Furio and Gabriele Benussi from Trieste won the 49th edition of Barcolana aboard Spirit of PortoPiccolo, completing the quadrangular 13-mile course from Barcola to Piazza Unità in 1 hour, 12 minutes and 17 seconds.
With a total of 2101 entries (1836 Italians and 265 sailing enthusiasts from 26 countries including Chile, Argentina and Europe), 25 thousand sailors at sea and some a hundred thousand people celebrating along the Rive seafront, this year’s edition will be remembered as a real record-breaker.
International champions and hundreds of sailing enthusiasts were united in setting the new Guinness World record. “It’s overwhelming to know that today we’ve made history all together – Mitja Gialuz said – skippers, yacht clubs from across Friuli and the whole city of Trieste: Barcolana is the world’s most crowded regatta – we organised it, we won it, we welcomed thousands of people and reached the goal of affirming the importance of sailing as a sport, as well as our passionate love for the sea”.
The excitement of the competition began to mount 20 minutes ahead of the start signal: never have so many boats taken to the waters of the Gulf. The big favourites chose to line up on the “Barcola side”, where they could put more pressure on their opponents and snatch the wind from them: Spirit of PortoPiccolo led from the start, managing to keep Maxi Jena in check in its wind shadow, while Maxi Jena was late to trim the foresail. As the 2101 boats moved in unison, Spirit of PortoPiccolo sailed full and by to the left, reaching a speed of 15 knots from the very beginning, which resulted in almost three minutes of advantage over Maxi Jena that the boat managed to maintain up to Mark 1.
In spite of perfect trimming and a good route, Maxi Jena was no match for such a rival, and she ended up in second position. Immediately behind Maxi Jena a fierce battle was raging between Lorenzo Bodini’s Pendragon, local entrepreneur Gabriele Lualdi’d brand new E VAI – helmed by Nicola Celon – and Mauro Pelaschier’s Ancilla Domini, which hosted entrepreneur Andrea Illy on board: the boat was in perfect shape and, although she had started underwind behind Spirit of PortoPiccolo, she managed to keep an excellent pace for a cruising yacht.
Spirit of PortoPiccolo reached the first buoy in less than 20 minutes, hoisted the gennaker and got ready for board reach towards Miramare. Maxi Jena followed four minutes later. Behind the two leaders, Bodini’s Pendragon, Lualdi’s E VAI and Ancilla Domini came in close succession, followed by Unipol Sai – which was later disqualified as OCS – and Alberto Leghissa’s Anywave Salfiens. The fastest boats sailed in Indian file along the short offset leg, while behind them countless sails dotted the Gulf of Trieste. The long stretch towards Miramare was a reaching leg: the leading boats kept their positions, and only the Russian Vladimir Yakimenko’s Tp52 Freccia Rossa – helmed by Frenchman Christian Ponthieu – managed to advance, outracing Leghissa’s Anywave and claiming the fifth position.
Spirit of PortoPiccolo continued her race towards victory on a solo performance surrounded by tens of motorboats that seemed to want to share her victory. At the Miramare mark, upwind sailing started with short tacks, a 10-knot wind, which dropped along the last five hundred metres off the dam at the Old Port. Whenever the wind dropped the Benussi brothers did not give up and sailed ahead in an attempt to cross the finish line until, between light and strong wind gusts, they snatched the victory at 11.42 pm after 1 hour, 12 minutes and 17 seconds and came first in the most crowded regatta in the history of Barcolana. Four minutes after was the turn of Mitja Kosmina, who grabbed a well-deserved second place, and Pendragon Alilaguna with Lorenzo Bodini scored third place.
The TP52 captained by the Russian Yakimenko, with French helmsman and tactician came fourth. They could not believe a regatta like this one really exists. After having claimed an overall win at the Giraglia Cup, they enjoyed a category win. Fifth position was claimed by Anywave with Leghissa, followed by EVAI. Immediately after, a neck-to-neck duel was fought by two RC44s which finished the race in line, one after the other, the Slovenian Scorpio and Magia Docktrine of Marino Quaiat. Among the first ten boats we also found Idrusa, captained by Paolo Montefusco and Ancilla Domini captained by Mauro Pelaschier. Behind those boats, until late afternoon, was a fleet of sails, a great festival and a fantastic city celebrating along the seafront while the sea was dash of spinnakers: an Indian summer, a south-westerly breeze until the spinnakers reach Piazza Unità.