Italian team Claudia Rossi & Pietro D’Alì have been crowned winners of the 2021 Hempel Mixed Two Person Offshore World Championship after a hard-fought final leg to Venice.
When the final leg started at lunchtime on Friday, Rossi and D’Ali were slow out of the starting blocks of the 100-mile overnight race from Marina di Ravenna, but the Italian duo kicked their Figaro 3 keelboat, ITA1 Team ENIT, into gear and took the lead by the halfway stage.
The rising sun was struggling to break through the Venetian morning mist, but emerging from the gloom in the lead was ITA1 Team ENIT, crossing the line first and taking the championship title. Four minutes later Team ESP from Spain crossed in second place, followed by Team Belgium who took third place by just four seconds from winners of the previous leg, ITA2 Marina Militare.
As the boats arrived into the breathtaking military basin in the heart of Venice, the Arsenale di Venezia, there were few smiling faces. The final approach to Venice involved navigating around a myriad of restricted zones due to oil platforms and other sea furniture, and some teams brought protests against others to seek clarification on whether others had contravened the restrictions. There was not yet a clear winner.
After a few hours of intense but friendly deliberation with the international jury, several teams received penalty points for navigational errors. For Rossi and D’Ali the champagne remained on ice until protests had been concluded. Eventually, however, the Italians were able to pop the cork, a release of emotion as they were finally able to celebrate becoming the first ever World Champions of Mixed Two Person Offshore competition.
Rossi shared her feelings after hearing the result. “It’s an amazing feeling, it’s like a dream that has come true. We fought until the end but then we had some protests to discuss, so it was not really easy. But now we can just feel good and have a party together because we did a great race and great teamwork together.”
Aged 29, Rossi is exactly half the age of Pietro D’Ali, one of Italy’s most experienced and respected offshore competitors. D’Ali commented: “To come back to offshore racing in this event, after the Solitaire du Figaro and Transat racing, it’s a pleasure to be sailing again. I hope this format keeps going in the future. This is a perfect format for the Olympics.”
Finishing runner-up was the other Italian team, ITA2 Marina Militare sailed by Giovanna Valsecchi & Andrea Pendibene. Two Italian teams winning on home waters doesn’t tell the story of how close this championship was between the 10 teams representing eight nations. Team Belgium (Sophia Faguet & Jonas Gerckens) ran the winners very close for overall victory but had to settle for third overall.
Coming in fourth place and punching above their lack of offshore experience was Team South Africa, crewed by Michaela Robinson (age 21) and Siyanda Vato (age 28). “We’ve spent 11 years racing against each other,” said Vato, “but this was the first time we’ve raced together. We worked together really well as a team, we’ve achieved much more than we could have dreamed of, lots of positives!”
Two of Michaela’s siblings, Brennan and Catherine, flew out from the UK early in the morning to spring a family surprise on their younger sister before she flies back to South Africa. The same for Lennea Floser on Team Sweden, who was overjoyed to see a number of her family waiting on the dock in Venice to welcome her ashore. Her younger sister Josefin was bursting with pride for Lennea. “So amazing. I’m so proud of her. She’s always accomplishing new goals, and she’s always moving forward, never backward. It’s very impressive what she has done.”
This evening, in front of the Italy’s secretary of state for defence, the prize-giving took place in the Arsenale di Venezia, the shining conclusion to a brand new world championship format.