Who is Nérée? Interview with the young sailor who wants to conquer the world


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néréeA few days ago we told you, in his own words, about the challenging sailing aboard his Lello 34 Rendezvous among the coasts of the Republic of South Africa, waiting to reach Falmouth and depart on June 16, 2018 for the Golden Globe Race (in the 50th anniversary of the legendary regatta that anointed Robin Knox-Johnston and Bernard Moitessier). Today we focus on him, Nérée Cornuz, to understand what drove him to embark on this obstacle-studded dream that the “Swiss” (quotation marks are a must: Nérée has a double passport, racing in Swiss colors but speaking Neapolitan doc) has been cultivating for some time.


Nérée. By the way. Why your strange name?
“Dad liked Greek mythology, Nérée was a marine deity predating Poseidon, father of the Nereids and grandfather of Achilles. Dad had two boats, an 8-meter wooden double ender (which still makes a great impression moored at Societé Nautique de Geneve) and a ketch, Jouet 13000, sold when I was 8 years old (I saw it again at the arrival of the Carthago in 2008 in Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia), both were named Nérée, I inherited the name of the boat. For my father I was always N3.”

Nérée Cornuz in 1994

Is it true that you were born on a boat?
“I was born on a boat, specifically in Naples on November 16, 1989. On the 17th we were already at sea. I did a year in Tangier, then we did the Atlantic crossing and a couple of seasons between the Caribbean and Venezuela. We spent three years on the French Riviera, with the boat moored in Cogolin and home some 20 kilometers inland. When I was six I went back to Procida with my mother, and I was eight when we sold the boat and moved to Ischia.”

But the passion for sailing has certainly not waned….
“During my high school years I sailed and raced between Naples, Ischia and Procida, as well as doing some offshore in the summer. In Procida I attended the Nautico and at 19 I was a student in Carnival Cruise Lines. At 21 I became a third officer and cruised the U.S. coasts far and wide, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Bahamas and singing company. I did some “screwing up” in Carnival (let’s not investigate, ed.) but at 24 I was promoted to second officer on the bulk carrier Swiss “Massoel,” a two-year experience. In my first embarkation I sailed to Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, South Africa (everything), Kenya, Mozambique, and Madagascar. In the second embarkation: Argentina, Brazil, Mauritania.”

néréeBut you never stopped?
“In the summer of 2014 I got a job in Geneva as a sailing instructor at Les Corsaires sailing school. I hung up on racing and felt like doing something solo. At first I was leaning toward the idea of doing the Mini Transat….”

The path of the 2018 Golden Globe

In fact, you will end up thinking even bigger. When did the desire to do the Golden Globe Race strike you?
“I am doing a few days’ transfer on a 12 m International Meter, Vanity, together with Matteo Miceli. Arriving in Crotone, a lady asks me if I could please drop by their boat that they have a problem with the mainsail since, according to her, I have a professional face. I go, lead the mainsail furler circuit, climb up to the masthead and throw a few kicks to free the mainsail furled “to the crapper.” I know the owner who a couple of months later lays 15,000 euros on the nail to sponsor, at my suggestion, a friend at the 2014 Swan Cup.

In July 2015, a Facebook post about GGR 2018 came out, we chatted about it with friends before the 151-mile race on Dufour 34 Duffy. At the Centomiglia del Garda I meet the above gentleman, he says to me: this is your dream? And I help you! I thought about it for a month or so and signed up directly without preamble, and after a week I paid the 2,000 pre-registration fee. I have a friend write the sponsor contract, 15,000 euros per semester was to come in starting July 2016, but it is still waiting for a signature….”

Despite the lack of sponsorship, you set out to find the boat…
“I do my research, a strong and inexpensive boat. At the end of the year I am in South Africa to see some Lello. In 2016 I join CER (regatta training center) in Geneva, many friendships with other really strong and good Swiss sailors! Nice Geneva, but it is not always easy with my boss, we both have tough heads. Anyway at the end of the 2016 season I will quit my job to devote myself fully to the preparation of the Golden Globe.”

