THE INTERVIEW – Barcolana, a wall of sails behind me

Gabriele Galateri di Genola (photo by Giuliano Koren)
Gabriele Galateri di Genola (photo by Giuliano Koren)

“We were at Girolata, west side of Corsica, where the Mistral beats hard, aboard the ‘Red Witch’ the 39-foot fiberglass my brother and I had bought from an Englishman who, alone with his dog, had crossed the Atlantic. What a flailing and what a night on deck watching that the boat did no damage!“. Gabriele Galateri di Genola, chairman of Generali, main sponsor of the Barcolana, lets go for a moment and gives us this memory from 35 years ago. But he is quick to point out, lyingly, that he does not consider himself a true sailing and sea enthusiast. Then we find out that even today he is a real sailor, with his brother Marco’s Baltic 60 cruising the Mediterranean or, even, distant seas. “But,” he is keen to point out, “with a big motor boat.”

barcolanaTRIESTE, GENERALS, THE BARCOLANA
And here the talk inevitably shifts to the connection with the sea that has always linked the company he presides over. “Generali was born in 1831 in Trieste and still has its registered office there,” Galateri explains, “its connection with the sea and with sailing is inevitable.” But it is not only a debt of gratitude to the city that binds Generali to the Barcolana, which is, let us remember, the most important event held in Trieste. “There is also a sharing of values that links our company’s business ethics with those expressed by the sport of sailing. And therefore with the Barcolana, the most crowded regatta in the world. Because open confrontation, transparency, and honesty are common assets of sailing and business ethics. And they are values that Generali applies in its everyday activities.”

“THERE IS NO FAVORABLE WIND FOR THE SAILOR WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHERE TO GO”
Galateri displaces me when he makes a learned quote, which frankly I did not know: “As Seneca says, there is no favorable wind for the sailor who does not know where to go.” The talk slips to his personal participation in the Barcolana, in 2011 aboard the 30-meter ‘Susanne Af Stockholm’ with his wife, Evelina Christillin. For the record he placed 32nd. Not bad for a pure cruising boat. “I particularly remember some exciting moments. The start, a real ballet with hundreds of boats moving along the starting line with invisible synchrony. Then, a few minutes after the start, when I turned to the stern and saw the majestic and impressive spectacle of the wall of nearly two thousand sails silhouetted against the sea. That sight, who knows why, reminded me of the imagery I have of the battle of Lepanto between the Venetians and the Turks. And then the unique atmosphere that the Barcolana conveys on land, in a unique location that, seen from the sea, is even more enthralling. This mixture of spectacle and emotion, with the participation of the whole city in the event, reminds me of the atmosphere at the Palio di Siena. Quite different, of course, but the feelings it gave me are the same.” We can’t help but ask Galateri for a recollection of his navigations with Lawyer Agnelli, with whom he had a long history of work and friendship. “Sailing with the Lawyer on the Stealth (27-meter ultratechnology designed by German Frers, ed.) returning at dusk to the port of Calvi in Corsica is one of the best sailing memories.”

 

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