Fabio Buzzi Dies In Boat Crash

Remembering the powerboat builder, propulsion expert, entrepreneur, racer and record holder who died striving for another record at age 76.

Fabio Buzzi at the helm
Fabio Buzzi, in a reflective moment, at the helm of one of his boats.David Seidman

Fabio Buzzi, and two crewmembers died Tuesday night, September 17, after their boat hit a breakwater. Crewmember Luca Nicolini and a Dutchmen who is yet to be identified, also died. A fourth, Mario Invernizzi, was thrown from the craft, survived, and is being treated a local hospital, according to the BBC

The four were attempting to break the Monaco to Venice record and had been running for more than 18 hours when their boat hit the manmade dam known as, Mose, off Venice, Italy. Buzzi, 76 when he died, had formerly held this record, along with dozens of other endurance and boat speed records, including the Diesel Power Boat World Record 277 kph (172.439 mph) he set just last year and the Bermuda Challenge, (which was conceived and is administered by Boating) record he set in 2012.

Fabio Buzzi running fast in Bermuda
Buzzi charging into Bermuda enroute to a new Bermuda Challenge record, fall 2012.Courtesy Bernews
Fabio Buzzi and his crew celebrating a Bermuda Challenge record
Buzzi’s and crew after setting a record for the Bermuda Challenge, going non-stop from New York to Bermuda in six-to eight-foot seas for 780 miles in just 17 hours and 6 minutes.Courtesy Bernews

I knew Buzzi, a little, from work and events and, of course, by his immense presence on the powerboating ecosystem. It’s hard to define the role Buzzi played; he can’t be called one thing. The man designed and built innovative boats using new and better processes, new and better materials and new and better propulsion systems. He combined these elements in unique ways, found the means to finance them as CEO of FB Design, and, in his 70’s, was still donning a helmet and running boats where the primary throttle position is buried in the corner.

Fabio Buzzi and Kevin Falvey
Buzzi and Boating EIC, Kevin Falvey, during a private moment at the Bermuda Challenge Awards Ceremony, Miami Boat Show 2013.Boating Magazine

Fabio Buzzi’s biggest achievement, what I’ll remember him for, was that he saw the possibilities and acted to make them reality.

I reached Bermuda Challenge founder and former Boating editor, David Seidman, by phone during a holiday abroad, to give him the news of Buzzi's death.

“I started the Bermuda Challenge to prove that the boats we have today, combined with good seamanship, can do amazing things.” Seidman began, continuing:” For years average guys in average boats stepped up. Then came Fabio, a pro, a master, who set the bar even higher. I thank you for that, and wish you calm seas and faster boats wherever you are.”

David Seidman along with Buzzi's crew in New York
David Seidman, (lower right; pad in hand) with Buzzi’s crew as they prepare to take off from New York Harbor for their Bermuda Challenge run in 2012.Boating Magazine

With that said, and to honor Buzzi, I reached out to those who shared a special relationship with the great man: those who chased the same records as he did, took the same risks, and who both took and lost records, alternately trading places over the years. Tyson Garvin and Chris Fertig are two such intrepid mariners, having had their first Bermuda Challenge record smashed by Buzzi, only to take the record back from him at a later date.

Chris Fertig, Tyson Garvin and Fabio Buzzi accepting Bermuda Challenge awards
Bermuda Challengers! In 2012 two teams set new Bermuda Challenge Records. In August, Tyson Garvin (far right) and Chris Fertig (second from right) made the 780 mile run—fighting a fire along the way- in 21 hours and 39 minutes. A few weeks later, Fabio Buzzi (third from right) and his team made it in 17 hours, 6 minutes. Garvin and Tyson went on to run again, in August 2013, and are the current Bermuda Challenge record holders, making it in 15 hours and 48 minutes aboard a Skater 399 V-Bottom powered by twin Cummins diesels and Arneson drives.Boating Magazine

Fertig and Garvin: "Fabio Buzzi was the single most talented boating professional I have ever met. He had an unparalleled ability to design and build every aspect of a high performance boat from innovative boat hulls, to lightweight diesel engines, to efficient surface drive systems. It was hard not to feel like an underdog when competing with Fabio for Boating Magazine's Bermuda Challenge World Record. Tyson and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to compete with such a tenacious competitor and amazing engineering mind. God speed."

Check out what's next for Bermuda Challenge record holders Tyson Garvin and Chris Fertig at offshoreendurance.com.

I also spoke to Reggie Fountain, a contemporary of Buzzi’s, and himself notable for his great innovations, boat and propulsion refinements and record-setting runs. Reached at his home, Fountain, founder of Fountain Powerboats, was audibly upset by Buzzi’s death.

Reggie Fountain headshot
Multiple world record holder, boatbuilder and founder of Fountain Powerboats, Reggie Fountain, was a “friendly competitor” with Fabio Buzzi throughout their lives.Courtesy Reggie Fountain

“I had the utmost respect for Fabio Buzzi. He was about a smart a guy as there was when it came to boats,” opined the multi-record holder. "He could build the boat, build the engine, build the drive…and then he’d get in the boat and run it. Who else could do that?"

And after a pause: “Nobody else could do all that.”

“We competed against each other we were friendly competitors—but we also collaborated on a record. When I went to Italy, I stayed in his home and he came here and stayed in my home."

“You know,” Fountain reminisced, "a lot of guys like him—there was nobody like him—but a lot of guys with talent aren’t always very nice guys. Fabio was just a great guy on top of everything else.”

Fair winds, Fabio.