Rendezvous, Cornuz’s Lello 34

Boat. Why the Lello 34?
“I was looking for a performance boat but affordable for my budget: there were two possibilities on which to focus. Either a Clipper-type tank, which is very long at the waterline but is a stud without air, or a streamlined, maneuverable light boat. Putting me on a clipper for 9 months is not so much in my wheelhouse, I told myself. I discarded the Rustler 36, which at less than 40k could not be found, the Baba did not appeal to me, the Tashiba is beautiful but could not be found for less than $100,000, I looked for an S&S, the organization was giving the OK to participate in the GGR only for three projects: the Chris Craft Caribbean 36, later discarded by the committee because it was too lightly ballasted, the Hinckley Pilot 35, beautiful but very expensive, the Gaia Benello (a friend of mine owns it in Ischia).

The Lello 34 was designed on the lines of Hestia (S&S prototype that later became Swan 34, Gaia Benello 36 and Polaris Union 36). It was built for a coast where you don’t go out in less than 30 knots and three-meter waves with killer current and depressions. It seemed like a guarantee. Moreover, they were really cheap between 10 and 20 thousand euros. So I researched the plans and got approval and came to South Africa to see some of the boats at the time. There were not many on the market, and because of the limited budget I was in a hurry to start the technical preparation of the boat early: when you have little money, the time frame is diluted. I chose the wrong one because it was all in need of redoing, and I relied on a construction site that had credentials on paper but proved to be worth a penny if not outright fraudulent.”

The keel of the Lello 34…

What work have you done on board to get the boat “on the level”?
“Since the capital came short, less than half of what I wanted to do, but it’s better this way. Because they would have been done badly anyway. The boat is tough in its own right, but there is so much more to do. Anyway, here’s where I intervened: I did the anti-osmosis treatment. I opened the keel to check and reclaim it but I think it needs to be rebuilt well, we made a crash box in the bow.

We put in a watertight midships bulkhead with a porthole for access to the forward compartment. Then we tried changing the engine to a smaller, lighter 12-hp engine versus the old 33-hp Arona (the Lello was born without an engine). But it didn’t go. I made a new reinforced rudder with a third linkage in the center, built my own servopendulum to spend little and see how it goes like this. As for the deck equipment, I have the original one, if the money comes I’ll change it for good stuff….”

What is your mythical sailor?
“Eric Tabarly is the undisputed genius of offshore sailing and racing. Others I like for other reasons-Bernard Moitessier, Jack London, Joshua Slocum, for turning the feelings of real sailors into letters, Ulysses, the privateers and pirates of the 1500s, the sailors of the Bounty for the adventurousness and mysticism attached to their stories!”

What about the sportsman you value most?
“I don’t follow sports that much.”

Your favorite dish?
“I’ll eat anything I … however, home cooking is always the best!”

“I listen to a little bit of everything, when I was younger it was undoubtedly The Doors.”

What does “sailing” mean to you?
“The joy of being able to move for miles and miles carrying your own home, in total economic independence, in harmony with the environment and nature without having to rely on fossil fuels. Sometimes it’s also a lot of adrenaline!”

What is the most beautiful place you have seen by boat so far?
“Hard to say … every place is beautiful if it is linked to a special memory, an adventure or a moment of happiness. Corricella (the fishing port on the island of Procida) from when I was a child will always have a special place in my heart.”

Since you mentioned them. Do you feel more Moitessier or Knox-Johnston?
“I often ask myself this, and in the end I tell myself that I am Nérée Cornuz and that my story will be written in the groove of the keel of my boat across the oceans.”


Learn more about Nérée Cornuz: Facebook page and website.

Read more about Federico Beccaria, the Italian competing at the Golden Globe: Facebook page and website

Read more about Patrick Phelipon, the “Franco-Roman” at the Golden Globe: our interview and website

Learn more about the 2018 Golden Globe Race: website



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