Vincenzo Onorato, the owner who sailing needs (and is also a writer)


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Vincenzo Onorato embodies the figure of the entrepreneur in love with sailing.
A Neapolitan, born in 1957, he is the owner of Tirrenia and Moby, a leading shipping company: but above all, he is a passionate sailor who has the will to win in his DNA. President of Team Mascalzone Latino, which he founded in 1993, he has led two America’s Cup campaigns (2003 and 2007, having retired from the 2011 campaign in which he was named Challenger of Record). His palmares counts six World Championship victories among Farr 40, IMS and Mumm 30. We had awarded him 2007 Sailor of the Year, now he has been “reborn” by winning the 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race on his Cookson 50, the Melges 32 European title, and taking a second place at the Swan Cup (on the Swan 38): he is among the nominees for Sailor of the Year again this year.

A little curiosity? He has a passion, in addition to sailing, for writing. He has several novels to his credit, including a dystopian science fiction novel, Floyd Frugo – A No-Global Fable (Mondadori Urania Speciale).

Taken from The Journal of Sailing March 2007. Can you be as excited as a kid on your first success even though you have raced all over the world, competed in an America’s Cup and dominated an entire season in one of the most competitive classes? The answer is affirmative as seen by all the guests at the final evening of Il Velista dell’Anno, the award par excellence of Italian sailing. Vincenzo Onorato, when he received the Golden Rudder, was on the verge of being moved or was really moved but managed to keep it out of sight. A great satisfaction for the Neapolitan owner-helmsman, who was virtually unbeatable in 2007 with the Farr 40 bearing the same name as his America’s Cup challenge – Mascalzone Latino Capitalia Team – but also a great satisfaction for us at Il Giornale della Vela, who promoted this award for the 16th time. Already being able to have five champions of this caliber on stage (three actually due to the more than justified absences of Alessandra Sensini and Laura Linares) confirms the technical validity of the award. Plus having the comfort that among the hundreds and hundreds of ballots sent in by readers (via email and fax) from April to November, the top vote-getters were Onorato himself, his very worthy rivals Cian and Celon as well as the two windsurfing queens. In short, if on some occasions, the Jury’s final verdict (as is normal in all sports awards: just think of the Ballon d’Or…) had left the losers with a bitter taste in their mouths or stirred controversy, this time the applause was collective. Bravo to all, bravo to “Don Vincenzo.”


Time to undergo yet another TV interview, a kiss to Ilaria D’Amico with an accompanying invitation to be a guest in a regatta on Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (“If I think about how happy my parents would be…”) and here Vincenzo Onorato accepts a chat before fleeing Villa Miani with the Golden Helm firmly in his hands. Excitement gave way to joy.

“I am overjoyed to have won this prize, which was awarded for the first time to an amateur as I consider myself,” attacks the Neapolitan shipowner, “I consider it a reward for all the time I dedicate to sailing. Of course, I do not have the prowess of Paolo Cian and Nicola Celon, whom I consider phenomena, but as for perseverance and passion I am second to none.”

In addition to amateur or Corinthian as they say now, you are the quintessential owner-helmsman. A role that you consider to be present or not present in Italian sailing?
“I’m an owner-helmsman, it’s true, but with a frightening constancy. I ended 2006 with 110 trials run which, added to the training days, makes about four months spent at sea. And in this weather, days also happen where you just don’t feel like boating or are bored to death, like during speed tests. This means that it is a role that, beyond class choice, requires commitment and self-sacrifice. For the past twenty-four months I have been eating bread and Farr 40″.

Tonight, another good owner was on the stage. Danilo Salsi. He does not helm as well as she does, but we are convinced that he has more fun. Or is it?
“The world I live in is so paranoid, schizophrenic and exasperated that I can’t think how other people live it. You know when I really have fun? When I run the Sunday regatta on my own. I take the little boat, do the tactics, focus on speed, get distracted at the helm, give the orders a little bit to everyone. Just like the old days! At the wheel of a Farr 40, on the other hand, you don’t even see how the race is going! You just stay focused at the helm trying never to lose speed or else they will overtake you.”

What is really different about your crew from all the other Italians who routinely race?
“I have a number of key men. Very valuable to me is Andrea Ballico, with whom I have been boating for 20 years now. The other day, when I realized that for weight reasons we had to find a new drizzler, I asked him if he had any names in mind. He replied that he didn’t have the slightest idea, that he had only been boating with me for 20 years now, so he didn’t even know the others anymore. He is a phenomenon, without him I can’t go boating, I’m a ballad addict. Then there is Davide “Manolo” Scarpa I have been following since he was a kid or the two generations of Savelli, Marco and Matteo. We are a formidable group, all loyal to each other. It is a team with a collective ego that has now lost the tension of 2006, perhaps gratified by the many successes and distracted, as is logical, by the America’s Cup campaign. But for the Farr 40 World Championship in September, we want to return to the highest level to defend the title.”

What advice would you give to a young owner who wants to pursue his or her victories?
“Don’t give up. Behind every one victory there is an untold series of embarrassments. Then there are moments of glory like tonight’s and winning a world championship. But before that, how many figureheads have been made? How many last places? How many wrong races? How many mistakes made? One must persevere and be patient. If one still has fun in the boat and is comfortable with his crew, one builds something worthwhile.”

She won the world championship with Coutts at tactical. Are you sure you did not sportingly provoke Ernesto Bertarelli? He was highly motivated with Alinghi in Key West.
“I don’t think so. Bertarelli has Brad Butterworth, who I consider the other half of the apple. Russell and Brad, together, are unbeatable. Who can beat them when they are in the same cockpit has yet to be born.”




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