Italian skipper Marco Nannini readies himself for this legendary race on his Class 40 UniCredit

Fifty days may sound like a long time but if, like Marco, you are preparing to compete in one of the world’s most famous solo ocean race La Route du Rhum – a 3500 mile race from France to Guadeloupe starting 31 October – then it is no time at all.

Marco’s hectic schedule of training, preparation and corporate events, whilst holding a full time job in the City, leaves no time to breath let alone for relaxation. The boat UniCredit is ready in Portsmouth after an extensive refit following the very successful first race; 2000 miles en double round Britain in June . Marco won three of the five legs of this epic race and finished second, just minutes behind the leader at Plymouth after 11 days of thrilling combat boat on boat.

Marco has engaged the services of top French trainer Tanguy Leglatin for three days of one to one training to fine tune his boat handling techniques and to coax those important tenths of a knot of boat speed. Marco recognises “French trainers are vital to race success, as a nation France is the acknowledged world leader in the sport of solo ocean racing, a few days practice with Tanguy will be more valuable than many weeks of trial and error by myself.”

Marco has just two weekends remaining in September with racing scheduled in the Solent and training before he jets off to Paris for the official presentation, where all 80 of his fellow skippers will be presented to the world’s media in the splendid surroundings of the Musée du Quai Branly. The gathering will be a who’s who of the solo yachting elite with skippers such as Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) and Marc Guillemot (Safran) heading the list. Marco is a little daunted by the prospect: “This race attracts the cream of the French racing super stars every four years and this 9th edition is no exception.”

From Paris it is just a quick hop to Lake Constance in Germany for the UniCredit annual sailing meeting where Marco will have a chance to thank his sponsors for their generous support and meet some of the 200 staff members. Marco explains: “modern solo ocean racing is only possible with the generous support of sponsors, UniCredit contributed to the campaign with a new suit of racing sails and they have kindly allowed me leave of absence from my desk in the City of London to pursue this dream. By carrying the UniCredit name across the ocean I hope to repay their faith in me.”

Without the slightest pause the next stop is the Genoa boat show in Italy where Marco will join the UniCredit Leasing stand and have a chance to meet his good friend and sail maker Roberto Westerman, whose excellent DI-TECH sails will be powering UniCredit across the Atlantic this autumn. Then follows a small detour to greet the family in Torino and straight back to work in London on Monday morning!

In October the pace is no less frenetic, the boat has to be in St Malo for class measuring and very thorough safety checks, even Marco’s cardio vascular condition will be assessed on a tread mill.

Over one million visitors are expected in the magnificent walled city of St Malo in the week of the race assembly and 350,000 enthusiasts will be perched on every vantage point to view the start on Sunday 31 October, irrespective of the winter weather. La Route du Rhum has captured the imagination of an international audience, it is renowned for dramatic starts and the first few days in the heavy weather of the Bay of Biscay and for the very high speed possible in these superb boats in the trade winds.

About the boat

UniCredit is an Akilaria 40 designed by Marc Lombard, boat captain Paul Peggs has first-hand knowledge of all the boat systems having been closely involved in the preparation and as co skipper in the Shetland Round Britain race this summer. “These boats are exceptionally strongly built and lightning quick, we have changed the standing rigging to new stainless steel rods and fitted a new NKE hydraulic auto pilot ram, the charging system and the batteries are all new, what can go wrong?”, explained Paul.

Success in Solo racing is all about reliable equipment, the ocean finds every little weakness in preparation. Imagine charging along in the dark of the night, surfing down huge waves with the icy spray flying everywhere and the boat vibrating like an out of tune violin. Random waves sweep across the deck and wash through the cockpit, It is so noisy you can hardly think. The gyroscopic stabilised auto pilot is steering like an Olympic champion, so you make a quick trim of the sails to go even faster and then you leave the deck and go below, cold wet and scared, to sleep for ten minutes!

Welcome to solo ocean racing.