We receive and publish a letter from a reader, a sailing enthusiast and, apparently, a professional in the field of communication, with a rather “edgy” point of view on the world of Italian ocean sailing. From the Mini 650 all the way up, a highly critical view of the homegrown movement he said was “sick” of some underlying problems. Do you agree?
I am a sailor, racer and general sailing enthusiast, as well as a reader of the Sailing Newspaper. I work for a major multinational company, in the communications sector, and for years requests for sponsorships for sailing projects of many Italian sailors have been crossing my desk. The reason I am writing these lines is because, for once, I would like to see evidence also given to the point of view of those who fund sailors and not just to the complaints of those who can’t find sponsors. The reason I want to remain anonymous is of almost trivial simplicity: I value my privacy, and I would be hypocritical to make up more excuses.
The Italian ocean sailing world that dreams of big regattas, the one that goes most for sponsors, has in my opinion at least four problems: whining, envy, an inferiority complex toward everything from abroad, and a lack of winning planning. The whining is almost perennial: a continuous, uninterrupted complaint about how difficult it is to do sailing in Italy, how much money it takes and how hard it is to get it. Wake up guys: sailing, at the levels you aspire to reach, is a very expensive sport, those who think otherwise believe in fairy tales and Santa Claus. So there are two ways: either you are really undisputed phenomena and sooner or later, if you have a head, a proper sponsor will be found, or you are rich from your family. If you are not in the one nor the other I am sorry, but there is not much you can do.
We then come to the chapter on envy: I have heard with my own ears pseudo-ocean sailors or would-be ocean sailors disparage teammates with whom they have raced in pairs, just because the others perhaps have gone farther, leaving them on the pole: ” He may have won races, but I’ve been sailing with dude and dude, and you want to put the experience I’ve had on studying foils.” Not to mention the chatter that can arise if a newcomer, a skipper with little experience, manages to get a new boat before others. It can even become a topic of discussion in official technical meetings. I avoid adding more.
On the inferiority complex, it seems to me almost superfluous to waste ink: the story that in France one goes sailing from childhood is a bore. You were born in Italy, get over it and try to do something good here, otherwise send a resume to the Post Office. To be ocean sailors was not prescribed to you by the doctor, there are areas in which Italy is an excellence, instead you chose sailing in which we are not, that is your problem.
And finally we come to the structural problem, the most serious one: the lack of a winning design, the lack of credibility. Let me explain something: in France, the sailing-conscious public is so large that companies can afford to grant sponsorships even to sports projects that will probably never make it to the finish line or remain far from the podiums. A minimum audience is still guaranteed. This is not the case in Italy: if you finish 45th in the Mini Transat, unfortunately, it will matter little. You’ll get a few lines in the trade publications, the class association will devote the usual article to you about the importance of getting to the finish line and that everyone wins in the ocean, after a few days no one will remember you. On the other hand, you will go around circles telling “My Ocean Adventure,” have 50 people applauding you in front of you, and by the next day you will be back to complaining because you are without a sponsor. So why would a company sponsor an athlete whose chances of creating visibility are minimal? The answer is at least as obvious as the reason: you are not good enough and therefore do not deserve a sponsor. Is it an injustice that breaks your dreams? Sunza doubt, but nowhere is it written that the world is fair. Why did a Beccaria, a Pedote, just to name two virtuous examples but there are others fortunately, get as far as they are? First of all, because they are strong, and they really are, not out of self-celebration. And then because they were able to play their cards at the right time and in the right way. Frigate little, work hard, be able in their early days to achieve sports results vastly superior to the means (both in terms of boat and exquisitely economic) they had at their disposal. And at that point they became credible, and if you are credible and at the same time also very very good it becomes much more likely that a company will want to listen to you and be willing to support you. But even then you will have to show that you have clear ideas, that you know what you want and how to get it, with manic method. And on these last points I am in fact following with great interest the experience of Alberto Bona with the new Figaro 3, another skipper who seems to have clear ideas all along and sooner or later in my opinion will find the recognition he deserves.
In Italy there has never been a training center for the high seas that can be called such. To become successful you need to train together, but more importantly to be coached by someone who is truly successful. Put up a project that could involve as a coach for example a Soldini (as now sketched out by the IVF), a Malingri, or even a foreign coach, but as long as he is a winner: you will see that a club that will give you support and a few brands that will finance you might even be able to find it. Alternatively, you can stay and whine, or send a resume to a department store. It is a cruel and ultra-competitive game, adjust.