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Global Solo Challenge: Pasquale De Gregorio, the gentleman sailor and his Vendée Globe

by Global Solo Challenge 25 Sep 2021 02:42 PDT
Pasquale De Gregorio © Global Solo Challenge

Pasquale De Gregorio is one of the closest sailors to all lovers of the sea and sailing. Pasquale is an example, he had to conquer the sea, he was not born near it, it was love at first sight, which lasted a lifetime.

Pasquale embodies a dream, that of racing the most extreme solo race, the Everest of sailing, the Vendée Globe. He teaches us that there are no expiration dates, you don't need to be twenty to go around the world, he did it at almost sixty.

Pasquale De Gregorio did not embark on a crazy adventure, he studied, he sailed and in stages he reached his goal. Pasquale did not finish first. But the courage to finish the Vendée Globe, disadvantaged by his blocked canting keel blocked and without weather forecasts, is worthy of a great moral recognition. Pasquale did not have great resources for his project and he paid dearly for his dream but lived it fully, without regrets. He has never proposed himself as a protagonist in the spotlight of the media, but we feel he is one of our family, that of the sea and Sailors.

This and much more is Pasquale De Gregorio, born in 1941, 180,000 miles of sailing under his belt. A gentleman sailor, in love with the sea and always consistent with his choice of life, which involved losses but also a lot of enrichment. In a recently released interview he told us his story, before leaving with his love for a cruise in southern Italy.

Pasquale De Gregorio: at the origin of the passion for the sea and for sailing

"I was born in Abruzzo, on the slopes of the Majella, so I was more of a mountaineer and I had a relationship with the sea as a normal citizen. I used to go on vacation to the beach in the summer and I'm not even a very good swimmer, there was more desire for knowledge, initially. I have a degree in law and for almost twenty years I worked in the legal service of the Bank of Italy," recalls Pasquale De Gregorio.

"In 1973, I was 32, I was undecided whether to buy a van equipped for traveling or to take a sailing course. I chose the second option and went to the famous Caprera school and for me it was a dazzling experience. Caprera worked the miracle, also thanks to a shift manager, Piero Bianchessi. He was an experienced sailor and taught us sailing on dinghies, preparing us for sailing on larger boats. Years later we met again in Vanuatu, where he had moved.

In 1988 I gave up everything, my job and my career and I gave myself completely to sailing. I had envisaged that I would be living at sea already the year after I had attended the Sailing Center in Caprera. I had worked out this plan: to hold on until the minimum seniority for retirement had matured to have a pension that would provide me with an economic basis. I was also aware that if I wanted to do this in life, by organizing school cruises with sea lovers, I had to learn how to sail well. I bought my first boat, a Brigand 750 and took my first cruise, the first time sailing offshore. In that period I saw clear in the plan of my existence," says Pasquale De Gregorio.

Change of vision for a new lifestyle

"In the years that have elapsed between the elaboration of the project and its realization I have dedicated a lot of time to learning. I committed myself to creating the experience that would guarantee me an activity as a skipper and instructor and learn to be always in complete safety, for myself and others. The Adriatic was my gymnasium and offshore school, initially with Open regattas, such as the 500×2 or the Rimini - Corfù - Rimini. What fascinated me most and still fascinates me about the sea is the lifestyle," Pasquale De Gregorio points out.

"The first sailing course, that first experience in Sardinia had triggered a series of very profound chain reactions. In my passion for the sea there is the tourist aspect of travelling, the romantic relationship with the sea, people, places and anchorages. But the approach to a lifestyle that is completely the opposite of the one I followed out of habit and necessity.

My previous life was dedicated to the affirmation of an economic condition of well-being in a bourgeois and common perspective. Starting to go by boat and making the first trips, I realized that there was a completely different life alternative. I understood that you could live well, with little," says Pasquale De Gregorio. "It was a kind of detonator, I started peeling off a series of certainties and beliefs."

Family and sea, a combination that is not always easy

"Reconciling sea and family is not always easy, at the time of my life change I was married with two children. My first wife initially enjoyed the boat but had not undergone the same transformation, the same change of vision. Unfortunately, this has led to a progressive distancing and our lives have taken a divergent path," says Pasquale De Gregorio.

"My two sons enjoy sailing with me but always in a detached way, they haven't fully embraced my same passion. However, they joined me around the world at the Round the World Rally-Europa 92 in which I participated in 1991-92. They saw the Vava'u and we sailed to Thailand, sharing beautiful landscapes and emotions.

For fifteen years I have been happily remarried with Oriana Ubaldi, painter and lover of the sea and sailing. When we met he had already made an Atlantic crossing. We met twenty-six years ago for common marine passions and a couple of years later the spark struck. Now we sail together," confesses Pasquale De Gregorio.

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