Sailing: Transat Jacques Vabre, Italy’s charge with 6 skippers

Departure from Le Havre on Sunday, never so many Italians and never so qualified our participation

“A great moment for Italian sailing”. Words from Giancarlo Pedote who with his Prysmian Group is preparing to leave for his fifth Transat Jacques Vabre, the transatlantic regatta which starts on Sunday 29 October from the port of Le Havre, in France, to arrive in Fort-de-France in Martinique. A regatta in which Pedote, thanks to his experience, finds himself in the role of “captain” of what is an Italian national team made up of four other skippers from as many Italian boats, to which is added a sixth Italian on board a French boat. And such a large participation had never been seen. Because the predictions give rise to hope. But let’s go in order and with the Transat Jacques Vabre or, as it is also nicknamed the Coffee Route, because it retraces the route that brought coffee from the Caribbean and South America to Europe, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Four routes

A regatta with a particular format. The Jacques Vabre is in fact a couple’s regatta with crews made up of skippers and co-skippers. Some have defined it as “the regatta of two loners” given that each of the two must be able to manage alone on every occasion. Where the two skippers have to push the boat to the maximum. What Ambrogio Beccaria, skipper of Alla Grande Pirelli, one of the 44 Class 40s (12 meter boats) that make up the largest fleet of the four, will do. “My maturity regatta” was defined by Beccaria, 32 years old, from Milan, with a degree in nautical engineering, who will team up with the Frenchman Nicolas Andrieu and who arrives at the Transat Jacques Vabre with second place in the “mythical” solo transatlantic race of Route du Rhum 2022 and after having dominated the 2023 events. “Ambrogio sails his boats in a hard but effective way” is the comment of the French sailing gurus who see him as the favourite. In his second Jacque Vabre, also returning from participation in the Route du Rhum 2022, finishing in eighth place, but above all from a 2023 full of results always in Class 40. Then there is Alberto Bona (38 years old, philosophy degree) together with Spanish co-skipper Pablo Santurde (they’ve been a steady couple for a year). Bona brings his Ibsa to the race and the bookmakers have him on the podium. Third Italian Class 40 is Andrea Fornaro (47 years old and with a degree in Political Science) who, with another French co-skipper Benoît Hantzperg, experiments with his brand new Influence 2 launched in June.

Just launched

“Getting here is already a great achievement. It was a great obstacle course” says Fornaro who had to replace his co-skipper at the last minute to tackle a regatta aboard a boat yet to be discovered. As must Alberto Riva (31 years old, degree in physical engineering) who also embraced the project that led to the birth of Alla Grande. An all-Italian project, wanted by Beccaria, developed by two young designers and built by the San Giorgio Marine shipyard in Genoa. Result: Alberto Riva launched his Acrobatica in August. He will take it to the regatta with the Frenchman Jean Marre and in memory of Riccardo Iovino, founder of EdiliziAcrobatica who suddenly passed away in September. “He cared so much about this project. Let us run in his memory.” Also in the Class 40 but with the French skipper William Mathelin Moreaux there will also be Pietro Luciani, who has the experience of participating with Massimo Juris in the 2017 regatta. Giancarlo Pedote, the “captain” of the mini-national team instead races in the Imoca, the 18 meter monohulls equipped with foils which, with a line-up of 40 boats, is the second largest class of this edition. Pedote with his Prysmian Group (his sponsor for 17 years) will be racing with the Frenchman Gaston Morvan. Prysmian Group presents itself with a whole series of changes: a new bow and new foils to try to keep a boat that is now eight years old and which has to compete with a series of brand new boats competitive. And with all the best French specialists. Starting with Franck Cammas who will try to bring his victories to five. To do this, Jérémie Beyou took on board and with this he reaches eight Transat Jacques Vabre. Then there are people like Yannick Bestaven, winner of a solo world tour just to give an idea of ​​the parterre. With Pedote and the Imocas the Italian presence in this edition ends which however has two other protagonist classes. That of the Ocean Fifty (15 meter trimarans) with six boats and favorite Erwan Le Roux who with Giancarlo Pedote as co-skipper won in 2015 and that of the Ultim, the mega-trimarans 32 meters long and 24 meters wide. There are five of them, all French and here too a parade of stars: from François Gabart, winner of the Vendée Globe in 2013, to Armel le Cléach, also winner, and record holder, of the solo round the world trip, to Thomas Coville who at 55 years old is taking part in his eighth Transat Jacques Vabre, regatta won in 2021. Among these there should also be the first overall on the finish line. And this despite the fact that the Ultims take the longest route. In order to have an arrival, hopefully close despite boats being very different from each other, the organizers, by placing some islands in the Atlantic as buoys, have in fact assigned different routes to the various classes. They range from 4600 miles for the Class 40, to 5400 for the Imoca, to 5800 for the Ocean Fifty, to 7500 miles for the Ultim. For everyone, however, the finish line is in Fort-de-France in Martinique. And the show begins on Sunday 29 October at 1.05pm. The Ultim starts first, then the Ocean Fifty, then the Imoca. The Class 40 and the four blues close. Good wind!