"The Secret of "Pelle Nera"-- How is it that a crew after twenty years still continues to do races together? How many times have you been asked this question or we read it in the eye and in the amazement of many friends met in recent years in regattas? Apart from the passion for the sea and sailing, an indispensable condition for practicing this "uncomfortable" sport, what has held together five people in the same boat?
There is a secret, the secret of Pelle Nera. To find out, we have to go back twenty years, when it all began.
I (Gianni Riccobono, the helmsman), sailing since childhood, began to race on dinghies and then moved on to offshore, elite racers, like many others, experiencing the joys and sorrows of this world. Year after year it formed a "rough" crew and we established a relationship of trust with the owner, living in the beautiful seasons together.
But one fateful day was consumed by tragedy: the owner sold the boat and we stood on the hard ground wondering what to do next! No more races at Pasquavela and farewell dinners with Cala Galera in Maremma, no more Sardinia, no more Capri, no more nothing! All of us wanted the crew to immediately find an alternative. We wanted to be together again, and especially sailing.
Until then we had always looked at the J/24 with a certain contempt, for us it was just an ugly duckling, but then, after a few months of abstinence, we looked first into each other's eyeballs, then in our pockets and finally we bought a used J/24. It was therefore not just an intuition, but a necessity. A choice of a little "retro", but especially in buying a boat with five owners. The fact is that with three million lira per head we were back to the sea together as friends!
Alfredo Posillipo (tactician and great musician) played in the legendary group "Io Vorrei la Pelle Nera" (I would like black leather) that inspired the unanimous choice for the name of the boat, also because of a promise of sponsorship. Still we were not aware of it, but it was a miracle that happened for all of us. She was born "PELLE NERA" (Black Leather).
The beginning sailing events were hard for us. Our expectations, fueled also by a good dose of presumption, were dashed against the rocks by the early failures. To understand how it was to experience our boat, seemingly simple, took a long time.
We followed the suggestions of many different experts and read everything, believing every time we've identified the cause of the lack of pace or tuning or intelligent sailing. But the real frenzy for all of us was the tactics, where we have always gotten the best (or worst) of ourselves.
We spent endless evenings discussing specific schemes and theorems drawn on transparencies, we realized thousands of simulations of expensive software, we read all the "sacred books" of tactical sailing, especially bought in San Diego from North Sails. Surely, the collaborative effort of a whole team is ill-suited to the 'laws of the tactics' that actually requires a more dictatorial approach? Yes, in the end that's what we did, too. A few years later, in the wake of all the tremendous enthusiasm, we sold our first J/24 to also purchase a newer J/24.
Over the years the team lineup (John Riccobono, Sergio Strippoli, Alfredo Posillipo, Alberto Forti, Fabrizio Corsi) has changed; Fabrizio and Alfredo sold their shares to Paulo and Marina Cecamore Crocioschi. But the spirit of the group remained unchanged.
Now do we win races? No, we simply scaled down our expectations. The goal is to have fun and our beloved boat from there hopefully still has a chance.
And anyway, whether you're good or not, you J/24 sailors must always look ahead or behind you and you will discover that PELLE NERA is near you (and most likely having more fun!).