Luca Bontempelli has died at age 61 after a seven-month battle with a brain tumor. Gone, too soon, is one of Italy’s best sailing journalists.
Luca, a native of Livorno from an Elban family and a man of great culture, has not only written (including for the Giornale della Vela) unforgettable pages, not only is he the man of “how beautiful sailing is,” a motto that became famous during the live broadcasts on Telemontecarlo from Auckland to the America’s Cup in 2000 (and later on La7), but he was, first and foremost, a thoroughbred sailor.
World Champion on the 12 m International Tonnage in 1984, he had raced the 1985/86 Louis Vuitton Cup on Italy of the Italian Yacht Club of Genoa and participated in the 1987/88 Olympic selections on the Soling, just to mention two important “steps” in his career. Then thousands of articles, often vitriolic, written without looking anyone in the face, books. The last, monumental, The Invention of Regatta. A veritable encyclopedia of sailing competitions that Bontempelli had written (and self-published) after years of research and study.
How to define Luca Bontempelli? There are no words, it was unique. He was, quite simply, Luca Bontempelli.
Here is Sailing Newspaper editor Luca Oriani’s recollection of Luca Bontempelli’s debut at GdV.
Luca Bontempelli’s debut at the Sailing Newspaper
It was the 1970s. The newly formed GdV was looking for young contributors who knew how to sail. If they could write decently, all the better.
Our editor Luigi Ciccarone points us to a friend of his from Elba.
“Good at boating he sure is, at writing you’ll have to see.” Said and done, this Luca Bontempelli is summoned to Milan, an appointment by editor Mario Oriani who knew a thing or two about journalism. And also about sailing. The entire editorial staff pretends to be working; in reality they are just waiting for Bontempelli to arrive.
Which, however, does not come. Completely puncture the appointment time. After half an hour a phone call comes in: Bontempelli has a flat tire on his yellow 127. It’s coming. Director Mario Oriani gets nervous.
And if he is in a bad mood for co-workers, it is often trouble. Another half hour passes and Luca Bontempelli arrives in a daze. Mario Oriani in a thundering voice summons him to his office that looks like that of the commander of the Bounty mutineers.
“Bontempelli, I have little time let me see what you have written.” Bontempelli had been goaded, he pulls out a piece of paper written on a typewriter. Oriani picks it up, puts on his glasses and starts reading. Grave silence in the newsroom.
Until the imposing director stands up, takes Bontempelli by the shoulder, and leads him to an empty desk. “Sit here Luca. And start writing me a piece on the Laser phenomenon. For tomorrow morning.”
The unknown Luca Bontempelli had passed the dreaded director’s examination. And there were not many who made it.
A few years later Luca was the spearhead of the Journal of Sailing’s journalists. His no-nonsense interviews are memorable. Because Luca of hair on his tongue had none. Never. And he always wrote what he thought. Always written by God, sometimes questionable. Sometimes unpublishable. But always original and unique.