Aldo Fumagalli: “So at 10 knots in the Atlantic we were making spaghetti.”

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Aldo Fumagalli had a dream of crossing the Ocean 20 years ago, and after 20 years he made it, participating in the ARC Plus Atlantic rally with a real sailor’s trimaran. And he also won it. Credit to a stable boat, crew and a strategic choice of sails. (In the opening photo, Aldo Fumagalli, 60, pictured with his back to the bow of his Neel 47 Minimole as he scans the horizon during the 2019 ARC Plus)

THE STORY by Aldo Fumagalli: “At 10 knots in the Atlantic we were making spaghetti.”

“I will always remember that, when I was 40, I told my friends, ‘By 60 I will have made the Atlantic.’ I barely made it.” Speaking is Aldo Fumagalli, an electronics engineer and successful entrepreneur (he is the former owner of the well-known home appliance brand Candy), born in 1959 and a great sailing enthusiast. With his trimaran Neel 47 Minimole, he won the ARC Plus, the 3,000-mile transatlantic from Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) to Rodney Bay (Saint Lucia) with a stopover in Mindelo (Cape Verde) late last year. His success was a “good first:” Aldo was on his first ocean crossing and the boat was brand new.

FIRST STEPS.

But beware, of miles on his back, the Monzese Fumagalli already had quite a few: “I started many, many years ago, as a charterer. With friends we used to rent the boat for our vacations: as we got richer (laughs, ed.) the cruises got longer and we could afford to sail out of Mediterraneto, to exotic places like the Caribbean and the Seychelles. I also happened to be paid to do boat transfers, for example we took a 12-meter Giorgetti and Magrini from Venice to Elba Island.” Lots of cruising, very little racing: “Just a little activity on First 21.7s on Lake Como, at Circolo Vela Bellano.”

A quiet lunch in Minimole’s “veranda” cockpit in the middle of oceanic sailing, confirming the boat’s stability: from behind Aldo Fumagalli, from left to right instead Carlo Pozzi, Patrick Phelipon, Marco Tausel and Marco Biraghi. Marco Corno is the author of the photo.

THE RIGHT BOAT AND CREW

Years go by and Aldo feels ready to “give it a go” in the Atlantic. To do this requires the right boat, and he, who has never owned one, begins a painstaking search: “I am an engineer who used to make washing machines, I need to inform myself and know in detail how things work. I was looking for a boat that could combine speed and comfort, and I wanted it to be a multihull: after a tour of various boat shows I settled on the Neel 47″.

A special boat, very few Italians choose a trimaran: “It has significant space, it has a raised cabin on deck, and the cockpit is actually a ‘veranda’ on the sea. What amazed me about this boat was its stability. Just think that in the Atlantic, while we were traveling at 10 knots, we were sitting on the deck eating spaghetti on a perfectly set table, with glass glasses!” Because speed is fine, but comfort while cruising should not be compromised: Aldo will also use the boat with his family; it is no coincidence that he named it Minimole, which means “little mole” in English. Mole is the way he affectionately calls his wife.

The La Rochelle shipyard delivered the boat to Fumagalli on Sept. 15, less than two months before the start of the race from the Canary Islands: “Shortly before, on August 29, I had been diagnosed with a serious heart problem, So I had to undergo an operation for a triple bypass. The day before I went under the knife I was desperate to find a skipper who could transfer the boat from France to the Canary Islands. Fortunately, I found Patrick Phelipon.”

Changing sails under sail: Phelipon is a tireless all-rounder on board.

Phelipon is a well-known name: class of 1953, a lifelong member of Cino Ricci’s “clique” in Italy who went to “fish” for him in France, where the navigator already boasted an enviable pedigree (he was aboard Tabarly’s Pen Duick VI at the first Whitbread-the crewed round-the-world round-the-world race-in 1973). Patrick’s résumé includes Admiral’s cup, Fastnet Race, Half Ton Cup, Quarter Ton Cup, Mini Ton Cup: he also successfully designed many boats, legendary was the Effraie, the mini tonner rigged to Cat Boat that won the first Mini Ton Cup. “Patrick knows the boats perfectly and was the person I was looking for,” Fumagalli continued.

