For most, spending nearly 11 days at sea navigating choppy Atlantic waters in a 70-foot sailboat would feel like an eternity. The mere thought of it would likely bring butterflies to our stomachs. But for seasoned sailors like Giovanni Soldini and Brad Van Liew, nerves are never a question.
Along with six other crew members, they took to the high seas aboard the Maserati, a completely-overhauled 70-foot racing yacht (formerly known as the Ericsson 3 VO70), and established the first record for a monohull yacht sailing the 3,884-mile (just over 6,250-kilometre) trip from Cadiz, Spain to San Salvador island in the Bahamas, the route originally taken by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The Maserati boat is named after the automobile brand, which financially backs its missions.
Apprehension, solitude and loneliness were not a major concern for these hardened sailors. Contacting Dolce via the vessel’s satellite phone, Soldini, the skipper, explains how being in the middle of the ocean on a journey of this significance can really be rather pleasant. “Seven days at sea is not a problem for us and I’m out with friends so it’s very nice,” says the veteran seafarer, who’s also raced solo around the world multiple times.
Van Liew, one of two watch leaders, adds, “If you’re well-prepared and with people you trust, it can actually be quite enjoyable. You actually feel pretty special because you are seeing things that many people can’t see. But when things start going bad or the weather is extraordinarily bad, then you start feeling isolated.” Like Soldini, Van Liew is no stranger to long ocean excursions, sailing around the world on his own three times.
While records on the route have previously been set by large trimarans, it’s never been done on a boat of this size. They finished the journey on Feb. 13, 2012, with a time set of 10 days, 23 hours, 9 minutes and 2 seconds. In comparison, it took Columbus about five weeks, although he also spent another four weeks in the Canary Islands due to calm winds, repairs and a refit.
Even though there was no record to beat, the crew was still serious about posting a competitive measure. “Our passion is to go as fast as possible,” says Soldini.
“If we can keep the boat in one piece,” says Van Liew, “I’d be surprised if this record didn’t stand for a considerable amount of time.” The weather had been quite favourable at the time of the call, and thanks to these conditions, Van Liew feels their time could possibly hold for a decade. Due to the logistics, expense of putting a team and boat together, and, because of weather and wind patterns, there’s only a brief window when a legitimate attempt could be made each year.
Van Liew explains the top speed for the boat is about 35 knots, and that they were able to push it to 33 knots at one point. “That’s about the point that things start to feel like they are going to explode,” he says. In fact, due to violent winds, one spinnaker sail did explode. Boris Herrmann, the second watch leader, had also cracked a rib when a large wave slammed him against a winch – both reminders of the ocean’s colossal power.
The Maserati and crew will also try to set two other records this year, one, a trip from Miami to New York, and the other, from New York to Cape Lizard in the United Kingdom. Along the way, they will attempt to beat the 24-hour speed record of 593.23 nautical miles, or an average of 24 knots per hour.