There are anniversaries that cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. All the more so if we are talking about the greatest Italian sailor of all time, Agostino Straulino, who, if he were not sailing for other shores, would be 100 years old this year. That is why we have decided to dedicate, during the TAG Heuer VELAFestival (Genoa, April 10-13), the day of Sunday, April 13, just to him, with a big event that will be staged at 1:30 p.m., in which we will retrace the life of the great sailor, capable of winning the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and countless Italian, European and world titles. In addition, at the dock you can admire Ardi, the former Kerkyra II with which Straulino himself excelled in the most important Mediterranean regattas. We are waiting for you!
It was 1914 when Augustine, Tino to his friends, was born in Lošinj. A childhood without much desire to study, eyes always turned to the sea. To be born here, where the bora strikes with unprecedented power, is a sign of destiny. “If you meet one from Lošinj, rest assured that he is a sailor or, at least, has been one“, this is said. 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 into the army as a volunteer, but I’d rather you wait for the draft call in two years. 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.
FROM THE WAR TO THE GOLDEN YEAR
Then came the Naval Academy years in Livorno, where Agostino immediately began to distinguish himself for his sailing skills, then the outbreak of World War II stopped everything and Straulino found himself on the front lines in the ranks of the X MAS.
When 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.
“ROAMING” AROUND THE OCEANS
On the Corsair II first, then in command of the legendary Amerigo Vespucci, Straulino surpassed the Pillars of Hercules, performing some of his most memorable feats precisely on the Vespucci, such as sailing out of the port of Taranto 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.
Straulino sailed, and won, until late in life, even winning a One Ton Cup in 1973 at the helm of Ydra. Mythic then triumph in 2002, at the Admiral Acton Trophy, in the Over 60 category, with a crew of over 80s like himself (who was 88).
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 in this report 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.