Giovanna Valsecchi and Andrea Pendibene have sailed to a slender but useful lead on Day two of Leg 2 of the 2021 Hempel Mixed Two Person Offshore World Championship in Italy.
Valsecchi and Pendibene are both members of Italy’s Navy service, and are proud to carry the name Marina Militare on their Figaro 3 keelboat. Before the start of the 300 mile leg from Bari to Marina di Ravenna, Pendibene said he wasn’t going to consult the weather models in the Adriatic Sea too closely. He prefers to take a more “seat of the pants” approach to weather routing, sailing by instinct and what he sees around him.
The team’s untechnical, instinctive approach seems to be working well for the Italian duo who held a 12 mile lead over the fleet as they closed in on the coastline near the port of Ancona this afternoon. “I don’t work a lot on the meteorology,” said Pendebene. “But I look to see the obstacles on the route because I have never sailed in the Adriatic Sea. Which is crazy, because we are passionate about offshore racing, but we have never been here before”.
“I’ve raced in four Mini Transats, sailed from La Rochelle many times, a lot of sailing in the Mediterranean. But the story of Italian offshore sailing started in the Adriatic. With sailors like Simone Bianchetti who raced in the Vendée Globe, and other famous offshore sailors. They came from the Adriatic. So it is good to be racing here and we are proud to represent Marina Militare.”
Behind Valsecchi and Pendibene are the other Italian crew on Team ENIT, Claudia Rossi / Pietro D’Alì, battling in a tight bunch with Team USA Orcas Christina Wolfe / Justin Wolfe, Team Belgium (Sophia Faguet / Jonas Gerckens) and Team South Africa (Michaela Robinson / Siyanda Vato).
Team ESP who won Leg 1 and were leading this leg 24 hours ago have dropped a little behind into sixth place, followed at a distance by Sweden, Team USA U.S.M.M.A. Sailing Foundation and Team GBR. Team Poland is playing catch-up, some way off the back of the pack.
This evening however could lead to another shutdown of the breeze, as Vato from South Africa described it last night, a “Factory Reset”. When the sails start wallowing in the night air, it could bring another reshuffle of the pack, which is what the fleet needs if it’s to reel in the 12-mile advantage of the leading Italians.
Team USA Orcas, the husband and wife crew of Justin and Christina Wolfe, are relying on their experience of other endurance sports to help them through the challenges of this offshore leg. “We always aim to start resting early,” explained Justin. “Any early rest during a leg is like front-loading for the rest of the leg. Towards the finish, we’ll probably do it less and less and less as we get closer, because we know we can make it. It’s not difficult for us. We have an endurance background with triathlon and cycling, so we think a lot about energy preservation, trying to stay on top of that game.”
Christina added: “There’s a lot of discomfort in this game as well. So you just have to work through that. It’s the reason I do sport, because of the feeling of accomplishment at the end. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. For the racing, though, we don’t think of it so much in terms of results. It’s just we sail the best that we can, play it minute by minute. If we can do that, the result will come.”
With around half of the 300-mile course still to be sailed, plenty could yet change. The race continues up the Adriatic coastline of Italy before taking them around a petroleum platform about 50 miles from Ravenna, and then back. If the breeze is unfavourable then the race committee can cancel this section and finish the boats sooner when they first reach the turning mark at Ravenna.
There are ten teams from eight nations competing in this inaugural World Championships. Part of the 2021 Marina Militare Nastro Rosa Tour which has already seen the Figaro 3 fleet navigate the western seaboard of Italy, the 2021 Hempel Mixed Two Person Offshore World Championship is an 816nm race that is being played out across three stunning stages along the Adriatic coast:
Leg 1: Brindisi to Bari
Leg 2: Bari to Marina di Ravenna
Leg 3: Marina di Ravenna to Venice
There are teams representing Italy, Belgium, USA, South Africa, Great Britain, Spain, Sweden and Poland.
The event concludes at the end of Leg 3 in Venice on 24 September, when the first ever winners of the 2021 Hempel Mixed Two Person Offshore World Championship will stand on the podium in one of Italy’s most beautiful cities.
Photo Credits: Marina Militare Nastro Rosa Tour