Centomiglia: a great ocean regatta … on Lake Garda

“Please don’t speak ill of the Centomiglia.”
The owner of the residence where I am staying in Gargnano (Brescia), on Lake Garda, is asking me. This says a lot about how this historic regatta (organized by CV Gargnano: the first edition is dated 1957, this is number 66) is perceived in the area. Of course, there are many dockside rumors, and I find that “grumbling” is not the exclusive prerogative of Ligurians like me: “Eh, the Centomiglia has lost competitors,” “Eh, there were more boats at Gorla,” “Eh, the organizers are fossilized on the Free Class, but now you have to focus on catamarans.” But in the end, the Centomiglia remains the Centomiglia. The great classic to be won at any cost. And still on the water, at 8:30 a.m., on the big starting line by sectors (delimited by buoys, the sectors group different boats: monohulls, free class, catamarans) in front of the Bogliaco Marina, 120 boats are lined up (109 monohulls, 11 catamarans). And I’m there too, complete with super dinghy, to follow the regatta. Joining me are collaborator-photographer Adriano Gatta (his are almost all the photos accompanying the article), Ufo 22 class president Giorgio Zorzi (qualified for the London 2012 Paralympics on Sonar) and Giuseppe Archetti, owner of Ufo Camilla who decided to enjoy the regatta as a spectator this time.

The route includes the start in Bogliaco, the passage of the Riva del Garda and Arco buoys in the northern and Trentino part of the lake, the descent to that of Brenzone, a new passage to Bogliaco, and then down to Desenzano, in the southernmost and widest part of the lake (“This is where the regatta is decided,” Zorzi anticipates to me), and then finally up to Bogliaco. “Get ready Eugenio, with this wind we won’t be able to keep up with the catamarans,” Giorgio tells me: there is a beautiful pelèr (the typical Garda morning wind) of 18-20 knots, on the classic lake wave, high and short. A siren sound and there from Bogliaco a fast Frauscher speedboat cuts across the starting line by a long shot: yep, because at the Centomiglia we start “at the gate” (or “rabbit”), behind the stern of the speedboat, old-fashioned. I remember this kind of departure at the regatta that marked the end of my first Optimist course in 1993.

The catamarans are off to a great start: led by Itelligence, M32 of German Helge Sach, tailed by the other M32, Hagar III of Bolzano’s Gregor Stimpfl, with One Sails sailor Samuele Nicolettis and the Tonini brothers, among others, aboard. Also very fast were the Extreme 40s, North West Garda Sailing with Enrico Zennaro, AC&E Sicurplanet governed by Luca Modena (Manuel’s cousin and great Laser coach), Extreme Sailing Team of Hungarian Kristof Kaiser. It’s true, keeping up with them is impossible, they go off shot at 20 knots upwind and what has been seen has been seen. We follow them for a few minutes, then our bottoms beg for mercy from the waves and we stop to wait for the Free Class longer than 10 meters, where it is immediately a close fight between Clandesteam by Luca Valerio and Oscar Tonoli, the event’s most famous boat, winner several times of the coveted Bettoni Trophy (reserved for the hull that wins in real time: it is now the prerogative of catamarans, since the organization decided to stop dedicating a different course to them), and Burst by Hungarian Kiraly Zsolt.

What fascinating and strange boats the Free Class. “To me they are anachronistic,” Zorzi expresses, “look at the transhumance.” By “transhumance” he defines the transition of men on the trapeze from one wall to another during the tack (Clandesteam counts on a 12-member crew). And it is precisely during a tack that the Clandesteam boys find the boat by the hat. We see live coverage of the capsize and the vicissitudes of righting the hull. Tonoli and co. seem to have no more hope; the Hungarians are already far behind.

We have a good time cruising around the rest of the fleet, which features the legendary Ace 99, Dolphin 81, Protagonist 7.50, Ufo 22, Melges 32, Surprise and ORC-stabilized boats in addition to the Libera. That’s where the real challenge is, on the monotypes: it’s not easy to hold your nerves for a hundred miles… We recognize great sailors, old and young: among the Ace for example is Albino Fravezzi at the helm of Sconquasso, Guido Gallinaro on Pigreco Aron, the Cavallini brothers on Idefix. The list is very long, suffice it to say that the “créme lacustre” is all in water. And the boats are also beautiful (I particularly like the Black Arrow, a one-off by Walter Caldonazzi designed by Felci, and the Open 7.50 Cool Runnings by Dane Thorkild Juncker, winner of the last two editions in ORC)…

Back to the regatta. We go up toward Trentino in a swarm of kite surfers: once we cross the border they suddenly disappear. “In Trentino, kiting is banned,” Zorzi explains, “or rather, it is banned between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.” Italian-style, or rather, Trentino-style nonsense. After many more “sit-ups” we reach the buoys of Riva and Arco (crossing the very fast Cats already descending toward Desenzano at astronomical speeds), waiting for the first Free Classes: the Hungarians turn in the lead, taking it more than easy (reefed mainsail, wide maneuvers), but Clandesteam has made up hundreds of meters and is now only a few minutes away. In fact, past the Arco buoy Valerio and co. pulled up the gennaker on the fly and made a comeback. The Hungarians falter, what’s more, the gennaker is encased. Overtaking! Not even time to rejoice that Clandesteam, in order to avoid a boat, is forced into a sudden maneuver and capsizes again. The pelèr (which has dropped slightly in the meantime) does not allow us to hear the crew’s expletives, but the lips are eloquent. The Magyars of Raffica thanked and left undisturbed, this time for good.

