Maurizio Pizzi has worked at our Brindisi facility since 2010, initially as part of the Maintenance team in the Frames center of excellence, and specifically on the GEnx program, then for the last year and a half he has been working in the Supplier Quality team, dealing with Accessories and MR&O suppliers.
Although originally from Manduria in Puglia, home of the famous wine Primitivo, in 2008 Maurizio was working in Rivalta near Turin for the Industrial Technology team.
When he returned to Puglia in 2010, Maurizio was completely won over once again by the sea and developed a passion for sailing: he took a course, joined the Italian Naval League, and honed his skills through further courses and sailing experience in local regattas.
Then in 2013 he had a great opportunity to take part in his first international race: the Brindisi-Corfù regatta.
Maurizio, what does sailing mean to you?
It is a sport that requires concentration right from the start, as well as perseverance and a lot of time: training and practice sessions require several hours (on average 4-5 hours) and for this reason I mainly go sailing at weekends.
How important is teamwork and the synergy between crew members when you’re at sea?
These are fundamental elements within a crew: a badly executed or out of synch maneuver can compromise not only the result, but also the safety of the crew and the boat itself.
For this reason training sessions take place under different weather conditions (strong wind, provided it is not prohibitive, rain, sizable waves) to test the ability to be synchronized even under extremely difficult external conditions.
What’s more, to safely carry out maneuvers or to perform rapid maneuvers we use a language which is a long way from our everyday speech, using few words that refer to long and complex actions to be communicated to those who have to carry them out.
When’s the next challenge, the next trip?
In recent years I’ve tried to learn as much as possible from the sea, often taking part in both local and international races.
This has meant constant training, almost every weekend, under all types of weather conditions.
Up to now my role has been as bowman: at the bow you have maximum visibility over the race course, you have to constantly deal with the maximum perceived pitch of the boat, including ranges of 2-3 meters if there are large waves; you experience all the worst conditions at the bow: a lot of water, bucketfuls that can soak you at any moment when the bow cuts through the water and wind frothing up the water, with tilts up to as much as 30-40°, and wet surfaces making balance precarious.
Under these conditions the bowman needs to know how to manage the bow sails (jib, genoa, spinnaker) making any necessary changes, paying careful attention not to tangle the various sheets, guys and cables so as to avoid possible mistakes that could compromise the technical performance.
The next step I’d like to take is to buy a small boat, moving away from the role of bowman to that of owner (and at the same time skipper): a role that you’re not assigned but you achieve if you build yourself a team and have significant sailing expertise allowing you to manage the vessel as safely as possible.
This step could be the first towards participation in winter championships.
Can you tell us about the moment your boat passed through the buoys in Kassiopi in Greece, sealing your first win?
It is a memory which is very clear in my mind, like it happened yesterday. I think it’s worth making the point that it was a race with extremely uncertain weather conditions and an offset mark in Otranto which changed the strategy from those adopted in previous editions of the regatta.
The race started at 1pm, and on the stroke of the hour more than 120 boats crossed the start line, on a course of 140°, with uncertain weather; some tactically took advantage of the thermals by sailing along the coast, others chose to sail further out, looking for that breath of wind that could give them a few tenths of a knot more. The offset mark at Otranto happened a few hours after any of our forecasts, and precisely at 3:02 am we reported the rounding of the mark to the race committee; from there we changed course, pointing 105° on the compass, changing the sails, engaging a jib (the heaviest sail replacing the lightest one) given the change in weather conditions and the more bracing wind.
Finally we got up speed and got ready to cross the Otranto channel, well-known for its currents and very intense waves. At 6am we saw the first Greek islands in front of us, Fano, Merlera and… Corfù.
There was wind, and not too many miles to cover. But starting from 9am the changes in wind intensity were fast and frequent, and so covering the last 10 miles became an odyssey; short sections travelling at 6-7 knots and very long sections where the speedometer showed 0 knots!
Then a wall; on the outskirts of Corfu, close to Kassiopi, the wind completely dropped, and so we travelled the last section of just a few hundred meters at the ridiculous speed of 0.1 knots.
We found ourselves in front of the two yellow buoys with the race committee, and behind us dozens and dozens of boats that, like us, had hanging sails, without a breath of wind; it was a very long moment in time, nerve-wracking and tense until at 6:02pm (after over 28 hours of broken sailing) we crossed the finish line, very tired but satisfied!
To finish, what it the most difficult part of managing a team and resources (such as energy and concentration) during a race?
Races are generally very long (in terms of distance and therefore also time).
Managing concentration and energy levels is not trivial; at the start you tackle it with great enthusiasm, but after a few hours the first signs of fatigue start to show. These are the moments to avoid and not to underestimate, because the dangers out on the open water are unpredictable and can be sudden, even more so at dusk and when nighttime approaches. Also after many hours of sailing you feel tired, it gets cold, damp and you get sleepy.
Normally nighttime sailing is managed by dividing into 2 or 3 groups, which take turns to sail as a team, while the others rest below deck; you need to use your energy sparingly to sail for many hours and deal with possible weather changes and frequent sail changes, including at night when visibility is poor (or non-existent). You need to be fully alert so that you don’t make mistakes that could have consequences for the safety and performance of the team.
Maurizio’s story, and particularly the last part, really touched us and above all served to remind us how dedication, focus and safety lead to very satisfying results both in sports and in other areas of life.Author: Daniela Dell'anna