Italian sailor Corrado Rossignoli had landed in New York from Milan just two hours ago. Now, he was pacing the dock at North Cove Marina in lower Manhattan, waiting to meet the new crew with whom he’d be attempting to break a transatlantic world record.
It was 9 p.m., and the goal was to leave within two hours for Ambrose Light, where the team would set out for Cape Lizard in southwestern England. A diver had just splashed, tasked with scrubbing away any bits of algae and residue that might have accumulated during Maserati’s nearly two-month stay in North Cove.
“If you lose by 20 minutes, I don’t want to be the reason,” the diver joked to Skipper Giovanni Soldini, the 45-year-old veteran Italian sailor at the helm of the 70-foot monohull Maserati, which was once the Volvo Ocean Race boat Ericsson 3, now modified to be significantly lighter.
Soldini had spent most of the past two days trying to get his new crew in town to take advantage of the window of opportunity he’d been waiting for. A low-pressure system was kicking up winds that could be just right for breaking the nine-year-old record for fastest transatlantic crossing in a monohull: 6 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes, 39 seconds, held by Robert Miller and the Mari Cha IV, a vessel twice the size of Maserati carrying three times the crew.
American crewmember Brad Van Liew flew in from Charleston that afternoon, as did Sebastien Audigane and Ronan Le Goff from France, and Javier de la Plaza from Spain. They met Soldini and boat captain Guido Broggi, who’ve been in New York since late March, passing the nights drinking espresso and grappa at the Battagli-Bastianich collaborative restaurant-market Eataly, their meal sponsor.
Soldini and Broggi had a full crew for the first attempt, but some, including German sailor Boris Herrmann, had to return to Europe for other regattas.
Now, Rossignoli and the British sailor Tom Gall made for a team of eight that huddled around the stern at 10 p.m. for a safety briefing. Soldini handed out personal locator beacons, strobes, headlamps and extra batteries – standard precautions, though the crew would be facing some big challenges. Satellites were already counting about 40 icebergs in their path – and those were just the ones large enough to detect.
“You only need a piece of ice the size of a soccer ball to end the game,” said Gall. It’s hard to maneuver around these obstacles when you’re traveling at 20 knots, their target average speed.
But there was little time to worry. Soldini sailed through sail descriptions, and Broggi ran through winch operations and watch schedules. Just past 11 p.m., after the extra gear had been sent off with a courier, Soldini and his crew cast off for Ambrose into a still Hudson River.
Just past the Verrazano Bridge, the winds picked up, rain set in, and the swell grew. Once at Ambrose, they waited until 3 a.m. – and then, they were off.