We go down toward Desenzano, and with us the wind also goes down. I remember Zorzi’s words, “This is where the regatta is decided.” Every puff becomes crucial. Waiting for a breeze, because Ora (the typical south Gardesian wind that usually mounts after lunch) not even a shadow, we take the opportunity to take a refreshing bath (it’s crazy hot and I’m half burned, too!) and to listen amusedly to Adriano’s camaraderie jokes that I am careful not to relate. Cats in the climb back to Bogliaco are paired up, no telling who will win: Itelligence? North West Garda with Zennaro and Federica Salvà? Hagar?

Tension is sky-high. Because this is the Centomiglia. And winning in real time is the most important thing. North West Garda and Extreme Sailing Team jump to the middle of the lake, Itelligence and Hagar III stay further left on the Verona shore, hoping for a breeze from Monte Baldo, followed by AC&E Sicurplanet.

The two M32s make the winning choice, going up pushed by a breeze to Pai (a small hamlet of Torri del Benaco), then comes a very light Ora that allows the two boats to describe a wide semicircle and sail upwind to Bogliaco. Initially Hagar III is ahead, but Stimpfl evidently cannot handle the pressure and makes the fatal mistake: a double tack that stops the boat (“riveted to the water,” as Giorgio jokingly puts it) and gives precious meters to the Itelligence Germans (Helge and Cristian Sach, with Herbert Vogel and Gerd Schmitzer), who cross the finish line after 7 hours, 38 minutes and 17 seconds, uncork the champagne and receive the traditional bouquet of flowers.

And we relax with an ice-cold beer at the CV Gargnano bar: I think back to the hotelier’s words. “Please don’t speak ill of the Centomiglia.” And how could I speak ill of it? I fell in love with it 30 seconds after the start. You set off and tack with the “pelerone” under the rocky outcrops, come down and find yourself in the becalmed, where tacticians squeeze in search of the slightest breath of wind and where “tipples” are the order of the day. For a hundred miles you are in constant contact with other boats in your category. I’m going to say something crazy, but you know what the Centomiglia looks like to me? A great ocean regatta in miniature, the unpredictable ones where you encounter all weather conditions, the ones where you cannot let your guard down for a moment because a tactical or technical error would be fatal to you.

Eugene Ruocco
Photos by Adriano Gatta


  1. Itelligence, Helge Sach (GER), M32
  2. Hagar III, Gregor Stimpfl, M32
  3. Extreme Sailing Academy, Kristof Kaiser (HUN), Extreme 40


  1. Uccia Faith, Timo Spath (GER)
  2. Trimaid, Helmut Friedl (GER)
  3. Helvetia Versicherung (GER)

FREE CLASS >10 meters

  1. Raffica, Kiraly Zsolt (HUN)
  2. Clandesteam, Oscar Tonoli

FREE CLASS between 9 and 10 meters

  1. Toruk, Peter Seinet (SUI)
  2. Fontessa, Guus Bierman (NED)
  3. Gonfigonfi, Claudio Pintar

FREE CLASS <9 meters

  1. Vuvuzela, Raphael Naef (SUI)
  2. Hebe IV, Zdenek Sunderhauf (CZE)
  3. Nelson Flottalizing, Lajos Varga (HUN)


  1. Assterisco, Piergiorgio Zamboni
  2. AC&E debacle, Albino Fravezzi
  3. Aron-Confusion, Elena Reboldi


  1. Twister Sterilgarda, Flavio Bocchio
  2. Insolent, Davide Ferrari
  3. Merak, Marcello Colosio


  1. Pegasus, Valerio Manfrini
  2. Bessi Bis, Giuliano Montegiove
  3. Ariel, Claudio Marzollo

UFO 22

  1. Turboden, Paolo Bertuzi
  2. Wet&Pretty, Raphael Gugole
  3. Jack Sparrow, Alessandro Vitali


  1. O&Y, Luca Nassini
  2. Lexotan, John Montresor
  3. Caipirinha, Martin Reintjes


  1. Macavela, Marko Aoberegger (AUT)
  2. Confetti, John Berti
  3. Teresina, Alberto Girardi


  1. Eclipse, Peter Bovolato, LB10


  1. Atreju, Andreas Zipperle
  2. Bravissima Vibatex, Sandro Vinci
  3. Graffio Vita Sol, Bruno Manenti


  1. Free Spirit, Claudio Bazzoli
  2. Tremendous, Fausto Gandolfi
  3. Blue Est La Vie, Markus Mair


  1. Free Spirit, Claudio Bazzoli
  2. Tremendous, Fausto Gandolfi
  3. Atreju, Andreas Zipperle

ORC <8 meters in real

  1. Twister Sterilgarda, Flavio Bocchio
  2. Blue est la vie, Markus Mayr
  3. Cool Runnings, Thorkild Juncker (DEN)

ORC >8 meters in real

  1. Bravissima, Sandro Vinci
  2. Balck Arrow, Walter Caldonazzi
  3. O&Y, Luca Nassini





Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scopri l’ultimo numero

Sei già abbonato?

Ultimi annunci
I nostri social
In evidenza

Può interessarti anche

Here’s how the first hydrogen-powered sailboat works

British skipper Phil Sharp recently unveiled his new Imoca “OceansLab,” the first racing sailboat to integrate a hydrogen-powered electricity system. And with this “green” technology it will participate in the Vendée Globe 2024. In the future of nautical mobility, that

Scroll to Top