like that dramatic time when the boat blew up on the pier in Piran while refueling, and to this day doctors wonder how Stelio survived. Of “Urania” there is not just one. “Urania” has always been the name of the family boat, from the old former lifeboat to the blown-up flounder. “Urania,” with the D’Annunzian addition, “of Carnaro.” Until the last one, which had the honor of competing in the Half Ton Cup. But the 1981 one was still in wood, running the Barcolana in the “Flounder” category. Of course in order to run with the goal of class leadership, some adjustments needed to be made. So in ’81 Captain Sandro Chersi took care of it, deciding to disembark from the “Urania” all the things that Stelio, living almost always on the boat, had accumulated. So away go the dunnage, cribs, stoves, galley (read: wine), and away, above all, about 60 kilos of tools, including a wood lathe, a cast-iron vise, and a 38′ wrench. The water line rises 22 centimeters. Stelio, who has the tonnage of a former boxer who is a bit out of training, is also landed for excess weight, and embarking with Chersi are his wife Laura, Stefano (holding high the honor of the Spangaro family) and Maximilian Du Ban, known as “Gepo,” who with his red hair, freckles and tall stature looks like a full-blooded Irishman. With the “garbin” on that Sunday even if a few more bottles of wine had been left on board, it would not have been a big problem. “Urania” flies over the waves, and wins the category.
1986 THE MOOR LANDS IN BARCOLANA
Raul Gardini smiles in white pants and blue jersey. He smiles from the helm of the first Moro di Venezia, the one that left its moorings to participate in the Barcolana, in 1986. You say Moro, and you think of the 1992 America’s Cup, the red boat, and the challenges in San Diego. These, however, are white, elegant boats with a green stripe that makes them all twins, a family tradition. When, the first time, the Moor lands in the Barcolana, the Cup challenge is still a thousand miles away. The Ferruzzi and Gardini families bring the boat to Trieste as if it were any other hull, but that name – practically a family name – makes headlines and history, in the regatta: the Ferruzzi and Gardini families, in fact, “go down” to the sea alongside the yachtsmen of Trieste; the Barcolana, all of a sudden, now resembles a popular regatta, and no longer just a popular one. Of the Moors, two would come to Trieste, the first, officially armed by the Ferruzzi family, which would not miss an edition since 1986 for the next ten years, the second, the Gardini-branded one, which would challenge everyone in the hot years of preparation for the Cup, 1989 and 1990. And the Moor, of course, will win. Three times, with different helmsmen, in different wind conditions. But beyond the results, there is something sacred, at least as far as sailing is concerned, in this boat’s presence at the various editions of Barcolana. Expected, courted, admired, revered and feared. But they are still blitzes: the Moro will never moor along the Shores, with the other hulls waiting to race.
1990 FROM WHITBREAD TO BARCOLANA
Whitbread, the round-the-world crewed race, has nothing to do with the Barcolana. Ocean regatta, for a single type of boat, with crews composed of professionals, completes the Around the World Sailing Tour, while the Barcolana is content with the Gulf Tour. But because it is open to all boats, the Barcolana sees emblazoned hulls returning from round-the-world races arrive each year to experience the thrill of winning the world’s most crowded regatta. One of Whitbread’s first maxis brings it, like much of the innovation up here in the Adriatic, Cino Ricci. It is about Gatorade, Giorgio Falk’s hull, who landed in the Barcolana in 1990, a year after participating in the Withbread, never a more wrong year for a maxi, floundering in the most torrid becalmedness, with the heavy, tired Kevlar mainsail drooping in on itself. Cino Ricci began his personal adventure as a shipowner in Barcolana in 1987; in 1989, a year of decidedly gallivanting bora, Cino Ricci thought that to win the Barcolana a big, strong hull was necessary: the image of Gatorade was soon fixed; but the great yachtsman did not reckon with the mischievous wind of Barcolana, which year after year amused itself by disrupting the plans of shipowners. Cino Ricci, the great matador of Italian sailing, has never won the Barcolana, just as other favorites returning from the World Tour, Equity and Law, Gatorade, Brooksfield, Amer Sport One or Amer Sport Too have not won it.
