FROM THE SLAM.COM SITE

Diabolo SLAM eighth in the Mini Transat 6.50 A great finish for Diabolo SLAM in the Mini Transat 6.50, the legendary solo race between France and Brazil, disputed every two years over two legs (La Rochelle-Lanzarote, Lanzarote-Salvador de Bahia). Enrico Podestà, one of the only two Italians in the race, finished in eighth place out of about seventy competitors, a really worthwhile result that proves the competitive talents of the SLAM-endorsing skipper.

As soon as he arrived in Salvador de Bahia, after 4,000 miles and thirty days of sailing, Enrico sent us this email which we found beautiful: we have included it here in its entirety because we're sure it's much more eloquent than the "usual", often detached, press release. It expresses all the satisfaction of someone who has achieved a goal for which he has been preparing for years, an important step in the career of a yachtsman who's certainly going to get himself talked about. Congratulations from SLAM for his accomplishment and for his fascinating story, here for you to read.

 Salvador De Bahia - 10/22/2003
LEG 2 Account....

Dear friends,
here we've fallen into a Brazilian rhythm and things are going along very slowly: I certainly won't be able to load the boat onto the container soon and return to Italy.

The first days were just one long celebration as one arrival followed another, with the obligatory caipirinha, fireworks and batucada (Brazilian drums).
I want to jot down my impressionsof the second leg. First of all, it's long. It may be a clich but when you spend ten days on the one boat without even tacking, you realize how much sailing on your own changes the dimension of time.


There were three significant moments.

The first was during the two days after the start, when we were on a beam reach peaking at 30 knots. In these conditions the Mini can put in an excellent performance but all the same, it's complicated and stressful to sail. You need to be able to manage your own energies and know when to "pull".
At the end of the 1st leg I was feeling a bit sour for not having managed to keep up with the race leaders during the first days so I promised myself again that I would stick to those in front.
This attitude actually affected
the first part of the race because I soon began to have problems which ended up in the torn spi rolled around the stay and this obliged me to haul down the spanker at night and to literally cut the spi in two with a knife, clinging to the bow stay two metres from the deck.
The mast risked giving way with the yanking of the spi. After all that effort I found myself throwing up on the deck with the sheer effort and I decided that it was definitely time for a change of pace. I finished the night with the genoa goosewinged at the end of the boom and the spi flapping about in shreds. At least this way you can sleep and stay on route with the automatic pilot.
The same problem of the spi rolling up caused me to climb the mast five times during this Transat, a record.
Then conditions stabilized and we sailed to Cape Verde with fast North East tradewinds, warm water, sun.
It was wonderful waiting to enter the pot-au-noir.


The second important moment of the race was crossing the intertropical
convergence zone.
At 8° 20' N I got my first storm. When I saw it coming I cautiously put out a reef and jib topsail.
Sprays of water and litre drops but not much wind. And that's how all the following storms were, 4-5 a day, usually at night. A generally light wind coming from the south but varying greatly in direction and intensity. Conditions that make you delirious because the more you stay awake the better you go so you really don't sleep very much and you're always wet and you begin to lose your mind because you feel it will never end and you imagine that the rest have certainly got through better.
But actually at this point I instead began my recovery. I tried all the time to keep on a southerly route and in the end I crossed between the 27th meridian W and 27 30, moving towards W by only 30 miles. I had only one book that I read in one go in an evening with the front lamp before reaching Cape Verde ('Oceano Mare' by Baricco) and at this point in the race I realized what a mistake it had been not to bring others or at least a longer one.
In fact after that there were five days that were all absolutely identical to each other: 'groundhog days', close reaching with automatic pilot or strings to keep the tiller. All weights windward, the deck continually swept by waves... I stayed inside practically non-stop, more or less in the same position, (on the windward-side step where I sleep) with a deafening racket and the continual banging of the waves. It was hard to keep calm and concentrated.
It helped me to think that time was on my side... and I read all the sailing directions of Latin America!!


The third important moment was the passing of a cold front (the one when Johnathan McKee and Samuel Manuard dismasted) unexpected by all competitors because the Monaco Radio weather service had gone haywire when the organization moved to Salvador.
At that time the choice of a GPS way point 90 miles off the Brazilian coast, much further east than the rest of the fleet, proved to be a winning tactic.
When the SSE hit, I was always calm enough to have a lot of water on the lee and apart from about ten miles, I always managed to stay on the direct route. I was often able to slacken the sails a little, taking advantage of Diabolo SLAM's qualities at speeds when you need power, while the others were suffering and sailing in the eye of the wind.
That clinched my come-back that took me to seventh place in the leg and eighth overall.
The joy of arriving on the Brazilian Coast (beaches with palms and mangroves for kilometres), the last boats under the spi, in sight of Salvador de Bahia are moments that will stay in my heart and memory.
Then the welcome from the President of the regatta committee who came up and told me where I'd come in, the satisfaction of having made it, music, physical contact with people after so much time, the caipirinha - it was also the cocktail hour - fireworks. These emotions alone made up for the effort of these two years of preparation.


On the whole I'm very satisfied with how it went.
I think I prepared the boat well since the problems it had in such a tough race were only small ones.
In two years, bringing together all my previous experience, I learnt to sail in a special way that I think you can only experience on Open hulls, both 60 footers and our little Minis.
And there's the satisfaction of having completed a tough project, meeting the times and goals that I'd set. Unfortunately in the Mini it's not always like that, as the French would say "Il y a n'a qui ont eu plus de galere".
I really want to thank everyone who supported me and helped me to set out on this adventure and also SLAM, Velamania, Yacht Club Italiano, Harken, the Classe Mini Italia - and my friends Carlo (coequipier and official supplier of cigars), Lucido (for all the hard slog we did in Duarnenez) Walter (for having saved my diet) Paltri (for the energy he never fails to transmit) and also Alessandro, Sverre, Luca, Nicola, Franz, Gianluca and everyone else that I'm bound to have missed.
And finally the "baby's dummy" that shared the whole of the Transat with me, dangling above the GPS screen, and most of all, the person who gave it to me.

Enrico