Sun and showers of rain, then wind and sun again: Normandy’s trademark weather for the Friday before the Transat Jacques Vabre, the day when the Italian sailors gather together to tell their story in a press conference, all feisty but strongly cohesive for a common goal: to show how long-distance sailing has grown and matured, becoming interesting for the sponsors and ready for a new leap in quality. The Italian wave in France is made up of six skippers and five boats, starting with the Class 40 IBSA, which – technically – is the boat to beat: two season victories and the 24-hour distance record make Alberto Bona one of the great protagonists of this year. The ingredients for a great story are all there: in the Class40 there are five Italians on the starting line, all with new and high-performance boats, all with great stories, and plenty of motivation: “I feel pride and respect”, announced Alberto to the Italian press, who are falling in love with ocean sailing. “I’m proud to be part of a great movement that is growing and inspiring younger generations – and I have respect for all my opponents; it’s going to be a long, hard race, and we all want to be at the front, leading the fleet”.
A fleet that today is focused on the weather conditions, which appear very harsh: starting at the end of October and having to cross the Channel against the wind is undoubtedly a sign of challenging and difficult days, but what is forming off the coast of Finisterre is a very significantly bad weather, one which sailors will have to deal with great care. Hence, the wait to understand the organisers’ choices in terms of departure; any decisions will be made known tomorrow, Saturday 28, probably during the 10:00 am skipper meeting.
For Alberto, meanwhile, there are hours of preparation and data analysis: the boat is ready, everything has been stowed on board; after the last tests on the batteries, comes the analysis of the IT part, as well as the daily weather briefings. After the meeting with the journalists, there is time for the final checks and time – precious time – to rest.
Pablo Santurde del Arco is omnipresent on board: “He is the most meticulous man I have ever sailed with”, said Alberto. “He plays a critical role both in the preparation and in navigation”. Alberto and Pablo will maintain two-hour shifts, although in some conditions they may even become three: “We practiced during the transfer; it works in certain points of sail, but we will experiment. It’s clear that in big manoeuvers we will work together, but then we have to be good at getting back up to speed, and at taking turns, to maintain energy and concentration. Double-handed regattas are part-time solo races, but you have to share choices and strengths: this way we can improve each other”.