Interview with Andrea Fornaro: it’s a race against time to qualify for the Mini Transat

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There are just over 200 days to go before the start of the 2017 Mini Transat, a regatta that could see seven Italians at the start this year, to whom we will devote subsequent in-depth reports. We use the conditional because qualification is still ongoing and enrollment is currently at 95 out of 84 available places.

Leading the way in recent days has been Andrea Fornaro of Sideral, in his second Mini Transat campaign, who recently launched his new boat, a prototype. The news aroused much interest because the skipper had already started a campaign among the Series as well as launched the new Ofcet 650 with which he won the Mini Barcelona. A few days ago the news of the class change and the immediate debut among the Prototypes with the Figaro Golfe regatta closed in second place. The reason? Unable to successfully complete the mandatory qualification among the Series due to too many competitors registered.

We caught up with him by phone, as he was bringing the boat back overland from La Grande Motte to Italy, to let him tell us about this unexpected change of plans and took the opportunity to review with him his campaign and the Mini class in general.

Let’s start with the present Andrea, you recently finished your first race among the Prototypes. What was the experience like?

We came in tight on time to get the boat ready, working the last few days from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and as luck would have it, the Race Director postponed the start by 24 hours because of the strong wind, so we had an extra day to work. We could not finalize the final details. For example, there was a mechanical problem with the daggerboards, I was struggling to pull them up, they were not flowing, and I did the whole race with the daggerboards in the water.

The attachment ring between the pilot and the rudders broke almost immediately, I helmed a lot, in short, the boat was in the middle of breaking in and on its first outing, let’s say 60% of its potential. The result was not important, but the feeling with was immediately great. After a start with little wind where I still had a good pace, after the first buoy we also had over 20 knots in the stern and with the big spinnaker I was able to pull the boat a little bit. I felt it was very solid, I sailed often around 15-16 knots of speed, and I quickly became familiar with the canting keel

Let’s take a step back, we had left you with a strong project for the Series class and we find you with a new boat among the Prototypes. What happened?

To this day I am convinced that the Series class makes more sense, but things have not gone right. I did the first 300-mile race with Ofcet, the Mini-Barcelona winning it, everything perfect. When I signed up in December, I realized that with the new boat I was at the bottom of the list as miles done. By regulation the skipper/boat combination counts; it is not enough to have sailed already in the class. I on the new boat was at the tail end of everyone’s qualification in the series class. There are 35 places available for the Series for the Mini Transat, I was already out and was placed on a long waiting list, while among the prototypes being fewer competitors there was still room.

At this point what have you decided?

I looked around, made an investigation, and learned that Bertrand, the same designer of Ofcet, had designed a prototype that in some ways can be considered as an evolution of the Series model I was preparing with. There was a shipyard that could deliver the boat to me by February 27, in time for Figaro Golfe, and so we made the decision to give it a try.

The first features that jump out at the eye of Fornaro’s Proto Bertrand is the edge that runs practically over the entire hull and the very pronounced forward volumes with a bow that is practically Scow

You have just started the qualification, what are the next steps?

I have to do a total of 1,000 miles of racing with the boat, of which compulsorily at least one solo race in 2017, the others can also be in doubles. With the Figaro Golfe I immediately fulfilled the solo racing chapter, now I can return to Italy, where I will do the Archipelago 650, 160 miles, the GPI, another 560 miles, and then one of the 222 or the Mare Nostrum to complete the qualification.

What are the features of the new boat and why didn’t you opt for foils?

It was an intentional choice not to have foils. I needed a simple boat; I didn’t have enough time to try different solutions. I customized the deck layout, it is a “comfortable” boat, allowing you to pull the right way and without stress. Foils are being tested in the class, we will see how it evolves, the foil issue in the Atlantic remains to be seen. The problem is that if you introduce foils into the class but ban riders with advanced processors, the road becomes very very complex. I was looking for an easy boat that would give me a chance to participate in the regatta by coming prepared with the time I had left.

What chance do you give yourself? There will be those who will “fly” among the prototypes

Let’s see what level of preparation we will arrive with at the start, the feeling with the boat is good. It will all depend on how hard I can push, and this will be affected by preparation. If I could be in the top five, I would be really happy.

www.andreafornaro.it

Mauro Giuffrè

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