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The history of the regatta born in 1969 BARCOLANA, THE SEAFARING SPIRIT OF TRIESTE

For all seafaring and sailing lovers, for those who cannot miss a world’s unique spectacle: the meeting is in Trieste, every year, on the second Sunday of October. It’s the Barcolana, the most crowded international sailing race in the Mediterranean, an event consisting of a week of celebrations on land and at sea which turns Trieste into the European Capital of sailing. At the start line under the Victory lighthouse almost two thousand boats, lead by helmsmen used to compete in world sailing races, amateur skippers, holiday sailors, who are all under the spell of an event that every seafarer must take part in, at least once. The story of the Barcolana is one of those you do not expect, because nobody knows which is the key ingredient for the success of this unique event. The Barcolana was born by chance, as a simple end of summer regatta, 44 years ago. The first ever Barcolana took place in 1969, with 51 boats at the starting line - already a large number considering the number of sailing boats then present in the Gulf of Trieste. The first Autumn Cup was won by Commander Piero Napp from the Società Triestina della Vela: he was not yet aware that his boat Betelgeuse was to become a milestone in Barcolana history.

For ten years, until 1979, the regatta was a local affair among the various sailing clubs in the Gulf; victory was often contested between the Societa Triestina della Vela, the Yacht Club Adriaco and the organisers, the Societa' Velica di Barcola e Grignano. The first non-Italian victory came in 1980 with Rupe from Munich, ready to take its place in regatta history. This new international dimension brought considerable growth and a new element: the sponsors arrived together with the Moro di Venezia. The Moro's presence at the regatta became an event within an event, given the interest and excitement generated by the America's Cup. The boat won with Tiziano Nava at the helm in 1987 and 1989. 1988's race, however, was won by Uragan, skippered by Checco Battiston who brought the technology of light displacement hulls to Trieste. Battiston (who had already won with Condor in 1982) decided to follow Fanatic - still one of the stars of the Barcolana after many technological updates - and won again in 1990, 1993 and 1994. During those years the organisers modified the course (the first mark was relocated in Slovene waters) and the regulations (for security reasons, trapezes were no longer allowed to take part) and it was also during those years that the Slovenians were planning their big comeback. Koper was the birthplace of Gaia Legend, the first of a long series of vessels captained by Mitja Kosmina. The boat won three regattas in a row and Mitja took the Barcolana Trophy home for good. However, the technichal innovations of Gaia Legend were no longer a mystery: in 1988, in Rimini, the evolution of the Slovene boat was launched, planned by the same designer, Andrea Vallicelli. And so, Riviera di Rimini, owned by entrepreneur Giorgio Benvenuti from Romagna and skippered by Neapolitan Paolo Cian arrived at the Barcolana. Riviera won straight away in 1998 while in the following year, despite passing the finishing line first, it was disqualified and victory passed to Paduan Mimmo Cilenti's boat, Shining@driacom. The same boat won the following year, in 2000, crossing the finishing line during a strong Bora wind that reached 60 knots. In the same year, a boat arrived at the start line that was owned by the pharmaceutical multinational Pfizer and sailed by a crew from Lignano with one Triestino, Lorenzo Bressani. The boat, called Cometa, never made it past the starting line due to a broken rudder. It had been built in order to win the Barcolana, but had to return to port due to the rudder's structural damage. Cometa won in 2001 with Flavio Favini at the helm during one of the most memorable regattas regarding climatic conditions. The splendid sunshine and wind that characterised the race in 2001 encouraged boat owners to take part the following year and in 2002, 1969 boats took part. The winner that year was Idea, an 80 foot vessel that was chartered by Mimmo Cilenti and had Lorenzo Bressani at the helm. Second place went to Mitja Kosmina - the Slovene helmsman had returned with a new wholly Slovene boat called Maxi Jena. 2002 will also be remembered for the record number of boats that passed the finish line: 1456 boats completed the regatta, the last of which arrived at 5pm, when the red October sun touched the Triestine horizon.