“Anyway, my post-surgery rehabilitation lasted less than expected and I was able to take part in the transfer from France to Portugal and then to the Canary Islands.” Phelipon was the only graft in a well-rehearsed crew: along with Aldo, his friends Marco Corno (skipper), Marco Biraghi, Marco Tausel, and Carlo Pozzi (doctor: on this transatlantic it is a must to embark a doctor) participated in the ARC Plus.

The Neel 47 Minimole photographed under sail by Davide Zerbinati on his Stadtship 54 Aluaka.

MODIFICATIONS TO COPE WITH THE OCEAN

“Neel is a serious shipyard, but obviously the boat, as soon as it was delivered to us, needed some modifications, and in this Phelipon’s experience was crucial to us: we replaced the fixed point of the mainsail sheet with a trolley system, installed barber everywhere on board so that we have all the reefers in the cockpit. When you sail on the high seas, the less you move on deck, the better. In this regard, it should be mentioned that in the Atlantic, the very long wave can reach six meters in height, making it very difficult to climb the mast if needed.

To avert this, Patrick made overhead modifications to have triple redundancy of the main halyards. These were reinforced with special sheaths and a gear hoist at the masthead. You can’t imagine what springy stresses ocean waves subject halyards to: they pull up your bow, bring the boat down to plane, and then brake it. And in fact we had two breakages: the halyard of the gennaker and the halyard of the Parasailor.”

Patrick Phelipon (left) and Aldo Fumagalli check the Parasailor in the stern: the double tangon is a solution desired by Phelipon.

THE SECRET WEAPON OF MINIMOLE

Mark this name, Parasailor. According to Aldo, it was this type of sailing that determined Minimole’s success. This is a carrier sail that uses principles derived from light aviation. Invented in Germany, it consists of a symmetrical spinnaker-type sail (not tangoned) and an opening at the point of maximum air pressure, behind which a box wing (paraglider-type) is installed. The wing is able to vent excess pressure, and the wing provides a fixed 45-degree tow. The result is a sail that, in addition to providing good aft speed performance, reduces the risk of overhang and oversteer, is easy to handle, strongly stabilizes the boat, and allows the autopilot to be used safely.

“At first my friends were all against buying the Parasailor, but the 285 sq. m. prototype I had sent from Germany eventually convinced everyone. Although the first tests were not satisfactory, with the sail refusing and swaying in light winds, we learned how to use it (Patrick still wanted to install a double bow thruster to stabilize both arms) and it allowed us to sail flush aft, even going half a knot more VMG than our opponents. This was our real secret weapon in the regatta.”

Minimole’s on-deck dashboard: on the B&G display you can see the speed (8 knots) in the full stern (172°) thanks to the Parasailor under autopilot.

“IN MY OPINION WE CAN WIN IT”

Initially, Fumagalli and his crew did not set out for ARC Plus with particular ambitions. “After the first two days of sailing, Patrick approached me and said, ‘Aldo, in my opinion we can even win this regatta.’ From there the spark and desire to be competitive was sparked. On the one hand we enjoyed it great, thanks to the space and comfort offered by the boat, and on the other hand we took the competition seriously. The crew answered to Patrick’s orders-there is no democracy on the boat (laughs, ed.)-and everyone had clearly defined roles.

Aldo Fumagalli struggling with daily routing

Discipline, on board, is key: there should be no prevarication and above all, each crew member must know the boat inside out; in training, any mistakes and emergencies must be simulated to understand how best to deal with them. For my part, I was put in charge of the stove, and a vocation for technology made me the weather manager: every day, comfortably seated in the square, we assessed the changing conditions on the 60-inch TV screen. I relied on forecasting programs such as Predict Wind.”

Marco Corno in Cape Verde-an intermediate stop on the ARC Plus-takes a swim together with a beautiful sea turtle specimen.

STRATEGIC CHOICES

Minimole finishes first among multihulls and in real first place on the first leg (850 miles from the Canary Islands to Mindelo), in four days, twelve hours and 35 minutes. The second and more challenging sailing to the Caribbean is approached with greater awareness of one’s potential. Speaking now is skipper Marco Corno: “We set off at full mainsail and genoa, in the middle of the line, we’re first, we’re going to be accelerating under the island of Sao Antao.

