Francesco Farci (aka @CapitanFiu), a 27-year-old young Sardinian sailor, recently completed the incredible challenge of the Boulangere Mini Transat 2023, sailing solo the Atlantic Ocean from Les Sables d'Olonne (France) to Guadeloupe (Caribbean) aboard his 6.5-metre boat, 'Gintonic'.
The first such regatta dates back to 8 October 1977: 24 6.50-metre sailing boats set off from Penzance, England, inaugurating the Mini Transat, an ocean race dedicated to small boats. The competition, born as a response to the financial gigantism of transoceanic regattas and often characterised by difficulties and pitfalls, became a floating laboratory for low-cost technological solutions, making an important contribution to the development of ocean crossing boats.
The Transat 650, a solitary course from La Rochelle to San Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, becomes the highlight for skippers, while the Mini becomes the 'Offshore School' par excellence, offering the possibility of experimenting with technological innovations that are then transferred to large yachts.
The first leg, which ended on 6 October in La Palma (Canary Islands), saw Francesco face the first 1500 miles in adverse conditions, with no communication systems on board. It was a challenge that combined personal satisfaction with a constant collection of data that is fundamental for monitoring and protecting the ocean.
The second phase of the Mini Transat ended with Francesco's landing in Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean, on 14 November, after 16 days, 16 hours and 37 minutes of sailing direct from La Palma. A journey that the sailor described once he had recovered his energy and processed the intense emotions he had just experienced.
"It was an introspective, sometimes intense and stressful journey, like all those experiences that change your life a bit," says Francesco a few days after arriving. "My boat Gintonic, unlike many of the other boats taking part, is pointed, and with the Atlantic conditions - this time with a particularly unstable trade wind - it is very difficult to steer. In the cross ocean waves we had it would often plant itself in the sea, failing to develop speed, instead of gliding like the new generation boats.
I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn't imagine it would be this hard: the boat was so rough, I was almost afraid the mast would fall with every gybe. I had high expectations, which may not have been met, but I am also sure that I gave 100% as a racer and sailor to arrive safe and sound and with the boat intact."
Francesco's feat aboard Gintonic went beyond mere sporting competition, and embraced the broader mission of protecting and understanding our precious Ocean. As he crossed the Atlantic, he was not truly alone. His partner, marine ecologist Arianna Liconti, was aboard one of the support boats as part of the 'A Small Boat for Big Ocean Science' project. Together, Francesco and Arianna used innovative oceanographic instruments to monitor temperature, salinity, atmospheric pressure, sea state and more. A true synergy between sporting adventure and scientific contribution. Sailing solo for over 4000 miles, Francesco transformed his boat into a tool for scientific research.
The main goal of the project is to continue collecting valuable data, from unstable atmospheric pressures to rising sea temperatures and marine fauna sightings. This data will be shared with the international scientific community, with the aim of ushering in a movement of sailors who aim to combine the agonism of sporting competition with the understanding and preservation of the ocean in a complementary way.
Also supporting Francesco and his mission in this challenge are a number of technical sponsors, including: Sorgenia, Veneziani, EatFreedom, Ropeye, Sapore Maestrale and Urkell, along with communication sponsors HiNelson and Acqua degli Dei.
The message is clear: protecting our ocean is a collective responsibility.
Together, Arianna and Francesco are trying to usher in a significant chapter of connection and complementarity between sport and science, demonstrating that even a small boat can make a decisive contribution to the protection of our marine environment.
Follow their past and future journeys and their synergetic scientific efforts to safeguard their favourite natural habitat through their socials (@captain_fiu and @ari_liconti).
Urkell Journal Team