1997 RIZZI FAMILY FIXTURE
His goal as a boy was to participate in the Barcolana. At the age of sixteen or thereabouts, he managed to convince his father to let him join the crew that leaves San Giorgio di Nogaro each year for the regatta to reach Trieste. On the other hand, it couldn’t be any other way: Stefano Rizzi began sailing at the age of four, when he obtained a wooden, garage-built Optimist from his father. Being a protagonist at the Barcolana was Stefano Rizzi’s first “nautical goal”: then, while he was at it, the ocean sailor continued his career, won an Admiral’s cup, several 500×2 and Rimini-Corfu-Rimini, participated in the America’s Cup on Luna Rossa, three round-the-world races, two with stopovers, aboard Brooksfield and Amer Sport One, one nonstop, with Club Med, winning hull of the crazy “The race,” the millennium regatta, hurtling at thirty knots around icebergs. Then, he went on to the America’s Cup, Esimit Europa 2, and his return to his roots, on the tiny, acrobatic Moth, with which he flew foils and won the Italian title in 2014. Right on time in October-when not sailing on icy waters-Stefano Rizzi has always dropped everything to get to the Barcolana, often with the goal of winning it.
2002 BRESSANI’S FIRST TIME
Organizing the Barcolana, and not winning it for over twenty years. Lorenzo Bressani, one of the many champions Svbg has churned out, and is aiming to break the “curse” that hung over the regatta’s organizing company. In 2002, in fact, he is the star of the Barcolana, at the helm of Uniflair of the Magic sailing team. The boat, actually named Idea, belongs to Neapolitan Raffaele Raiola, but Mimmo Cilenti, who has already won the regatta in 1999 and 2000, and wants to repeat, has chartered it, investing no small amount of money. Uniflair arrives as the event’s largest hull at eighty feet, but it is not the only favorite to win. There is also that Mitja Kosmina, who intends to repeat the success of three Barcolanas, not with Gaja Legend, but with Maxi Jena, a hull by the Slovenian Justin, built in a dockyard in Isola d’Istria in a very few months, and with America’s Cup techniques. Lorenzo Bressani versus Mitja Kosmina, Barcolan pride versus Slovenian pride. And Lorenzo Bressani, thanks to a motorsports-style “overtake” just a few meters from the finish line, will win his first Barcolana, blowing the victory to Kosmina, whom Bressani guesses just one second before he arrives. It is the flag of a “parangal,” a fishing net, that gives him the signal that the air will turn to Bora. A complicit flag, spied a thousand times on the sea, windsurfing, on the few days a year when there are no regattas, and Bressani still does not give up the sea. The Barcolana comes to seal a golden season for Lorenzo Bressani, whom everyone in Barcola calls “rufo,” the local contraction for refolo, a nickname he earned as a young boy, when he was still racing in the Optimist class, before his successes in 470, before his triumphs among the offshore boats, and before winning “his” Barcolana. 2002 is a record year: record number of starts (1,969), record number of finishers, beautiful sunny day and the success of a local sailor.
2004 THE GHOST BOAT
If one had to choose a perfect Barcolana, one would have to go back to 2004: 1900 started, 1400 arrived, weak to medium sirocco. An edition that someone, the Triestine Franco Ferluga, will remember as the one in which he managed for the first time to gull the organizers, winning his personal re-edition of the game of hide-and-seek. The story begins far away, aboard a Trieste boat at the start of a summer regatta. Gone too soon, from a heart attack, sailor Paolo Zlatich. It is pain from a city of sailors, from a society like Stv, which saw him as a child, teenager and man. A pain that is sublimated into the creation of a light and very fast boat, christened “4 Paul.” Everyone knows her, 4 Paul, in Trieste. So fast and unique, but unsuitable for participation in the Barcolana due to safety issues: it is too extreme. That’s why every year, the Barcola and Grignano Sailing Society’s staging crews open the hunt for a hull that technically cannot participate in the Barcolana without the proper safety precautions when registration opens. The result of the research continues in alternate years, but in 2004 the helmsman and well-known sailor from Trieste, Franco Ferluga, invents an original solution: he leaves the boat the same, except for a few “cosmetic” changes, but changes, simply, the name. 4 Paul thus becomes “The Martha,” and wins the category. 1 to 0 for Franco Ferluga, But the trick is now out, because sailors can’t resist celebrating under a false name!