I decide, mistakenly, to wait to give gennaker, they pass us: we give gennaker. The course takes us too far ashore, we gybe with gennaker and 30 knots, the sheet shackle opens on the gybe–phew! We have to haul down, what a rage, we were very fast with the small gennaker. I realize that we suffer stress, and the kids need to calm down. We started too much at 1000 and I decide to continue without risk and only with genoa. We lose positions and are slow in crossing the cone of shadow that the island of Sao Antao makes for us.

With the wind forecast and the positions of our opponents, which we receive every four hours, we begin to strategize: the forecast shows us going south, but our opponents stay on the shorter line and to the north. The decision is simple; Minimole should be the one furthest south of the leading group but without overdoing it by continuing control over the flotilla sailing north. Also for this leg we decide to helm as much as possible by taking turns. By steering with wave you gain that half knot that makes all the difference in such a long race. The wind is stable between 15 and 20 knots and variable direction between 80 and 120 degrees. We left on Thursday and on Sunday we are finally second. Aldo Fumagalli sets up a computer-based mixed system of competitors’ routes and predictions. He is an engineer and it shows.”. On Monday Minimole takes the lead of the fleet and nothing can undermine it until the arrival in Saint Lucia, again first in actual and compensated.

On December 3, Aldo Fumagalli and his crew crossed the finish line two hours and 43 minutes ahead of Davide Zerbinati’s Stadtship 54 Aluaka (we told you about Davide’s ARC adventure in last February’s issue). Tells Aldo, “With Davide, a good feeling was created, I have to thank his mom who at the start of the regatta provided us with the yeast for the bread we were missing! We reciprocated with two kilos of frozen vegetables!”

A relaxing moment on Minimole’s deck in a light breeze captured by this wide-angle shot. At left Aldo Fumagalli and at right Marco Tausel in siesta mode. When the wind was stronger, the order was strict: tie yourself to the jackline and stay in the cockpit!
Marco Tausel grappling with the tester to assess the status of on-board batteries.

TAKE AWAY EVERYTHING BUT MY BOAT

Aldo’s account gives us a picture of an adventurous vacation among friends, peaceful in spite of a few unforeseen events that on a boat you always have to take into account: “Like when the engine left us, during the transfer to the Canary Islands: the installer made a mistake in siphoning the inboard and water entered ‘seizing’ it. In Las Palmas we found ourselves having to moor a 9-meter wide trimaran under sail, in very strong winds. Patrick did the maneuver like it was nothing – great!”

Or like when “while sailing we blew a water pipe (the delivery pipe on the internal freshwater distribution circuit just past the tank) and spent hours ‘roughing it’…”

Now what? “We definitely had a wonderful experience and one to repeat, in fact I have already signed up for the 2020 ARC. Browsing Minimole I learned about it, appreciating it, evaluating its merits (many) and flaws (few). Do you know what the world of home appliances I come from and the world of boats have in common? The passion and the bond that is created with the object. Minimole really feels it is mine. Take away everything but my boat.”.

Eugene Ruocco

PILLS / 1 – NEEL 47, WHAT A BOAT IT IS

The Neel 47 is a trimaran 14.20 meters long and 8.50 meters wide, fishing 1.58 m for a displacement of 10.60 tons. According to Fumagalli, it is an ideal boat for long sailing and cruising because of its stability and the large square footage that, together with the cockpit, forms a very large living area. The boat, with a smart sail plan, proved to be fast at the carriers. The Neel 47 is built by the La Rochelle shipyard Neel Trimarans(www.neel-trimarans.com), a brand founded by ocean sailor Eric Bruneel. In Italy, Neel is represented by Yacht Synergy(www.yachtsynergy.it).

PILLS / 2 – PARASAILOR, THE “ULTIMATE” SAIL FOR CARRIERS

Much of Minimole’s success at ARC Plus, according to Fumagalli, is thanks to Parasailor. It is a kind of spinnaker drilled in the center that uses aviation-derived principles. Thanks to the opening at the point of maximum air pressure, behind which a box wing (paraglider type) is installed, the sail is able to vent excess pressure, and the sloping wing provides stabilization for the boat. A great solution when sailing stern and wide slack, also because it works very well even on autopilot. Normally the Parasailor is not tangoned, Patrick Phelipon on Minimole insisted instead on having two tangons attached to the deck for even more stability: at the leeward end one is enough (as in the photo), at the stern both can be armed. www.parasailor-parasail.it

 

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