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Cyclops Marine 2023 November - LEADERBOARD

Andrea Mura to join Italian circumnavigators elite, with a smile

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 12 Mar 15:28 PDT 12 March 2024
Andrea Mura – Vento di Sardegna © globalsolochallenge

After the emotional arrivals of Philippe Delamare and Cole Brauer in A Coruna, 5 competitors are still at sea in the Global Solo Challenge. Of the initial 16 starters more than half have been forced to retire for a variety of reasons, from dismastings to collisions and equipment failures. Only 7 are poised to complete their circumnavigation. It is an incredible challenge, full of perils and obstacles and it is not all surprising that many had to concede defeat in the face of the elements and the relentless force of nature.

Andrea Mura on Vento di Sardegna is expected to finish by the end of this week, either Saturday 16 or Sunday 17. Follow the website updates for details of when we will be streaming his arrival live. He has just over 1000 miles to cover to A Coruna in favourable downwind conditions. Before crossing the equator however, a component of the rigging on Vento di Sardegna became dislodged from its fitting and Andrea must sail under a conservative sail plan when on port tack which may mean he will not be able to sail at full speed for part of his final approach to A Coruna.

Andrea's participation and likely podium place in the Global Solo Challenge is an incredible story of achievement and redemption for the Italian skipper, who in 2016 saw his campaign to participate in the Vendée Globe slip under his feet. The dream of circumnavigating the globe solo and non stop burnt like a fire in Andrea's heart who saw in this event the opportunity to take on the challenge on his 24 years old boat and with a more attainable budget.

Vento di Sardegna was built in the year 2000 for Italian skipper Pasquale De Gregorio who participated in the Vendée Globe that year with the name Wind Express. Back then the Vendée Globe had not yet achieved the pro elite status it has today and Open 50s were still allowed to compete together with IMOCA 60 but that was the last edition. Nowadays only 60 footers are allowed and the event has even disallowed older boats and favours the allocation of places in the race to newly built boats. This has had campaign costs skyrocket leaving many like Andrea with the heartburn of seeing their lifelong dream slip away.

On arrival, Vento di Sardegna will have completed two successful circumnavigations non stop and by the three great capes, 23 years apart. First with Pasquale and now with Andrea. When Pasquale de Gregorio and the late Simone Bianchetti completed the Vendée Globe in 2001 they became the first 2 italians to gain a place in the register of solo non stop circumnavigators.

In 2010 Alessandro Di Benedetto incredibly completed the voyage on a modified Mini 6.50, a feat which may never be attempted again, and in 2013 completed the Vendée Globe on a fixed keel older generation IMOCA (which would not be allowed to compete today). In 2021 Giancarlo Pedote earned the 4th Italian spot in the register of solo nonstop circumnavigators maintained by the International Association of Cape Horners (IACH).

Andrea Mura and Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus are therefore poised to become the 5th and 6th Italians to write an entry in the register which includes less than 200 men and women since Sir Robin Knox Johnston did it first 1969. For all of our female readers in Italy who were certainly inspired by Cole Brauer's achievement, the spot for first Italian woman is still up for grabs!

The tradition of Italian sailors in offshore sailing dates back to that very first Golden Globe Race in 1968 that inspired so many generations of sailors to follow. Alex Carozzo, then 36, was one of the participants. However, he was forced to retire after developing an ulcer at sea.

If you like to dig out historical facts, you should certainly read about Ambrogio Fogar's voyage in 1973/1974 when he attempted a west-about nonstop circumnavigation on a sloop built in 1968. He was forced to make stops in Australia and spent over 400 days at sea, but was the first Italian to complete a circumnavigation, although with stops, and in the wrong direction!

The only other italian to complete a solo circumnavigation, with stops, is Giovanni Soldini who completed the 1995 BOC and rose to fame after rescuing Isabelle Autissier from her upturned boat in 1999 during the Around Alone. This historical overview, helps understand the magnitude of what Andrea Mura, and others in the Global Solo Challenge, are achieving. For Andrea, even after a long career in sailing punctuated by victories in many events, this circumnavigation will feel like a badge of honour and we are very happy to have provided him with the opportunity to achieve this.

Andrea's joyful and humorous videos, where he staged little sketches for his two sons, Lucas and Marvel 2 and 4, meeting Neptune and dressing as a giant octopus for carnival, were the heartwarming testimony to his good gentle nature, love for his family and for the sea. Near the Azores, during a little moment of respite he found the time to rest and shave and emerged looking at least 10 years younger than when he started.

Social media followers enjoy his smile and attitude and he has now gained an ever increasing following from the US where many of Cole Brauer's supporters found in Andrea a gentle nice man, who also brought his circumnavigation outside the stereotypical macho persona, sharing his concerns for oncoming storms, his moments of difficulties but most of all his radiant smile which gave away his life long love for the sea and the joy for getting closer and closer to achieving his long held dream.

Riccardo Tosetto in 4th place has worked as a professional charter skipper with his own boat for 18 years now, and despite not coming from a racing background he has displayed the breadth of his seamanship skills. Comfortable with repairing anything onboard when the need arose, he conducted a very well thought through navigation mitigating the risks and keeping his firm grip on his goal of completing without stops.

Riccardo does not hesitate in saying he could have pushed harder, or that some routing choices played out wrong but he had made it very clear from the start that not finishing, or even finishing with stops, would have felt like failure to him. Riccardo has preserved the boat in very good conditions so far, and repaired all the issues that came about during the navigation. He is now 2600 miles from the finish line, sailing in regular NE trade winds and is expected to reach A Coruna around the end of March.

In 5th position and back in the northern hemisphere we all felt a wave of sympathy for Francois Gouin who seemed to always be dealt bad cards in the tropical and equatorial calms. He struggled more than others in breaking free and finding the NE trade winds. The sea is not capricious or evil, when we sail we are guests on the blue part of our planet and however frustrating a situation becomes we can only accept it and try to keep an even head. What made matters worse for Francois is the damage to the mainsail track which will force him to sail with three reefs for the remainder of the navigation, a fate that must feel unfair but I tried to cheer him up reminding him that despite the slow progress and problems he can still hopefully complete his circumnavigation nonstop, which we have seen is an incredible achievement in itself.

In the southern hemisphere, sailing south east of Rio, David Linger comes from a difficult week, after being hit by a storm that damaged his tillers, he started experiencing problems with his autopilot forcing him to stop head to wind several times while working on a solution. Fortunately all seemed to be working again just in time for his birthday celebrations yesterday and he is now sailing north at a good pace.

Still in the southern Pacific, Louis Robein on Le Souffle de La Mer III has managed to repair one of his two hydrogenerator and resume sailing without having to rely exclusively on diesel to charge his batteries. He passed Point Nemo and he is still 1600 miles from Cape Horn but Louis has given plenty of proof of his unwavering determination and ability to remain in good spirits even at times of difficulty.

The Global Solo Challenge has reached out well beyond the sailing niche as followers of the event have become fascinated by each of the incredible stories of the participant bringing back to the sport the sense of the grand adventure and human endeavour that sometimes are at risk of falling in the background in events where performance and technological advances are under the spotlight.

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