“It’s a wonderful and unique race, but you must perfectly understand your own limits and know when to say stop when it becomes too hard”.
Valerio Brinati, 70 years old, ex airline pilot, hasn’t missed any edition of the Rome For…, the regatta from Riva di Traiano to Lipari and return, which has reached it’s 22nd edition.
For 21 times he presented himself at the start-line with his Este 35 Whisky Echo, and in the upcoming April 10th he’ll be steering it again in pairs with an exceptional skipper, his son Manuel, 14 years old, all of them passed in contact with the sea. It will be Manuel to relieve Valerio, it’ll be his abilities to take decisions to whom Valerio will entrust for the possibilities to rest along the 530 miles which separate the start to the end.
And it’s to the veteran of this competition, expert sailor but not a professional, at just 20 days remaining from the start, we ask which are the critical elements for a skipper that has to face this commitment.
“The weather – he decidedly says – and sleepiness for the solitaries. You sail in trafficked waters, and it becomes really hard if you don’t have anyone to relieve to. For anyone who sails in pairs or even in ship’s company, the sleepiness problem is negligible in my opinion. Understanding the weather forecast instead is fundamental”.
Then the briefing at the start with the weatherman is important?
“Absolutely important but the weatherman does not tell you what choices to take. It’s yourself who has to interpret the informations and assume the right decisions regarding the phenomena in relation to your personal limits and those of the boat. Put in front of the same difficult weather situation, the professionist, that also has to render to the sponsors in addition on relying to a higher training and experience, will take a decision which will probably be different from the one made by the simple fond with a crew of friends or family”.
So also the costant weather information during the course of the regatta is decisive?
“Certainly, because the last update before the departure will give us security for 48 hours. For all the first entire day we can be quite certain of what we’ll have in front us. Then there is the gate of Ventotene, and here we have again the possibility to download informations with our cell phone and udate the forecasts, and then again at Lipari. In short, overall in 4 days sailing we can rely on a constant update and thus on the possibility to take our own choices”.
Among those, you told us, there’s also the one to stop.
“It’s a tough decision for who participates in a regatta, but knowing how to do it belongs to your maturity as a sailor. It’s happened to me two times to have had to withdraw due to a breakdown, and once by choice, because the conditions became such so that my limit had been reached. It was the edition where there had been a victim and few boats were lost during a very violent gale. That’s it, knowing how to recognize your own limits and to clearly foresee how far you can arrive before saying stop, now it’s time to go back, this is my recommendation for those who will participate for the first time”.
And here comes into play the discourse of the safety that doesn’t reguard only the need of having all the allocations onboard.
“It’s much more than that. The rules of this regatta forces the participants to attend the safety courses. They are of fundamental matter because you touch directly with your hands the meaning of opening a raft, using the fires, adopting the correct behavior. Then there’s the experience discourse, of what the sea has taught you. For example at night, with flat sea, I go bound towards bow. Somebody says: what’s the use fo it. But also in total calm conditions, a ship that passes may be enough to raise a wave of the size of a meter which can arrive uppon you without even seeing it, and in a moment you finish overboard. There are a series of attentions, of behaviors geared to safety, which you learn in years and which are precious to deal with these types of races”.
Let’s take in exam a theme that often animates discussions, about the provisions room, have you ever used particular precautions?
“No, we’re talking about three-four days of sea, not of navigating the ocean. I think that with a bit of common sense you can make a provisions room without loading the boat with too much weight, but also without depriving ourselves of the fundamental nourishment. No, I don’t feel in giving any suggestions, I really don’t think it’s a problem”.
The next will be your 22nd starting line. What always pushes you to do it again?
“It’s extreme beauty, the tactical aspects, especially for the return, when you don’t have the gate of Ventotene and there’s a larger choice of selection, the passages near the islands. But most of all the spirit of solidarity. I can never forget when I made it in solitaire, the relationship with the others, the sail in sight and saying to your opponent… go to sleep for a bit I’ll protect you. This is what this regatta leaves inside of you and that makes you forget about the fatigue, the cold and the toughest close-haulers“.