My doubt was legitimate because “Brake!” is an uncommon and completely useless exclamation at sea. However, someone used it when that small missile – something just a little bigger than a dinghy – squeezed between Manfredo’s Swan and another boat, probably a Bavaria. What is certain is that I memorized “168”, that is the number printed on the bow of that intruder which had plunged between the two cabin-equipped models like a suppository – as Patrizia, promptly rushed with a fender in her hand, picturesquely termed it.
The accident happened just outside of Miramare. Three boats – a Bavaria on the right, a small Comet on the left and the Swan where I was embarked in the middle – were sailing with no problems when the missile squeezed into the only gap available, getting stuck between the two larger boats.
The rest was an unstoppable, inevitable and justified sequence of swear words. Only Lorenzo, the youngest member of the Swan’s crew with an experience of just 4 years on board the Optimist, opted for a gentler but authoritative “incompetent, incompetent, incompetent !” reproach that left everyone speechless.
We had already heard about some boarding attempts on VHF channel 9 and what happened was probably inevitable in a moment when we all sailed fast and on a starboard tack.
My reiterated “water, water!” warning had evoked old memories in me and reminded me of when the Barcolana was a less competitive and a more feel-good regatta, especially among those competitors who stayed behind the leaders and let yachting high spirit burst.
A serenate of accordions and old folk songs accompanied the inevitable jumble of boats around the first buoy, where “water, water!” cries merged with more placid “vin vin (wine, wine!)” exhortations. There were even those who honored the request with a generous bucket of seawater.
The Barcolana’s first edition and the first marce longhe appeared at almost the same time; so, the Autumn Cup was just an occasion to participate and share; at best, racers liked to flex their muscles and show off.
Since the beginning, competitors had worked extremely hard because, after all, they shared a certain vindictiveness and the intention of enhancing this uncommon sailing competition that broke with any established sailing tradition and habit. The leader was the award-winning Yachting Club Adriatico (the seat of FIV) that, after a first refusal, finally decided to take part in the last appointment of the sailing calendar of this strange “open-to-everyone” regatta.
This historic memory surfaces in my mind after half a century of hard-earned progress that becomes particularly important today that the original Autumn Cup – now known as the legendary Barcolana – is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most crowded regatta.
The absolute record for number of participants gained by this 49th edition has consolidated the spirit of this unparalleled sailing festival to which all sailboat owners should participate just to be able to say: ” I was there”.
Finally, my thoughts are with the unstoppable Mitja and her crew that almost got ubiquity to promote the 2017 edition. I hope they will enjoy all the rest they deserve but without forgetting that the final countdown to the 50th anniversary of the Barcolana had already begun.