Eighty entered the Italian Championship, nearly 100 on the ranking list. 2022 for the Contender was not only “a very good year”, but confirmation that the boat designed by Bob Miller – a.k.a. Ben Lexcen, the designer of Australia II, the first hull to take the America’s Cup away from the Americans – has for the past few years reversed the trend of decline that plagues almost all dinghies.
“For the third year in a row our championship had many more participants than the championships of classes such as 470, FD, Finn, Fireball not to mention Olympic dinghies such as 49er and Nacra,” says Class President Luca Landò.
Contender, the “father of skiffs”
Already, after the widely used dinghies such as the Laser, Dinghy and Optimist there is the “father of skiffs,” as the Australians call it or the “monkey boat,” as the Italians called it when the first examples arrived (in Liguria fifty years ago).
There are at least three reasons for this newfound success, explains Antonio Lambertini, world champion in 2012 and second this year, by one point, at the European Championship in Attersee, Austria: “The first reason is freedom: the Contender is a single and you can go out on it as soon as you want or can, deciding at the last moment without having to arrange in advance with your bowman (or helmsman) as you do on “doubles.” The second reason is fun: a trapeze single is certainly more difficult, at least in the beginning, but it is much more exciting than boats like the Laser or Finn where to keep the boat buoyant you have to laboriously belt“.
The third reason? “Carbon masts: with the aluminum ones of yesteryear, you had to be a heavyweight to plan upwind in strong winds; today there are several 70-pound helmsmen in the upper reaches of the charts, even in 20 knots or more. Dane Dulong Andreasen, former world and European champion, weighs 75 kilograms“.
Contender, “Italian” boat
Although Australian by birth, the Contender speaks perfect Italian: thanks to the seven rainbow titles won by Andrea Bonezzi from Mantova, but also to the legendary wooden hulls made until a few years ago by his father Vito and still sought after all over the world. The new Bonezzi hulls, all in epoxy, are now made by Luca, Vito’s son and Andrea’s brother, who last June celebrated at his shipyard in Riva del Garda the release of hull number one hundred from the mold. Meanwhile, also in Riva, another Italian builder has been granted an authorized builder’s license by the International Class, just this year: the boats of Fontana-Lorenzi, this is the name of the shipyard, will be all wooden.
The Italian Championship
What definitely made the Contender’s year special was the Italian Championship in Gravedona in which as many as eighty boats participated, including many from Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and England: a tricolor championship but with a European flavor, won with merit by Luca Bonezzi veteran of a beautiful fourth place finish at Kiel Week. Also to Luca Bonezzi went the Carlini Trophy, which, like the Italian Cup in the Finn, establishes the national ranking list (this year with as many as 97 participants) and awards the helmsman with the best score after the six national regattas of the season.
A sneak peek: next year’s Italian Contender Championship will be held in Sicily in Sferracavallo, west of Palermo, where a group of entrepreneurs decided to start a racing club with an ambitious project: to become a reference point for Italian and foreign racers in a short time.
Francesco Bruni’s name stands out among the organizers: inevitable that between the drift designed by the father of Australia II and the Luna Rossa helmsman’s club the understanding was immediate.