Report from the Barcolana

Ross Stein, who races Corsair 24 #357, Origami, out of San Francisco Bay, sends this report from Italy’s big, crazy, beautiful Barcolana race, or Coppa d’Autunno. With turnouts in the thousands for a course only 19 miles long, there’s not much that compares. The race is sailed in the Gulf of Trieste, with one of four marks laid in the waters of neighboring
Author:
Updated:
Original:
barcolana.2int


Ross Stein, who races Corsair 24 #357, Origami, out of San Francisco Bay, sends this report from Italy’s big, crazy, beautiful Barcolana race, or Coppa d’Autunno. With turnouts in the thousands for a course only 19 miles long, there’s not much that compares. The race is sailed in the Gulf of Trieste, with one of four marks laid in the waters of neighboring Slovenia.

Here’s Ross—

On Sunday I crewed on a Mini in the largest sailing race in the world, the Barcolana of Trieste. There were three of us on board this 21-footer, designed for single-handed trans-Atlantic racing. I did cockpit. The 12 halyards and the control lines for the articulating sprit are all clutched to one central winch, and I was the halyard guy.

The day before, I memorized as many Italian sailing terms as I could.

Then, not one clutch was marked.

Insane.

A 1.5-mile line with Coast Guard cutters at each end and a dozen mid-line buoys had all boats from all classes starting at the same time in 17 knots of wind on a beam reach. The line was so long that we did not hear the starting cannon until 10 seconds after the GPS start. A dozen maxi’s and several super-maxi’s just exploded off the line. We finished 566th out of 1850 boats (elapsed, 20 feet being the minimum length; no multihulls) and 8th out of the 44 finishers in our class. The Barcolana uses no handicaps; rather, divisions are based on boat length. We finished in 6 hr 15 min. The winning boat (the gorgeous 100-foot canting-keeled Alfa Romeo 2) did it in 56 minutes, averaging 17 knots on the course.

The race was labor-intensive, with many sail changes. We had to fend off other boats countless times. Our skipper’s strategy was to make sure we pushed them aft.

barcolana-300x225

That’s skipper Franco Vaccari on the right. In our race together we had all kinds of wind. We were double reefed at the start, and had zero wind numerous times. There were giant shifts and sharp wind lines. We rounded all marks with our fenders in place. Incredible to be overlapped with 50 boats rounding marks; on two roundings we were the inside boat, rounding huge inflatable marks that were legal to rub. I saw at least a hundred collisions, none serious but many very noisy. At times, with no wind, many people just jumped off and swam around. During the race, people danced to boomboxes on their boats, drank champagne, demanded mark room or their rights (“Aqua! Aqua!”), yelled and cheered in many languages.

One of our sprit control fittings broke 15 minutes after the start on a beam-reach with the giant spin up—a mess that cost us about 300 places off the line. Franco, the skipper, was eventually able to fix it, but at the first mark we were in about 1200th place (literally). There were so many boats at that mark we never even saw it; we just figured it was in the center of a clutch of maybe 500 boats. But we kept making money throughout the race, Franco reading the wind well and keeping clear of the massive barges formed by dozens of boats more or less stuck together.

Every moment was scenic. Who’s ever seen a thousand spinnakers flying at once? Castles. Monasteries. Snowcapped mountains. Beautiful sportboats. Intravenous beer after the race, then dinner with Franco at the home of my host and her family, sailors all. Trieste is one sailing-infatuated town.

We watched the heli footage on TV.

Only a heli would know if you were over early on this race.

Ross Stein

Corsair 24 #357, Origami

Related

Waypoint.image.cd

Say No To Waypoints

Ever since they first appeared in my navigational toolbox decades ago I have been wary of waypoints. They certainly do seem helpful, these electronic flags we plant in the ether to guide us to where we want to go. But I noticed early on they also tend to distort our perception. ...read more

Lead-shutterstock_429247

A Cruise up Florida’s St. Johns River

The chart showed 45ft of vertical clearance, and I knew the boat should be able to pass under the bridge. Still, there was that nagging voice in my head that wouldn’t let me be. “What if your air draft calculations were wrong?” it said. “And if you’re just a little too high the ...read more

pic00

Installing a Helm Pod

Our 1987 Pearson project boat came with an elderly but functioning Raymarine chartplotter, located belowdecks at the nav station. Since I usually sail solo or doublehanded, it was of little use down there—it needed to be near the helm. When I decided to update the plotter along ...read more

Panamerican

Pan American Game Success

Team USA’s young sailors went to the quadrennial Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru this summer with high hopes, and returned with a good haul of medals—two Golds, three Silvers, and two Bronze. Gold medals went to Ernesto Rodriguez and Hallie Schiffman (Mixed Snipe) and Riley ...read more

190916-AC75

U.S. Team Launches First America’s Cup Boat

Fast forward to around 2:25 to see the boat in action. First day out and already doing full-foiling gybes: not too shabby! Hard on the heels of the unveiling of New Zealand’s first AC75, the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic team has now launched its first America’s Cup ...read more

GGTobCaysHorseshoeColors

Picking a Charter Destination

Picking a destination should reflect the interests of your group, says People often ask about my favorite charter destination, and invariably, I sidestep the question with one of my own: “Well, what do you want to do on your vacation?” Most often I hear an incredulous, “Why, ...read more

sinking

Waterlines: Chasing Leaks on Boats

Chasing leaks on boats is a time-honored obsession. Rule number one in all galaxies of the nautical universe through all of nautical history has always been the same: keep the water on the outside. When water somehow finds its way inside and you don’t know where it’s coming ...read more

BestBoatNominees2020-Promo

Best Boats Nominees 2020

Bring on the monohulls! In a world increasingly given over to multihull sailing, SAIL magazine’s “Best Boats” class of 2020 brings with it a strong new group of keelboats, including everything from luxury cruisers nipping at the heels of their mega-yacht brethren to a number of ...read more