Famed Italian sailor Giovanni Soldini best known world-wide for his courageous rescue of French sailor Isabelle Autissier in a remote part of the South Pacific during the 'Around Alone' circumnavigation race, begins a new adventure today from New York. With a crew he will attempt to break the New York to San Francisco Speed Sailing Record, via Cape Horn.
Maserati and crew, Giovanni Soldini skipper, before their departure
While most people - sailors and landlubbers alike - prepare for New Year celebrations, Soldini will spend New Year's Eve and the first day of 2013 at sea.
Giovanni and his very international crew will race their 70-foot boat named Maserati. She has been docked at Dennis Conner's North Cove in Battery Park City, New York, for over a month. Now, weather patterns have lined up and Giovanni has been given the green light to set sail on the record attempt.
Giovanni is joined by an international crew of eight adventurers. They are: Ryan Breymeier from the US, Jianghe 'Tiger' Teng from China, Sebastien Audigane from France, Boris Herrmann from Germany, Carlos Hernandez from Spain and Guido Broggi, Corrado Rossignoli & Michele Sighel from Italy.
From New York City, Maserati will race south towards the equator. The crew will endure a few days of cold temperatures but will soon be in t-shirts and shorts. From the equator, Maserati will head down the coast of South America towards the most feared point of land in the world, Cape Horn, which he will have to round against the wind.
Many a great sailing ship has been wrecked trying to sail westaways around Cape Horn. These record attempts are made during winter in New York City because this is summer down at Cape Horn when the weather has the best chance of bring moderate.
If Masterati can successfully round Cape Horn and avoid the steep waves off the coast of Chile where other record attempts have been scuttled, then she will race up the South and Central American coasts before turning in to San Francisco. The current record stands at 57 days, 3 hours and 2 minutes.
The New York to San Francisco sailing record is steeped in history. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, it set off a rush of people and goods trying to get to San Francisco as quickly as possible. This led to the development of a uniquely American vessel known as the 'extreme clipper.' She was primarily built for speed at the expense of cargo carrying capacity.
Extreme clippers competed for money, fame and glory. Clippers which logged faster times were able to command higher prices for cargo. The most famous of all clippers was 'Flying Cloud.' The Captain was Josiah Perkins Creesy and his wife Eleanor served as the navigator. In 1854, Flying Cloud set the New York to San Francisco record at 89 days and 8 hours. This record stood untouched for over 130 years.
In the mid-1980s, several adventures set out to break this fabled record but met with shipwreck along the way. Manhattan Sailing Club (which was founded in 1987) established the 'Clipper Challenge Cup' to encourage more record attempts.
In 1988-89, Thursday's Child, skippered by Warren Luhrs broke the record with 80 days and 20 hours. The record was broken again the next year by Great American, skippered by Georgs Kolesnikovs.
Then in 1994, Isabelle Autissier and her crew aboard 'Ecureuil Poitou' smashed the record and set a new mark of 62 days and 5 hours. In 1998, Yves Parlier on 'Aquitaine Innovations' improved this mark to 57 days, 3 hours and 2 minutes.
Even the starting and finish lines are steeped in history. The starting line for the trophy is directly off North Cove in Manhattan. The finish line is from Pier 39 to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. This references the historic record of Flying Cloud which was from her pier in Manhattan to her pier in San Francisco.
Manhattan Sailing Club will give the Clipper Challenge Cup for a period of one year to any sailor who can break the record in a monohull under 80 feet. The specification of a monohull is to honor the spirit of Flying Cloud and the length to encourage multiple attempts by the size of boats currently used in most round-the-world races (the outright NY-SF record is held by a 110 foot maxi catamaran called Gitana 13).
You can follow Soldini's progress at http://maserati.soldini.it/?lang=en.