What unites Renzo Piano, Doi Malingri, and Michel Dufour? Nina Boba!


In Calasetta, on the island of Sant’Antioco (CA), sails a wooden Arpége built in Genoa’s Di Mostes Shipyard back in 1968. Her name is Niña Boba and her story is incredible because it intertwines the destinies of three great people-Michel Dufour, Renzo Piano, and Doi Malingri.

The launching of the Nina Boba with Doi Malingri on board.

Michel Dufour in La Rochelle

It all began in 1965. A French architect, one Michel Dufour has an insight that will revolutionize the philosophy of sailboat construction. In the 1960s hull designs were based on a belief: that for a boat to be fast it should touch as little water as possible to offer less resistance. Dufour does not fit. His experience led him to develop an innovative design: a hull with a large maximum beam compared to the size of the time. Why this choice? Simple: Mr. Dufour had managed to make the most of a formula that had been known for some time: namely, that the limiting speed of a hull is proportional to the length of the buoyancy, put in different words, to the contact surface between the hull and the water. TheHarpège thus has a waterline of 6.7 meters that becomes 7.7 when the boat is heeled. What then was happening with in the regatta? That the boat had a rating similar to that of a 6.7 m boat but a speed of a boat one meter higher. The boat was also fitted with a short drift fin and a ballast torpedo to improve its lift and upwind performance. Michel Dufour’s idea is still relevant today.

Renzo Piano

But let us come to the first link: this successful project was noticed by an architect with a passion for the sea and sailing: Renzo Piano, who contacted Michel Dufour to propose a collaboration: Dufour designed the hull, Piano the interior. And so they did, but they did not stop there. Renzo Piano was able to obtain a license to build the Arpège at the Mostes shipyard, which had already built other boats for the Italian architect. Piano perfected the construction technique of the hulls: several layers of wood glued and resined on the outside. The result is a sufficiently strong and light hull that gives the fiberglass Arpège a run for its money, so much so that the French shipyard withdraws its license from Mostes. The first wooden Arpège made was actually the one for Renzo Piano under the name Didon III, which today still sails in the waters of Alghero as Snoopy, differing from all others in that it has a truncated deckhouse that leaves room for a sizable bow deck.

Snoopy, formerly Didon III, the first wooden Arpége built for Renzo Piano

The second Arpège was actually Nina Boba, commissioned by the man who later became one of Italy’s greatest sailors, Doi Malingri, who, in 1970, in the company of his friend Carlo Mascheroni, just cool Boba crossed the Atlantic.

Doi Malingri
Screenshot 2015-03-26 at 3:49:58 p.m.
The Nina Boba in 1968

Then there are two other wooden Arpège sailing: Foletta III in Alghero, San’Etienne in Cagliari; the other four made unfortunately no longer sail: San Martino, Arpége, Thiamo, Carpa. Photos can be seen at www.mostes.it.

Today, under the name Niña Boba, an amateur sports association has been formed to rediscover the pleasure of classic sailing, without the stress of having to win at all costs, but transmitting the concepts of sailing technique that can be used to go to sea in total safety. www.ninaboba.com



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