How Moretto was born, disappeared, and rescued. Raul Gardini’s “pocket-sized” Moor of Venice

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moretto
In the foreground, the Moretto. The boat that Raul Gardini had built for himself as a miniature “Moro” based on Frers’ design

You don’t need to have spent years at Bertone’s or Pininfarina’s or what do I know, Giugiaro’s to understand that designing a “fuoriserie” or a big, big car assures you so many chances of success, but on the contrary, when you find yourself sketching a small project, then things become difficult, impervious! Do you want to put designing a Ferrari flagship (a Testarossa?) or Lamborghini (an Urraco?) versus designing a MiniMinor (the original one though!) or a Fiat 500 (of the era!)!?

Moretto’s story. Small but brilliant

Easy in some ways — back to our field — to draw a nice MaxiBoat of 20 and more meters, much much more difficult to draw a “little boat” of 8-9 meters, to say… But if you are a naval genius like the one who answers to the last name Frers and the first name German the thing is not only not impossible but achievable, in fact, it is achievable and it is called The Moretto!

The birth of Moretto. Gardini’s “birthmark”

We must at this point send back with its deafening rustle – the analog tape of course – to go back a few years before the 1980s of “Milano da Bere” when a thoughtful Raul Gardini felt the saudade, the nostalgia of his Moor of Venice (mind you, we are talking here about Moro as synonymous with the deep-sea maxi, which went right and left up and down the Oceanic halfway around the world (nothing to do with the Moro who became ultra-famous and telegenic America’s Cup!) away therefore from his beloved Ravenna.

Raul Gardini (photo taken from fondazioneraulgardini.org)
Raul Gardini (photo taken from fondazioneraulgardini.org)

Blatant disproof of the saying “heart does not see, eye does not grieve”: Raul saw and how he saw and his heart grieved. Missing from the list was a “medium” with which to go out as needed, to the simple and healthy desire to pull the classic 4 edges out. I seem to see him, the Raul: “Call me German,” he said, and they passed him from the switchboard the hoarse voice of German — it sounded like Rick’s, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca — answering him no less across the ocean, from Ortiz de Ocampo, Argentina.

Gérman Frers

Hermano” (brother) said Raul who while not versed in languages recognized a consonance based on “Latinity” with German, the great realized promise of naval architecture matured in the best possible environment, the New York firm of Sparkman & Stephens, “do me” – Raul continued – “a pocket Moro, you name it, I’d say 30 feet or so….” German nodded and Raul realized that the deal was done.

A little less than a month and a half later, there was a knock at Raul’s office: there was an airmail package, colle classic multicolored flag that distinguished air priority mail at the time. The sender was the Frers studio. Impatient, Raul, left the meeting under the astonished gaze of the onlookers and summoned Angelo, his trusted sailor.

Angelo Vianello, profession sailor

Angelo, surname Vianello, a native of Pellestrina Island, surroundings of royal Venice was a sailor made from a wood that no longer circulates: it is extinct. He had never learned to drive a car: he “drove” boats the way Togni trained elephants and lions, with a unique talent. Dozens and dozens of homegrown sailors are indebted to his talent, his humor, his modesty (in this few have been true students!). Died as befits the “good people” truly forgotten by all and sundry. Angelo – my direct testimony aboard the Moro at the Maxi Cup in Porto Cervo – used to call Raul “el mi’ paron,” but there was no flattery in that, it was just a healthy deference to his mentor.

After all, Raul-as he himself recounts in My Way-had an esteem for Angelo that bordered on veneration: he even gives him credit for saving his son from a bad circumstance! But back to us: the overseas envelope, unzipped, unleashes a harvest of A0 plates – let me tell you how enchanting the drawings made on the then drafting machine with the various Rapidograph nibs are! Real works of art! -: the whole Moretto was there! Neither Raul nor Angelo could believe their eyes: if they had not seen the scale of the drawing, they would have believed that German had made fun of them and sent a kind of copy of the “big” Moretto!

Let’s do the Moretto!

Raul then said, “We do!” and sitting there – it was a classic of his, “in his own way” precisely – he began to call yards left and right in the Adriatic[1] that they could have made the boat out of wood but was-hard to believe-rebounded not because of ill will but simply because they were chock full of work for the next half year and Raul was not a man of expectations, he was a man of the “here and now”, that’s for sure (Raul was diametrically opposed to Quintus Fabius Maximus, known as “the procrastinator”).