2006 MY FRIEND RUSSELL
He didn’t believe it, Russell Coutts. The New Zealand sailing champion winner of so many America’s Cup editions (first with the New Zealanders, then with the Swiss vs. the New Zealanders, then – but this was after the 2006 Barcolana – with the Americans) did not believe that a regatta like the Barcolana could exist, outside the waters of his home. That so many boats could go out to sea together and race in the Italy of yachts, but not of genuine and traditional passion. Convincing him of the existence of such a regatta (he will call it the“amazing sailing festival“) — for him already so many words lined up, because he is not exactly a talkative sailor accustomed to complimenting anyone or anything — is Trieste sailor Marino Quaiat. A sailor up to a point: Marino Quaiat is actually an expert in anything that can be repaired, possibly disassembled and reassembled, from the Opcina streetcar (the streetcar that climbs on a rack from Trieste to the plateau, and often needs care and rework) to boat propellers. Just for Russell Coutts, and for his RC44 monotypes, Marino Quaiat designed, fabricated, patented, and installed a futuristic knock-down propeller, so much so that he earned the honor, gratitude, and even friendship of Russell Coutts. That says whatever, to this little sailing party called the Barcolana I great America’s Cup champion am going, at the helm of an Rc44 prototype. Russell comes, is thunderstruck by the party, wins category, and decides to return the following year. But not alone: with a few friends, read America’s Cup champions, all aboard RC44 hulls, ready to play for the category victory, in a match race within the race.
2008 FROM THE AMERICAN CUP TO THE BARCOLANA
March 20, 2008, is a day long talked about along the docks of the Barcola and Grignano Sailing Society. On March 20, in the early evening, as the Svbg offices are emptying out, as it is not yet summer and not a particularly windy day to justify post-afternoon stays, the phone rings. As a result of the “first caller answers,” a stylistic exercise that is quite common in amateur societies at the crack of dawn, when the secretaries have left the command post, the call is diverted to the cell phone of the person in charge of communication, who for minutes on end will wait to see whether or not he or she is prey to a prank call. The call comes from the other side of the world, from South Africa, to be exact. From where a diligent event organizer inquires whether a boat that has just finished competing in the America’s Cup can, or cannot, participate in the Barcolana. Thus begins Shosholoza’s adventure in Trieste, along with its official crew-an explosive combination of South Africans and Italians-captained by sailor Paolo Cian, who to Commander Sarno, the hull’s owner, an Italian from Nocera Inferiore but transplanted to South Africa from where he governs a cruise line, during the long wait in Valencia for the America’s Cup races spoke about the Barcolana. As a result, after boarding a few freighters to get from Spain to Italy, after a few hours of towing and the placement of some security drapes, Shosholoza and her “black and white” crew, as she likes to call herself, moor along the Audace pier, bringing a breath of fresh air to Barcolana. Although slow compared to Alfa Romeo, Shosholoza and her Cian performs a miracle: in a becalmed edition she finishes third overall, winning the hearts of the people of Trieste, who although they side with Luna Rossa in the America’s Cup, make an exception in Barcolana.
2013 DAVID VS. GOLIATH
Once upon a time there was a carpenter, a clerk, a plumber, a shift worker at Illycaffè, a taxi driver, and a freelancer. All from Trieste, minus one, from Muggio. All male, minus one female, all from the Naval League, except for her from the Muggia Sailing Club (and another, from the Friends of the Sea). All, strictly, local sailors. Who on the occasion of the 2013 Barcolana woke up bright and early, ready for the regatta. They set off “the first boat in the buoy, all under Barcola,” as befits many of the “locals,” and breeze by breeze they rounded the first buoy fifth. With an 8.40-meter boat (practically to make an Esimit Europa 2 takes four, in length), strictly from Trieste, designed over 15 years ago by Dario Peracca. Their names are Christian Babic, Sara Postogna (at the helm), Andrea Cusmich, Massimo Bernobich, Andrea Klun, and Franco Polesello: they are the crew of the Esco Matto, who participated in the Barcolana with a boat not even nine meters long, rounded the first buoy fifth, and crossed the finish line in a historic ninth position. In memory of the last ten years, it had never happened that such a small boat, in SuperMaxi times, achieved such an incredible result. It is the eternal story of David versus Goliath. “We still can’t believe it,” the owner, carpenter Christian Babich from Trieste, will tell local news. – We are sailing enthusiasts, but we are normal people. None of us is a professional“.