When Pierpaolo Ballerini called me and invited me for a doublehand round Sicily in the Middle Sea Race, I was not late to respond and jump ship back home. The boat is a very nice kitchen cruiser (please take no offense, owners of such and similar ) , an Azuree33 designed by my former +39 AC designer Giovanni Ceccarelli. Build in Turkey by Pierpaolo–so I knew the boat would work well even in the Med, known for its either or. Either you have zero, like in absolutely no wind, or you get hammered. In any case, it would work.
And I knew Pierpaolo as an awesome seaman. Which I actually think is the reason behind our result. We had a perfect split in terms of roles onboard. I focused on the helming, trimming and strategy, and Pierpaolo, apart from taking his turn on the wheel he focused on the “functionality of the boat”. We never had any issues on who did what onboard, it just came very naturally.
But to be honest, we had not expected us to do so well. Our opponents were packed with fully pros, geared and prepped to their maximum. But as we steadily climbed the ranking as we went forth, even in the light winds. We had made it to nr 3 at the first turning point of the coast of Scilily, an island called Favignana, which is a little more than half of the route. I knew we had chance of doing an epic result. Being in top five of the 120 boats started, overall. But as a double hander. Actually the winning boat was never classified until the race committee was certain that we could not match them. Of course they did not know of our fatigue.
And I have to admit that doublehanding of this length and more makes the Volvo look like a walk in the park. So I take my hat off for the guys in the Barcelona Race. They are tough bastards. But basically, with Pierpaolo being rather seasick (sorry Paolo, but in the closed circles I think we can share that fact) we had to take the pedal from the metal and slow the boat down. I was not much good after a good chunk of the helming since Favignana, batteries dead and brain no longer attached to my body (evil tongues would argue that it happens more often than only when sailing big winds), and for sure Pierpaolo had the same feeling. So half way down from Panteleria we slowed down to a try sail config only. Effective but slow. We just wanted to make it safely back to the continental breakfast in the yachtclub. At that time we had +40 knots, which is a bit in a small boat, our top speed was 21,4 knots )))))). The sea state though being the main issue. Some rather good rollers trying to take over the control of the boat. And succeeding on many occasions.
It was a pleasure sailing with Pierpaolo. that guy has balls the size of a camel. No complaints of going to the foredeck changing sails in +40 knots, eventhough sacrificing the belly content at the same time. That is “mind over body”, that I have only seen on rare occasion in the pro circuit. He was also man for our diving when we got tangled up in a fishing net on our fist night. We lost almost 2 hours to a local fisherman. And he lost his net, his palmtrea leave (they attach this to the net for fish heaven) and his 200 liter styro block.
No way to tell how the end result would have looked if we had managed to be further ahead and avoid the big upwinds of 25-30 knots for the last hour before Favignana. Learning points for a double hand like this, on a small boat, is that sleep and rest is absolutely crucial. I have to go home and learn power napping (perfect excuse-: ))) ). As well as anything more than 35 knots and big waves turns a 100 twa into an upwind.
In any case, we are rather proud of our result. Making it in one piece, winning the double hand category as well as the IRC 5, and competing all along for the overall win. In a 33 footer. We dreamed along the route of the tripple. Now that, would have been truly epic. Now we just did well))
For sure this is not my last double hand. It is just sheer fun sailing, which takes a few years out of your life expectancy. It is highly recommendable. – Stig Westergaard.