Enter the Pros
While the “offshore” classes here in the United States make ovals off the beach, in Europe they still chase endurance records, such as the 1,313-mile race between Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Venice, Italy. One of their big names in racing is Italian designer Fabio Buzzi, who held the record for that passage in a boat powered by twin 1,300 hp diesels. Then, in 2011, another boat of his design, and about the same size, beat the record using only twin 650 hp diesels — this time with newer technology, consuming almost half the fuel. Which is why Buzzi believes in diesels, and why a short sprint to Bermuda seemed like a good idea. Note that these European races are almost entirely coastwise, whereas the run from New York to Bermuda is all open sea.
Buzzi decided to try it using one of his company’s 39-foot-9-inch military boats. The single-step hull is all-composite with injected structural foam. It’s tough and rigid and can’t sink. It’s no lightweight — and has a galley, head and air conditioning — so it needs the push of twin 650 hp Fiat 9.0-liter diesels through ZF Trimax surface drives with ZF two-speed gears. Fully loaded and with a crew of five, maximum speed is 52 mph — an estimated 61 mph when light.
Just before Fertig took off in August 2012, Buzzi’s boat arrived at the same marina and sat under covers waiting for calm weather. On Sept. 25, with only a slight hope for decent conditions, Buzzi and his crew flew in from Italy. On Sept. 27 his three weather services (yes, three!) agreed on a brief window of moderately good weather. “All are giving a yellow light, not green,” Buzzi told me. It was going to be go at 4 p.m. or go home. So at 3:30 p.m. Buzzi started Col Moschin’s (named for the Italian special forces) engines and gathered everyone on board. “I might be back in a few hours,” he said to me. “We’ll have dinner.” The next I heard from him, he was looking for a place to have lunch in Bermuda.
I timed him out in New York at 3:56 p.m., and he crossed the line 17 hours and 6 minutes later, shattering Fertig’s record by four hours, 29 minutes. He averaged a blistering 46 mph. As predicted, the weather wasn’t ideal. On the dock, after it was all over, he summed it up: “We were expecting waves from one to four feet but began to suspect the forecast was in meters!” He added, “I think you have found the most expensive and complicated way to reach this beautiful island.”
Hey, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be a Challenge.