by Oliver Dewar
Global Ocean Race 2011-12.
40 Degrees GOR qualifier Guadeloupe - Global Ocean Race
In just under six months, the start gun for the double-handed, round the world Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) will be fired in Palma, Mallorca, and pre-race preparations for the 18 teams are rapidly picking up pace.
As the all-female, Anglo-German duo of Hannah Jenner and Anna-Maria Renken approached Horta in the Azores on Tuesday with their chartered Owen Clarke Design Class40, 40 Degrees, in the final miles of their 2,000 mile qualifying sail from Guadeloupe, a second Class40 was leaving Florida, also bound for the remote, Portuguese outpost in the middle of the North Atlantic.
Italian GOR co-skipper, Francesco Piva and three crew – Luca Zoccoli, Ramon Sant Hill and Isidoro Santececca – cast off on Monday afternoon and motored the BT Boats Kiwi 40FC Class40 Peráspera out of Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, made sail and pointed their bow north-east for the 2,700 mile voyage to Horta.
Francesco Piva - owner of Peráspera and Partner in BT Boats - and his three crew had been in Florida for just over a week, rendezvousing with their Farr Yacht Design – Cookson Boats-built Class40 on Monday 21st March as she was refloated, fully-rigged, from her cradle on board a semi-submersible, Dockwise Yacht Transport ship following a 44-day voyage from Auckland, New Zealand. Busy preparing the boat, the team took time to go test sailing, completing a final sail on Sunday with Patrick Shaunessy, Chairman of Farr Yacht Design. On Monday, Piva took a short break from final preparations to update the GOR Race Organisation on progress: 'It is really pretty busy right now with all the fine details and paperwork,' he reported from the dock in Fort Lauderdale. 'We’re just sorting out Custom’s clearance and in a moment I’ll head over to the Harbourmaster’s office so he can sign-off our GOR qualifying departure declaration.'
Since the boat’s launch and mandatory GOR 180 degree inversion test in mid-December, Piva has been building his crew having chosen to take the GOR’s Team Entry option which allows a total of six crew for the entire circumnavigation with one crew member swapping at each stopover. 'After taking and passing all the Class40 tests, we will finally hit the ocean and assess all the KIWI 40FC potentials,' he adds, clearly looking forward to the North Atlantic voyage. Aged 43, Piva began sailing in the late 1980’s and has spent the past 12 years concentrating on double-handed sailing with class wins in the double-handed division of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2002 and 2009; a total on nine Roma per Due races with Class III wins in 2002 and 2003; the double-handed Round Sardinia Race in 2009 and entries in the Giraglia Rolex Cup, the Barcolana Race and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia. Most recently, Piva raced double-handed in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race on the Open 35 Indy, although he was forced to retire 100 miles from the Shetland Islands.
For the Italian co-skipper, the choice of his GOR crew has been crucial: 'One major benefit is that we have all known each other for many years,' he explains. 'We have also sailed and raced together either double-handed or fully-crewed on all types of boats and in all sorts of different events,' continues Piva. 'So, we already know each person’s skills, strengths, limits and character, which is a great advantage. The qualifying trip will now give us the opportunity to learn all about Peráspera and find out what she can really do!'
Piva’s three companions for the qualifying voyage have extensive sailing CV’s. Luca Zoccoli, aged 42, brings a valuable mix of shorthanded sailing to the team. In 2007 he competed in the Matondo Congo – Route de l’Equateur sailing Class40 Espace Enfance. The same year he took fifth place in the Proto fleet of the Mini Fastnet with co-skipper Andrea Pendibene on Mini 6.50 Moonfleet and the following year he campaigned heavily with Moonfleet in the San Remo Mini Solo; the Gran Premio Mini 6.50 and the Save the Whales Mini 6.50. In 2009, Zoccoli swapped his Mini for the Ostar 35 In Derezione Ostinata e Contraria, taking seventh place in class on corrected time in the transatlantic OSTAR and last year he joined Piva for the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.
At 53 years-old, Isidoro Santececca is the senior member of the team and despite running his extremely popular and well-known, traditional Italian restaurant, Santececca Marcello, in central Rome, he has amassed an impressive double-handed sailing CV winning the double-handed division of the Middle Sea Race with Piva in 2002 and 2009; competing in the double-handed Round Corsica and Round Sardinia Races in 2003 and 2009; racing double-handed in the Rome – Hammemet Race across the Mediterranean to Tunisia in 2009 and competing in nine editions of the double-handed Roma per Due. The GOR qualifying voyage will be Santececca’s second visit to Horta having sailed double-handed from the British Virgin Islands to the Azores in 2008. Santececca and Piva will also race the restaurateur’s Sun Fast 3200 Cimba in the 2011-12 Transquadra.
Since starting sailing in the late 1990’s, 36 year-old Ramon Sant Hill mixed inshore and offshore racing, moving quickly from headsail trimmer to mainsheet trimmer, taking his Yacht Master Offshore exams in 2003 and skippering his first offshore race two years later. Since then, Hill has rarely stopped racing, continuing to mix inshore and offshore events including impressive results in the Middle Sea Race sailing with Piva in 2004, the Roma per Tutti and the 2006 ARC.
Following the qualifying voyage and on the completion of GOR paperwork with the Harbourmaster in Horta, Santececca and Hill will return to Italy, while Piva and Zoccoli sail double-handed to the UK and the yacht’s base at Endeavour Quay, Gosport. The pre-GOR programme for Peráspera is busy and Piva and Zoccoli will join three other GOR boats in the Normandy Channel Race at the end of May, followed by the Rolex Fastnet Race in August.
For Piva, the voyage to Horta of around 18 days will be a chance to really sea trial his boat: 'Many of the GOR competitors are third generation Class40 yachts with highly qualified skippers,' he confirms. 'With humility, but great determination, we are ready to show the soundness of the KIWI 40FC project and the qualities of our innovations. But, as always, the ocean will always have the last word.'
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