“Just as you can’t understand the Palio in Siena if you only follow the one and a half minutes of the race around Piazza del Campo, you can’t feel the Barcolana in Trieste if you only follow the regatta on the 2nd weekend of October,” says Luigi Coretti, sales manager of Darsena San Marco in Grado, looking at the Barcolana. This “regatta of madmen” as a German sailing magazine once called it, the largest sailing regatta in the world, is in fact only understandable if you know Trieste, the people of Trieste and their passion for the sea at least a little.
Trieste is the city of the Bora, and just as the Bora unpredictably ruffles every regatta field that ventures out on the 13-nautical-mile course in mid-October, so too is the city during these days a single back-and-forth between the various regatta events. Because the Barcolana is more, so much more, than just a Sunday event in October where a few maxi yachts settle everything among themselves in about 60 minutes, while the majority of the small yachts sometimes need half a day for the course.
Started in 1969 with just 51 participating boats and meanwhile grown with regularly up to 2,500 boats jostling at the starting line, the Barcolana is in reality a 10-day spectacle of sailing. And those who come only on Sunday for the arrival of the yachts at the Molo Audace, the city pier that borders Piazza Unità d’Italia, have little grasp of what the city owes to the sea and why sailing seems to be in the DNA of every Triestinian.
Trieste – where sailing is capitalized
Between Muggia in the far northeast of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Lignano Sabbiadoro on the Tagliamento River and the border with Veneto, sailing is at home with some 7,000 berths. Where elsewhere in Italy up to 70 percent of the boats are motorboats, the opposite is the case around Trieste. Anyone can take part who is able to keep their own sailing nutshell afloat in the throng of sailors and cross the starting line between the organizing Yacht Club Società Velica di Barcola e Grignano and the bright white Miramare Castle.
Sailing isn’t everything at the Barcolana
The 10 days of the Barcolana will also see conferences such as the Sea Summit on sustainability and environmental protection, readings, art exhibitions, roundtable discussions and tastings of delicacies all lined up at Villaggio Barcolana. There will even be “sailing” on the moon, when the full moon can be observed by means of a large-format projector at La Lanterna Pedocin, a bathing establishment steeped in history. “Observe the Moon Night” was the name of this worldwide event directed by NASA. The entire supporting program can be found on the Website of the Barcolana.
Regattas for every taste
Individual regattas have long been an integral part of the boats involved, which range from mini to maxi. In other words, from the regatta of the youngest, the “Barcolana Young”, an Optimist regatta, to the “Barcolana Maxi” for boats with a length of 16 meters, there is something for everyone. A special highlight is the “Barcolana by Night”. When night falls, Trieste lights up and Ufo 28, Meteor and Melges 24 compete for wet victory in the heart of the city in front of the piazza. Trieste is never more beautiful than in these nocturnal moments, when the spotlight refracts on the water and in the facades of the fine palazzi, when only a breath remains of the wind of the day and the hulls glide almost silently through the water.
In turn, the “FIV Foil Academy” brings together the under-19 foil specialists for Wasp, Skeeta and IQfoils. This science fiction of sailing is contrasted by Italy’s most beautiful ship: the Amerigo Vespucci lends its very own grandeur to the hustle and bustle in the city and on the water. Quiet as an island, the Italian navy’s sail training ship lies against the moving backdrop, offering the eye a fixed point to which it returns again and again.
In 2022, a woman wins the Barcolana for the first time
And the result? For the first time in the now 54-year history of the Barcolana, a woman won the superlative regatta on October 9, 2022. Wendy Schmidt on DEEP BLUE left all competitors almost powerless behind and cut the finish line in a breathless 57 minutes and 47 seconds. What a performance in up to 28 knots of bora that left many a sail blowing in sheer shreds. Wendy Schmidt also wrote her name in the wake of the harbor with this victory and will hopefully inspire many an admirer to emulate her.
A heart for ROBY
But Trieste, this Vienna by the sea with its palaces, insurance companies, coffee and inimitable blend of genteel serenity and businesslike hustle and bustle, would not be the city with a big heart if there were not something more… Out of all the participating boats, this year one in particular stands out: a Ufo 28 named BANDITO with a big red heart and the lettering ROBY on the sail. What was it all about? It is a bow to Roberto Vencato, who together with Roberto Sponza was an Olympic sailor for the Italian sailing team in 1974 and won countless regattas.
For four Olympiads he trained the young talent of the Italian sailing squad and founded an extremely successful company that produced the winning sails of many a yacht. Giving a sign of encouragement to the seriously ill Roberto Vencato during the toughest regatta of his life was the concern of his friend Roberto Sponza and the entire crew of BANDITO, as well as countless supporters on social media. The hashtag #forzaRoby trended among all who understood the soul of Trieste. BANDITO accordingly won the “Barcolana by Night” and then sailed its way to 62nd place among the more than 1600 boats participating in the final regatta.
As said. Who wants to understand the Barcolana, must understand the soul of Trieste. Next year, when another record number of visitors and participants is expected during the 10 days of the Barcolana for its 55th anniversary, the signs are all set to go again in this city of winds and Barcolana.
How to participate in the Barcolana 55 in 2023
Enrollment: online registration through www.barcolana.it and then pick up your race number and gift pack for the skipper at the office of the Sailing Club Barcola (Società Velica di Barcola e Grignano), Viale Miramare 32, Trieste, www.svbg.it
Example of participation fee. 10 m: about € 110,-
Where to go by boat? If you want to sail in the Barcolana yourself, it is best to moor in one of the partner marinas of FVG Marinas. Between Muggia in the extreme NE Friuli Venezia Giulia and Grado are 8 marinas of the marina association. They have space for all those who want to take part in the regatta once in a lifetime. More information about the marinas in and around Trieste at www.fvgmarinas.com