Today and yesterday. When Italians in the Ocean were doctors, insurers, laborers and artisans


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In these days of Transat Jacques Vabre (the transatlantic race in doubles, from Le Havre to Martinique, a total of 4500 miles) there has been much talk about the “Italian ocean wave.”

Today’s Italian ocean wave…

It is certainly a great achievement for Italy to have had five skippers (Giancarlo Pedote, Ambrogio Beccaria, Alberto Bona, Andrea Fornaro, Alberto Riva) and one co-skipper (Pietro Luciani) on the starting line of the Jacques Vabre between Class 40 and IMOCA 60. Six names of true professionals who represent the spearhead of an entire movement of Italian sailors who are developing projects related to ocean sailing to the point where we can speak of a new blue phenomenon composed of sailors, designers, shipyards and technology made in Italy.

Transat Jacques Vabre 2023
Italians starting at Jacques Vabre. From left Alberto Riva, Andrea Fornaro, Alberto Bona, Giancarlo Pedote, Ambrogio Beccaria, Pietro Luciani

…and yesterday’s

But there were times when Italy lined up as many as 19 brave solo sailors on the starting line of one of the toughest ocean races. We are talking about the 1976 Ostar (Royal Western Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race). Other times, of course (the Jacques Vabre, born in 1993, was still a long way off).

Where professionalism as we understand it today, in sailing, was light years away, and those who took part in these great transatlantic races (the Ostar was run between Plymouth and Newport, 3,000 miles of the Atlantic) he did so, above all, out of a spirit of adventure and pure passion. Very few sailors made sailors in life.

Souvenir photo Ostar 1976
The souvenir photo before the 1976 Ostar at the Milan LNI. From left, standing: Carlo Bianchi, Paolo Sironi, Giampaolo Venturin, Paolo Sciarretta, Ernesto Raab, Corrado Di Majo, LNI Milano president Marco Notarbartolo di Sciara, Ambrogio Fogar and Edoardo Austoni. Seated: Enrico Contreas, Ida Castiglioni, Angelo Preden, Mario Franchetti, LNI secretary Eolo Pratella. Doi Malingri, Paolo Mascheroni and Edoardo Guzzetti are missing in the photo.

The magnificent 19 ocean-hunting loners. For passion

We went to rummage through our dusty archives and found the list of the “fantastic” 19 entrants for the 1976 edition (of these, then, 11 showed up at the starting line), in an article with the splendid title “Lonely but Well Accompanied.”

On boats that today would be considered small cruisers (Show 29, Caipirinha, Dufour Sortilege, Impala 35…), here are who were the doctors, laborers, insurers, artisans, car salesmen, architects and students ready to put themselves on the line in the Atlantic and challenge the holy monsters Tabarly, Colas, Gabbay, Blyth… We also write to you the age they were at the time and how their regatta went, which saw 125 soloists at the start: 121 men, 4 women. This includes our own Ida Castiglioni.

Edward Austoni. Milanese, a urological surgeon then 24 years old, aboard the Dufour Sortilege Chica Boba. In the regatta, he gets his rudder brakes twisted and has to improvise as a diver at the 50th parallel north. He makes it through a thousand problems and grueling shifts at the helm. It comes in 41st place.

Silvano Bessi. Triestino, lathe worker, age 54. A 9.60 m Sciarrelli was built in two years for the Ostar. He did not qualify and did not participate in the end.

Carlo Bianchi. Born in Cremona, age 55 in 1976, engineer. He participated because he considered the Ostar “an opportunity to experience challenging days at sea.” He came in 12th position overall (first of the Italians) on his Venilia, in 29 days and 15 minutes.

Ida Castiglioni. 29-year-old architect from Milan. The only Italian woman entered with Impala 35 Eva, she finished 42nd, just behind Austoni in overall, fourth of the Italians.

Enrico Contreas. Roman, 34, a great catamaran specialist and designer. One of the three papal skippers of the Mattia 36 catamaran he designed in addition to Sironi and Venturin. He ultimately failed to qualify, as did Sironi and Venturin.

Corrado Di Majo. From Turin, 22, then a law student. At the Ostar with the Swan 37 Tikka III. To finance himself, he traveled 4,000 miles by chartering in the Mediterranean in 1975. He closes in 61st position after 44 days, three hours and 47 minutes.

Ambrogio Fogar. Milanese, insurer 35 years old, celebrated at the time after his tour of the world from east to west with his Surprise. He participated with his Spirit of Surprise catamaran but was forced to retire after hull joints broke.

Mario Franchetti. Roman, 50 years old, extensive sailing experience. He would have participated in the Ostar with the 16 m cutter (designed by Sciarrelli) Coconasse, if a bad car accident had not taken his life.

Edward Guzzetti. Born in Saronno, 45, car and boat salesman. Great experience, he was also at Whitbread with Pascoli’s Tauranga. He was aboard the Namar V, a 12.50 m wooden cutter from Sciarrelli. Unfortunately, a gust of wind breaks his windvane rudder and causes a large hole in his stern.

Doi Malingri. From Turin, 39, a former industrial executive, then a full-time sailor, he made his first round-the-world voyage with CS & RB. With the CS&RB II Busnelli (18.30 m), he had shown up at Ostar. He retreats because he crashes into a ship and finds himself in the Azores.

Paolo Mascheroni. Monzese, 24, Caprera instructor, formerly on Malingri’s CS & RB at Whitbread. At the Ostar on a Barberis Show 29 project by Jezequel. He is going strong, but in the Atlantic the force of the sea forces him to retire due to damage to the boat.

Massimo Paolucci. Twenty-six-year-old surgeon in Pavia. At Ostar he was aboard the Optimist, 11.45 m design by Dick Carter. He will not complete the qualification and will not participate.

Mario Pirri. “He is not reported to have any experience in ocean sailing,” wrote the GdV. Participates with the Aleph, 16 m boat. And in fact he will not qualify.

Angelo Preden. From Bassano Del Grappa, a 27-year-old craftsman, he is participating with the boat that was destined for the late Giulio Ramoni: the Caipirinha, a 9.15-m sloop designed by Davide Castiglioni. He arrived 62nd, last of the Italians to make the crossing.

Ernesto Raab. Milanese, 42, owner of a mechanics company. At the Ostar with the Swan 41 Carina with a reinforced aluminum mast. He finished in 26th position, second of the Italians.

Claudio Regoli. Milanese, 32, student and martial arts teacher. “I’m going not to test myself. But to prove that anyone can make it to the other side of the world.” He withdrew his participation and did not take part in the regatta.

Paolo Sciarretta. From Pavia, 36, computer technician (then “electronic calculators”). He is participating with a boat designed by Scattolin and built by the FBC shipyard in Chioggia, a 13.30-m fiberglass sloop, the Valitalia 45. Withdrawal.

Paolo Sironi. Milanese, 24, geology major. With Contreas’s Mattia 36 (Contreas, Venturin, Sironi. Only one of the three would helm the catamaran) he failed to qualify and participate because Contreas himself failed in the task.

Giampaolo Venturin. Milanese, 35, owner of a transportation company. Third of the possible skippers of the Mattia 36, but once Contreas’ qualification was missed, he did not participate.

Edited by Eugenio Ruocco



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