Giovanni Soldini talks up Class 40


He’s raced around the world alone, crossed the Atlantic umpteen times, and is currently chasing records in a supercharged beast of a Volvo 70, but Giovanni Soldini, highly critical of the current state of ocean racing, is telling everyone who will listen that a much smaller yacht, the Class 40, is today’s best bet for the next few years.

Soldini had hoped, over the next couple of weeks, to be finishing the Volvo Ocean Race as it stages a close-fought climax over an inshore race in Lorient, the final, ninth, leg to Galway, and the last inshore race. He had acquired one of the two Ericsson boats which contested the last race, but it sat in Genoa trying, unsuccessfully, to attract enough financial support.

Not surprisingly, Soldini says: “I am very happy not to be in the present Volvo round the world race. There are not enough boats (six entered) and the budget is very high.”

He thinks the timing of the start was wrong, that the route involved unnecessary problems, particularly having to dodge pirates going up to Abu Dhabi, and that the old, traditional route through the southern ocean was a better test.

He expects Volvo to announce a new design rule before the end of the month but hopes that, not only will it be a cheaper boat to build, but that it will be able to do more events and be less costly to maintain.

And that the crews will be less costly to maintain. “We have done 10,000 miles in Maserati without the continual cost of hauling out the boat and giving it to an expensive shore crew to fix. The logistics of running a Volvo boat can be horrific, flying 25 to 40 people round the world and putting them in hotels. Here in Mallorca we are sleeping on the boat and in Brest we slept onboard for over a week.”

Soldini agrees with Britian’s Mark Turner, whose Offshore Challenges is now part of the Third Pole Group and runs the Extreme Sailing Series in that the number of so-called world events will shrink. “So, how do we keep ocean racing alive? We need to keep the adventure and adrenalin factors but we need to make the price reasonable,” says Soldini.

His next record attempt will be New York to San Francisco, going around Cape Horn the ‘wrong’ way against the prevailing winds and currents and he has some unfinished business called the Atlantic record from New York to The Lizard. “Right now I find what I am doing is really, really exciting. We have an international crew, the boat language is English, but Maserati has a voice of its own. We listen and it tells us things.”

And what is more dangerous, driving a Maserati car fast or driving a 70-foot boat called Maserati fast? “They don’t let me drive the Maserati car fast, but, probably, even then, the boat can be more dangerous.”