This is how Moby Dick, myth boat of 1970s sailing, was reborn

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moby dick
Left, Moby Dick, 42-footer designed by Douglas Peterson and built by Gallinari from lamenlary wood, in 1977 racing in the Solent Channel during the Admiral’s Cup. Moby Dick came second in the Channel Race, the Italian team’s best result. At right, the first exit of Moby Dick after restoration completed in 2022. Family and friends on board. Lorenzo Bortolotti, the owner, is the one with glasses on the right in the second row.

The new life of a boat, restored to its former glory, is always good news. It is even more so if it is an Italian sailing legend, the Moby Dick, 42-foot design by Doug Peterson. If it is also the story of a shipowner who owned her in the mid-1970s, sold her, and after 40 years bought her back to revive her, then this tale is tinged with passion and love

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The 1977 Admiral’s Cup story in the Sailing Newspaper. If you subscribe to the Journal of Sailing , you can browse the GdV’s digital historical archive for free

The incredible story of the Moby Dick

It was 1977, Cowes, Isle of Wight, England. The Bortolotti family’s 42-footer Moby Dick, with a crew of Italians under the age of 30 aboard, comes in second in the Channel Race.

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Moby Dick in 1977 in regatta. Lorenzo Bortolotti is at the helm.

A great achievement. Moby Dick finishes 17th among the world’s best 57 boats representing 19 nations. This is the Admiral’s Cup, the world championship for national teams of three hulls per nation. The top of world sailing. Moby Dick along the prestigious docks of Cowes, the temple of European sailing, is one of the most admired boats. Not only because it proved to be so fast, but also because it is a work of art that only in Italy they know how to make. And the world knows it.

Part 1. The construction of Moby Dick

Peppino Gallinari’s shipyard in Anzio, famous for also building Giulio Cesare Carcano’s boats, such as the Vihuela, built it. Gallinati builds them from glulam. For Moby Dick Peppino uses four layers crisscrossed and glued at 45 degrees of 6-millimeter Okumè wood, the lightest wood available. Nothing else. The construction is so perfect that it beats for rigidity and lightness those made of aluminum, wrongly considered then the most suitable material to realize a racing boat.

Part 2. The Moby Dick Project

The design then is of the U.S. one that gave our star player Tino Straulino a run for his money when he showed up in 1973 in Sardinia with a self-built boat named Ganbare. The first Doug Peterson-designed boat doesn’t win because of a mistake at a buoy turn, but revolutionizes the design world.

Its boats are lighter and with less submerged surface area than all others. In two words, they are faster and completely different from the others.

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The launching of Moby Dick after restoration. Note the tiller rudder that replaced the single wheel rudder

Moby Dick, class two tonner IOR, is one of the best drawings to come out of Peterson’s pencil. And it is also beautiful, as well as fast. Gray with a simple white line, the stern and slatted teak deck make it clear that it was still a wooden boat, built by a modern shipwright.

moby dick - launching
the champagne-cup lines of Moby Dick by Doug Peterson and the distinctive heart-shaped stern, a symbol of 1970s-era boats.

Part 3. The owner

In this story of rebirth of a myth, we miss the main character, the passionate owner in love with his boat who gives up and picks up, as in a love story. His name is Lorenzo Bortolotti, those who have frequented the race courses of Italy and the world know very well who he is.

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The interior of Moby Dick after renovation. A total open space from bow to stern that enhances the wooden construction.

Let’s just tell you that in those 1970s he is a legend for those who, like me, have been following him ever since. Strong at the helm, taciturn, in long races he almost never sleeps and knows how to motivate his crew. We forgot, he has been racing with his family since he was a little boy. And he knows his boats like the back of his hand.

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The square and the aft area. Note the high bunks above the low bunks in square.

He is the soul of Moby Dick, without Lorenzo we would not be here talking about this beautiful sailing story.
Bortolotti, just to name a few of his enormous resume, has won world championships, been the boss of an America’s Cup campaign, and helped birth the Maxi class. He now has Monte Carlo residence and sells (also) Swans.

Part 4. Why revive Moby Dick

What did Lorenzo do, and here is the crux of this story? Lorenzo reclaimed his glorious family boat, forty years later. He recaptured and revived that very Moby Dick, the two-tonner Peterson built by Gallinari. Because it is, despite so many other Moby Dick’s that his family has owned, the one he is most fond of. Whom he loved the most, of whom he has memorable memories.

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The Moby Dick moored in Monte Carlo. Moby Dick has also returned to racing. She participated in the Rolex Giraglia 2022 where she finished sixth overall in the ORC category. It took him 60 hours, juggling the weak breezes that characterized this edition of the 240-mile offshore classic on the Saint Tropez-Giraglia-Genoa route.

His is not a nostalgia operation, however. It is the recovery of a family heritage, which should also serve to pass on his passion for sailing, the sea and beautiful boats to the next generation of his family. Moby Dick is one of the best examples of how a beautiful boat is timeless.

A timeless object: of art? Probably yes.

L.O.

See photos from the recovery of Moby Dick


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