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.
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’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.”
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.
Read Next: Conquering the Bermuda Challenge
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.
“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.