He threw down the gray bakelite handset: almost broke it! but immediately picked it up again and called the Piro Onoranti[2] – legendary figure now but a man of many resources in the days of the IOR, agent of the exclusive Riggarna rod rigging as well as Stearn masts and hydraulic power packs i.e., the best of the best back then! and tells him, nay, intimates to him, “You have to make me the Moretto!” And then puts down.

The Moretto is 9.12 m long

Piro thinks Raul is ready to be taken to fetch flour, an old Romagnolo saying for those who have to be committed to the asylum with the excuse of going to the mill to get some flour, and so he lets it slide. Not even the time to go to the store, to PuntoVela, as the Piro’s creature was called and still is called at the end of its 50th year of activity – here Raul appeared, in fact there was little to be surprised since every other night Raul would show up at the store – after all, between the Ferruzzi company and PuntoVela it was a matter of little scarro… – to get something together but that something was left behind in favor of the squaring of the wonderful tables illustrating the plans of the Moretto.

A top-of-the-line boat

Not even a scant year later-thanks to the fact that Piro had willingly shouldered the thankless task of the project manager and that, at that point, the Carlini construction site so much that was finishing the Moro great had succumbed to pressure from Raul set about making a replica of it with ship carpenters working even on Saturdays and Sundays included (so much like good style communists Don Camillo and Peppone cared little for the Lord’s day) the boat was ready to take Raul and his beautiful daughter Eleanor for a stroll, as was Ivan himself, his other son.

Needless to say, although for “passage,” the Moretto enjoyed all the best equipment possible and purchasable then for racing boats: rig by Tim Stearn, enfant prodige of the new concept of small-section and multi-crowned masts; Riggarna rod rigging with its much better spyglass rigging than the Navtecs; Schaefer deck gear along with the American Nicro-marine-but above all it had succeeded magnificently.

Inside, the interior looked and still looks like a Guarneri del Gesù violin so much is licked by the pandering flatting-coppale that makes to see on view all the splendor of mahogany intermingled with classic painted white, a stylema so adored by the Camper/Nicholson shipyard, true arbiter elegantia of world yachting (we are of course talking about that of the time!).

On deck a sky-blue anti-skid perfectly outlines the trademark of those years: the cramped and uniquely designed cockpit for the helmsman with a tubular tiller placed aft-bow as a well-brace for the latter’s legs: in front the mainsail traveller-important for properly adjusting the mainsail-genoa channel that with the huge genoas, at 150% of the J at the time made the risk of foiling-reflexing on the mainsail on more than one occasion.

The disappearance of the Moretto…

Then it was the black hole, Stephen Hawkins style, as if Moretto had been concealed from history: like a pixel erased by photoshop. He literally disappeared from the radar.

Let us not forget that the whole story passed through the tunnel of Tangentopoli and the tragic end of Raul.

…and its return to the Gardini family.

More news came when the boat took to the sea again with a lawyer from the Northeast who-deserving deed-entrusted her to the skilful care of the De Cesari shipyard in Cervia, which maquillage after maquillage has kept her in splendid shape but above all has not raped her so that the little gem remains as it was conceived by the minds of German and Raul.

*above are the most recent photos of the Moretto. The boat has returned to its former glory, with the beige-colored deck

Having disappeared the Lawyer, complete with the blue-red Henry-Lloyd jacket, the Life Goose Game takes us back to the initial boxes and-happily-. the boat comes back into the possession of the Gardini entourage so much so that nowadays Ivan Gardini and his daughter Sophia (the Moretto’s helmswoman on all her “official” outings) have formed a team of close-knit young people from the Circolo Velico Ravennate who are reviving her with great satisfaction.

The Moretto in navigation

We have no difficulty believing it! You don’t need a Testarossa to make a man happy, a MiniMorris conceived half in Argentina and half in Ravenna is enough!

Danilo Fabbroni

[1] The story is told of Morri & Para, a shipyard that built, among other things, the first Brava One-tonner, precisely of wood.

[2] Still ruler of a striking ex-shipchandler store in Marina di Ravenna.


Gallery – All photos of the Moretto

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