2003 and 2004 confirmed the international standing of the Barcolana. In fact, for two consecutive years, New Zealand millionaire Neville Crichton won the regatta with his boat Alfa Romeo. The boat is almost 30 metres long and in 2003 won almost all the Mediterranean regattas after winning the Sydney-Hobart in Australia. Alfa Romeo took great pride in winning the 'grand-slam' of Mediterranean sailing regattas, which included the Barcolana, a last minute addition in Crichton's racing calendar that nevertheless brought him great satisfaction. Crichton skippered his own boat and in 2003 was joined by Brad Butterworth as tactician. Butterworth has been a star of the America's Cup and at the time played a large part in Alinghi's victory. Trieste's Lorenzo Bressani was also on board as a local expert in 2003 and as tactician in 2004. Two clear victories, with Mitja Kosmina yet again in second place with his Maxi Jena. In 2005, Skandia, another boat from the Southern Hemisphere was heir to Alfa Romeo's victory. It arrived at the Barcolana chartered by Furio Benussi, Lorenzo Bressani and Stefano Spangaro, a group of Triestine athletes from the Barcola and Grignano Yacht Club who, together with sponsorship from the Province of Trieste took the boat to victory in record time. The following year, in 2006, Alfa Romeo was back: Crichton and his new boat won yet again, equalling Mitja Kosmina's triple victory during the previous decade. 2007 is recent history: the Barcola and Grignano Yacht Club gave more impetus to the land-side events and 300,000 visitors duly arrived at the event. The Barcolana proved itself to be a harmonious mix between local festival and large-scale sailing event that attracts even the America's Cup competitors. Russell Coutts, who was over early at the start (OCS) with his RC44, said that he had never seen such an enthralling regatta, but the biggest enthusiast was Vincenzo Onorato who sailed his RC44 Mascalzone Latino among 2000 other boats. Victory went again to Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo. But the Barcolana is truly an occasion where all the participants are stars of the show. In 2008 Neville Crichton was first past the finish line yet again with Alfa Romeo, as well as this, the Barcolana grew in importance as a media event and was seen even more as a great opportunity for visibility of big teams and big sponsors. This was the case for Shosholoza, the America's Cup team lead by Sarno with Tommaso Chieffi and Paolo Cian: the boat sailed across many seas to get to the Barcolana, mooring up alongside the Molo Audace to the cheers of the sailing crowd. The winner that year was Alfa Romeo, but Cian performed a small miracle and steered the IACC vessel to take third place overall. And so the press talked about them all around the world. 2009 brought Barcolana41 and a controversial poster - an enchanting mermaid - that enchanted Mitja Kosmina more than anyone else. In fact, this Slovene yachtsman, after coming second seven times with his boat Maxi Jena, was the star of an outstanding victory, one that was as moving as much as it was deserved. The Barcolana41 saw very little wind, Alberto Leghissa came second with Idea Estel and third went to TuttaTrieste Vitrani, a vessel of only 55 feet with Gabriele Benussi at the helm.

2009 saw the innovation of web TV with 122 videos covering the 10 days of the event and live streaming of the regatta with 30,000 live hits. In fact at the end of 2009, the Barcolana web site was named as the most visited sailing website in Italy by the annual survey carried out by Audiewed Mediadata. On the Monday following the event there was proof of the event's international importance: the prestigious Financial Times dedicated a photo and three columns to the regatta. 2010 is a record in terms of spectators: excellent weather conditions attrace about 400 thousand people to Trieste over the week.end. Victory was gained by a historical protagonist, Igor Simcic, who bought and technologically upgraded Alfa Romeo 2. The boat won the Barcolana also setting a new record time beating that of 2008. Mitja Kosmina on Maxi Jena came in second. It was a great festival on land, with the naming of Trieste as "city of the Barcolana". Signs were placed along the roads a few days before the regatta. An international Barcolana, a Barcolana with many business people, a Barcolana with Bora up to 20 knots. The 43rd edition of Trieste's regatta took place on a beautiful day with a fresh breeze which provided great fun for everybody: those who were racing to win and those - most of the 1761 entrants - who just wanted to join the party. Esimit Europa 2 of Igor Simcic, with Alberto Bolzan at the helm and Jochen Schuemann as skipper won a lap ahead of the second, Maxi Jena of Mitja Kosmina, who had to watch out Croatia's Shining, large Open yacht typical of the Adriatic (third). Esimit Europa 2 did not beat his record (58:05 against 2010 record of 56:13), but he surprised and enchanted everyone for the great precision of a perfect race in every stage. The Line honour, in front of UnitĂ d'Italia, received a tumultuous ovation with thousands of people along the waterfront cheering for his victory. Behind him and continuing until mid afternoon, the great party at sea full of competitive spirit and true passion for sailing. On land over 300 thousand people followed the event and took part in the great festival along the waterfront, while at sea the last boats crossed the finish line with great satisfaction. It was a race with great business people and managers, with president of Assicurazioni Generali, Galateri di Genola, who finished 32nd behind steel industry entrepreneur Luigi Cimolai (13th), at the helm of his Southern Star. Francesco Illy, instead finished 42nd overall.

The story of Barcolana  

The story of the Barcolana is one of those you do not expect, because nobody knows which is the key ingredient for the success of this uniqu...

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