Giancarlo Pedote and all of Italian sailing’s dream for a historic win of the Transat 650 was snuffed out in a Caribbean night just off Pointe a Pitre. It was 1:40am in Italy when the Prysmian crossed the finish line, in 18 days 15hrs 56m 30s at 8.20knots average, just three hours after Benoit Marie. This was after having led the compeition for 15 out of 18 days. If seen from this point of view it was just bad luck. A memorable result, however, considering the many events that we will now try to analyze. This was Pedote’s second Transat 650, after his fourth place in 2009 among the Series, and a good season on the Figaro.

His rival, Benoit Marie, should be complemented for a win he had been looking for for a long time: the Frenchman never gave up, even when Pedote seemed unreachable, a true example of tenacity, fundamental to reach such an important result in a competition which was technically and physically trying. Benoit Marie stole nothing, he won the Transat 650 and deserves all the celebrations that come with that. But Italian sailing has its hero, and it is right that this nearly historic endeavour be shared.

Giancarlo Pedote practically dominated the entire competition, keeping in mind what happened at Sada: when the Italian crossed the finish line in the first leg, only to discover that the organizational committee had cancelled it because of bad weather that came up the next day. But he, differently from many others, had reached Sada. At 300 miles from the finish line of Pointe a Pitre, Giancarlo Pedote had a 40-mile advantage over Benoit Marie and a strategically perfect position to enter the Caribbean. But something went wrong.

The Prysmian’s bowsprit cracked, leaving Giancarlo with no main sail for hours, which was enough time for Benoit Marie to pass him and win. This was Pedote’s first comment: “After three weeks of silence, my brain is having a hard time understanding….I gave it my all and believed in it until the end. I am happy I left nothing untried. Many things broke, but I fixed them all, my lack of speed in the last 300 miles was caused by damage to the bowsprit, I almost killed myself trying to repair it. At 300 miles from the end, my bowsprit exploded: I immediately focussed on repairing it, determined to fight to the very end. After three hours I had finished laminating and after five I was sailing with a gennaker, but I still lost ground and my performance was penalized. Also, by doing the repair myself I poisoned myself by inhaling the fumes and had some burns on my hands, because they were in contact with the chemicals. The fact still remains that sailing is a mechanical sport and these are things that happen”.

We can imagine the Tuscan skipper fervently working over the last few miles to repair the bowsprit, with carbon powder all over his hands, his face and the boat, the resin fumes making his head spin. This is high-class sailing, real sailing: Giancarlo Pedote is one of today’s best examples, and not only in Italy.

Pedote battled it out and pushed his 747 to the limit, as you should when you want a record-breaking result and you can attain it: second place, although leaving a bitter taste in our mouths because of how he got it, is a memorable result for Italy, and the entire sailing community is thankful to this young man from Tuscany who proved how serious and professional he could be.

Giancarlo Pedote battled the French in their own den, the Transat 650. After having found a far-seeing sponsor who believed in his potential, he moved to Lorient to study closely the techniques and preparation of the Mini class specialists. He learned, he trained, bought a good boat and improved it with his own modifications. He did everything that a serious professional should have done, bringing our sailing to level nobody had ever thought it could reach. Thank you Giancarlo Pedote, because we never believed we would sit in front of a computer screen all through the night waiting for an Italian to cross the finish line of the famous Transat. Thank you Giancarlo Pedote because you followed a road that many other young talented skippers can now follow. Thank you Giancarlo Pedote because you believed, right to the very end, and so did the rest of Italian sailing.

Giancarlo Pedote never hid his dream of making an IMOCA 60, the boats used in the Vendée Globe: he has proven that he has reached that level…. has the dream just begun?

The first and fourth photograph were taken by Francesca Pradelli, and can be used through an active link, the second and third were taken by  Jacques Vapillon, the fifth by Jacques Guyarder

M.G.

3 December 2013