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Sports initiative "The Grand Tour" Third Edition Preview

by Manuel Vlacich 16 Mar 10:50 PDT

From an idea of sportsmen: Franco Deganutti and Manuel Vlacich, the sports project "The Grand Tour Sailing" continues in 2024 and thus reaches its third edition.

The 2022 edition allowed the team of sailors led by Deganutti and Vlacich to enter the Guinness World Record for having participated with their Melges 24 in three of the most popular regattas in the world: the Bol d'Or on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, in the Round The Island at the Isle of Wight in England and at the Barcolana in Trieste. With their Melges they faced 3,219 different crews in just one year, thus entering the Guinness Book of Records.

The 2023 edition planned to sail with the same formula used in 2022 and which includes: "three stages, in the same year, with the same boat". The stages of the second edition were represented by Loch Ness in Scotland sailed in June 2023, from the highest navigable point in the world: Lake Titicata (+3,812m above sea level) between Peru and Bolivia tackled by sail in September last year and from the lowest point on Earth: the Dead Sea (-430m above sea level) between Israel, Jordan and Palestine. This last stage is temporarily on stand-by due to the ongoing conflict.

In 2024 the formula remained the same: three stages, in the same year and with the same boat.

In this edition the crews are competing in these places:

  • Lac Souterrain de St-Léonard: The underground lake of St-Léonard is located in the heart of the Valais Alps in Switzerland. Over 300 meters long, it is the largest natural navigable underground lake in Europe. Thus, after having challenged each other in a match race at the highest point in the world, now the TGT (The Grand Tour) team will sail at the lowest point, even underground. Discovered in 1943, the lake is located between 30 and 70 meters below the area's vineyards. The north wall is made of coal shale, a rock dating back more than 300 million years ago while the south wall is made of marble: impermeable rocks that ensure that water cannot drain laterally and remains within the cavity. A magical navigation, between crystal clear water and ancient rocks.

  • Ilulissat: the city in Greenland where icebergs are born. The starting point for the greatest Arctic experiencesis located on the west coast of Greenland in the spectacular Disko Bay 350 km north of the Arctic Circle. It is Greenland's largest bay and is famous for its towering glaciers and huge icebergs. The TGT team will be in Ilulissat in June when the average water temperature is 2 degrees while the air temperature is 5 degrees. Spotting whales and observing the Northern Lights will be an aspiration but the real objective of the expedition will be the circumnavigation of one of the icebergs that break away from the glacier.

  • Round The Island: the circumnavigation of the island of Venice. After having tackled the previous stages, this navigation might seem too "simple", however, between prohibitions, tides, maritime traffic, strong currents and above all a bridge that prevents the complete circuit: it will be a very intriguing challenge. Why "before it's too late"? There is an expiry date: by 2100, Piazza San Marco risks constantly ending up under water and Venice, together with other coastal urban centres, will rightfully become one of the cities in danger of extinction. Estimates are for an increase of another 50cm by the end of the century. Piazza San Marco is located +80cm from the average level.

On 12/03/2024 the first sailing trip in the largest underground lake in Europe ended: ST-LÉONARD.

The underground lake of Saint Léonard is located in Switzerland, in the canton of Valais between Sion and Sierre in the Pennine Alps in the municipality of Saint-Léonard. In this stage there were three boats (Tiwal 3) that lowered themselves into the bowels of the cave to be able to navigate the crystal clear waters of the lake in a dimly lit cave. The three athletes at the helm were the two creators of the "TGT Sailing" format: Manuel Vlacich and Franco Deganutti, and Elisabetta Maffei: YouTuber and nautical entrepreneur known for her own brand "25 knots". Shore Team represented by the Fiv instructor Luca Ianer who provided technical assistance during the undertaking.

Even though it is the largest underground lake in Europe, navigation is prohibited in the cave (with the exception of rowing boats dedicated to tours organized by the property). Access to the lake was possible thanks to the involvement of the management of the tourist attraction which was therefore opened confidentially on this day, solely for the realization of the sporting feat of Italian athletes. The boats were taken by the team to the access to the cave, at the end of a long staircase, where they were subsequently assembled and launched. For the first tens of meters it was not possible to hoist the mast with the sail due to the height of the cave being limited to a few metres, so we continued rowing. Having then reached the center of the lake, where the maximum height was recorded (about 12 metres), the mainsails were rigged and the first sailing trip began in a cave, in a circuit between the buoys.

The next stop is scheduled for Ilulissat, Greenland, where the team will aim to circumnavigate an Iceberg. Departure is scheduled for June 10, 2024.

This year too, the entire The Grand Tour project was able to count on important partnerships including: Saily.it media partner of the initiative with the publication of a web series dedicated to the company, with the support of the Municipality of Monfalcone, headquarters of the Società Vela Oscar Cosulich, the sports club where the initiative was born, as well as the " Io Sono Friuli Venezia Giulia " brand created for the enhancement and promotion of the cultural and sporting realities of the regional territory.

This year's sports initiative The Grand Tour has been titled " before it's too late ". This last phrase aims to draw the public's urgent attention to how the issue of environmental sustainability is affecting, extremely rapidly, not only the seas and oceans, but also rivers and lakes throughout the world.

For his project, The Grand Tour, he obtained the patronage of One Ocean Foundation, an Italian initiative of international importance established in 2018 with the aim of accelerating solutions to ocean problems by inspiring international leaders, promoting a sustainable blue economy and improving ocean knowledge through ocean literacy.

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