© Vincent Olivaud / RDR 2022
Italy's Ambrogio Beccaria takes historic second in Class40 on RDR
Italian skipper Ambrogio Beccaria brought his 100% Italian made Alla Grande-Pirelli across the finish line of the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe at 2038hrs UTC to take a hard earned second place in the highly competitive 55 boat Class40.
The 31 year old from Milan finished in an elapsed time of 14d 7h 23m, some 4 hours and 15 minutes behind the dominant, class winning French skipper Yoann Richomme (Paprec-Arkea).
While Richomme won the Class40 title for the second time in a row and set a new record for the course, Beccaria had finally got the better of his long time rival former French Figaro class ace Corentin Douguet (Quéguiner-Innoveo) with whom he has traded second place over a fast and furious 1,300 nautical miles trade winds sprint to the northernmost approach to Guadeloupe.
The duel came to a head in light winds on the west coast of Guadeloupe today when they were less than one mile apart but Beccaria wriggled free and on a wet, tropical evening when he crossed the finish line off Pointe-à-Pitre, Gaudeloupe he finished nearly ten miles ahead of Douguet.
The result is a major triumph for Beccaria who already in 2019 became the first Italian to win the MiniTransat but also for his team of close friends who helped create the powerful Class 40. Alla Grande (Italian for all good) Pirelli was designed by Yacht Design and Engineering graduate Beccaria together his university mates Gianluca Guelfi and Fabio d'Angeli. The boat was built at the San Giorgio Marine yard in Genoa by another university mate Nicolò Bianchi and was only launched this summer.
It is the first major Transatlantic solo or shorthanded success for an Italian sailor since Giovanni Soldini and Pietro D'Alì won the Transat Jacques Vabre in the formative times of Class40, 2007 before Soldini won The Transat solo in 2008. Beccaria won this year's Normandy Channel Race with Ian Lipinkski on the Frenchman's Class40. Previous bests for Italian sailors on this legendary solo race have been Andrea Mura in the Rhum open division and Giancarlo Pedote's 10th in the IMOCA in 2014.
Long rudders and an adjustable bowsprit are a few of the innovations the Italian group incorporate into Allla Grande-Pirelli which is one of the newest of the thirty or so scows in the Class40 fleet. It was only launched at the end of last August and only in October that Ambrogio, who lives and trains in Lorient, completed his qualification.
On the water the fiery Italian asserts himself in the leading peloton quickly. His only significant issue is his wind instruments when his wind indicator fails. Meantime his nearest rivals like Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) and Douguet have their problems, Macaire drops from contention when he has to make composite repairs to his bow and Douguet has engine problems which affect his ability to generate power. In fact he has to break his engine seal which requires him to take a 45 minutes penalty which he takes today, part of the reason Beccaria is able to sail away.
Speaking about his new boat he said "The sensations are magical. It's an aeroplane. It is fast in all points of sail," he said as he scrapped with Douguet on the fast reach to the Tête-à-l'Anglais.
"It's huge. It's a great accomplishment." Said an almost overwhelmed Beccaria on the dock, "The last eight months including the whole building of the boat, it was super intense throughout. For me, this is first of all a team success, something we have all done together. What touches me the most is that unlike the Mini-Transat, is that this was always a team effort and I wasn't alone. I hadn't imagined going so far. We made a team. We did a crazy job. To finish it with a second place is a great prize for everyone."
He continues, "It is incredible, because when I left, I realized that I didn't even know how to gybe on my own on this boat. It had been two years since I have done a solo race. We made a new boat with a new architect and this boat, and it's a rocket! I really enjoyed competing in this race. First, with the currents, it was fun, then we started to get messed up in Ouessant, and then we headed out to sea".
"This is where I started to have a little more trouble, especially when I broke the J2 padeye but I was able to repair it. I never imagined ending up second. When we passed the second front no one wanted to go into it. The first one had already done some damage, we all broke stuff; me, it was the wind aerial. But I think my positioning was beneficial at that time. Then it's sheer boat speed. When we got out of the high, I was going super fast, especially when reaching."
"There is so much pride to have this as a 100% Italian project. When I did all this with the architect and the builder, everyone told me that I was crazy, that I was seriously ill, that it was a huge risk. And in the end, I think this second place proves that it was worth it to make the boat we wanted, and it works! The problem is that I had no more air and that necessarily I had no more bearings, but I have the impression that the boat is fast all the time. Downwind, it's a rocketship!"
"The fastest moment was entering the high; there, under the big gennaker, downcast, I really felt like I was flying on the water. Then in the trade winds, it got a little more complicated. And the tour of Guadeloupe is perhaps the strongest, most intense moment. At the finish, you have everything against you: calms, clouds everywhere with squalls every fifteen seconds... It's still like a big joke! We're almost there, and now you're getting knocked out by the squalls. And I didn't even know that Corentin (Douguet), had a penalty (due to an engine seal editor's note) and when he still came back to within 0.5 miles, I said wow, here we go again. In this race, everything happens in your head. And there, I stayed on high alert all the time, ready for a new squall. This race is very tough. But I left, telling myself that we must do everything to try to win it!"