Alessandro Tosetti, an Italian skipper entered in the Global Solo Challenge, combines in his venture the desire to test himself and his boat in a novel challenge with his commitment to social and educational projects conveyed through sport. The sailor, originally from Turin, tells that his passion for the sea and solo navigation has its roots in his childhood.
“I was ten years old when I started going alone to Albissola beach, at the Lega Navale. “Can I help?”, was my usual question, always followed by quite a bit of work launching, hauling, preparing the dinghies of the sailing club, and washing. “Do you want to come aboard?”, was the invitation I hoped for, my only desired reward.
And so I began to sail, and, still a teenager, to transfer many boats, in the Mediterranean and the ocean. The choice of solo sailing at the beginning was for economic reasons – in the ’80s Americans paid well for deliveries and I did them alone to keep the entire fee. Then, as the years went by and when I managed to own my first boat, it was a practical choice, almost a necessity. Moreover, I like to challenge myself and solo sailing gives me this opportunity. In 2019 I set the reference time, 78 hours, for a solo course around Corsica, starting and finishing in Imperia. Last year, in January 2022, I left for the GSC qualifier from Imperia to Cascais, taking ten days. Today, with the start of the Global Solo Challenge, I can test the fruits of years of work.”
Alessandro introduces himself as “a sailor like many”, maintaining a humble attitude, and says that the trait of his character that will be crucial in his adventure is certainly patience. He chose to face this great challenge with Aspra, the twenty-meter boat he personally built, collaborating with the workers of the bankrupt Alpa shipyard, who came together in a cooperative at the C.N. 2000 shipyard of Antonio Canesi, building on a design by Studio Vallicelli.
Studio Vallicelli, founded in 1976 by the architect and yacht designer Andrea Vallicelli, together with Mariani, Sironi, and Ferri, in Rome, represents excellence in the panorama of Italian boating. It has stood out internationally for the elegance of its creations and the innovative technological solutions of its projects. Among the over one hundred models for recreation, cruise-schools, and sports competition, built both in Europe and the United States, the design of the three boats named “Azzurra” for the Italian America’s Cup Consortium stands out. Built between 1982 and 1986. In recent years, they have signed the design of the Comet range boats from the Comar shipyard, which in 2007 won the Yacht of the Year award.
“I built and launched Aspra in 2002 with the help of my wife and brother, and with the enthusiasm of my daughters, who have been on board since their first months of life. Today, Raffaella is supporting me in this adventure. One of my goals at the GSC is also to show that a cruising boat, if well-built, can face a challenge of this magnitude.”
Aspra falls into the category of ULDBs, an English acronym that stands for “Ultra Light Displacement Boat”. The development of this type of boat began in the ’70s thanks to Bill Lee and Ron Moore, aiming to create fast boats, capable of making the most of the prevailing winds typical of the Californian coast. The first ULDBs appeared in Italy in the early ’80s, achieving various successes in offshore regattas in the Mediterranean. Regarding performance, this type of boat is very fast on broad reaches but expresses its maximum potential on beam and downwind courses.
“Aspra’s hull is made of a vacuum-bonded kevlar sandwich. It’s rigged as a fractional sloop, with mast, spreaders, boom, and spinnaker pole in carbon fiber. The rigging is in rod and the backstay in kevlar. These materials guarantee rigidity and lightness in construction, as well as simplicity in handling. The deck layout is very simple with an almost flat deck and a single large cockpit for maneuvers and steering,” Alessandro recounts.
“The keel of Aspra has a significant draft of 3.40 meters and consists of a lead bulb and a blade made of weldox, a hardened steel. The rudder is made of a kevlar sandwich.
“For sails, I can rely on a mainsail with a slight roach, a jib, a staysail, and a gennaker. Aspra is a safe boat, but it is slightly oversized for solo sailing, not having electric winches for maneuvers. During my circumnavigation, I will need to be very careful to always anticipate events.”
Alessandro not only counts on the reliability and performance of his boat but also on a bond built over more than twenty years of sailing together. “I chose the name Aspra which in Greek means “white, pristine” like the waters I wish it would sail. It holds great sentimental value for me; it’s my first and only boat and I consider it my creation, like all the projects I have professionally undertaken.”
In preparation for the GSC, Tosetti didn’t do a full refit but instead made a few targeted modifications to his vessel: “I subjected Aspra to thorough maintenance, necessary after over twenty years of use. To comply with the GSC regulations, I added watertight bulkheads and replaced the rudder. The new rudder was designed by Alessandro Nazareth of Studio Vallicelli and built by Carlo Galetti. Regarding solo nighttime navigation, I’ve added luminescent installations on board, which don’t require electric power, allowing me a good perception of space in the dark and enhancing my sense of security.”
Concerning energy management on board, the Italian skipper relies on a mix of renewable energies and a small emergency generator.
For Alessandro, sailing is not just a sport and a challenge, but also a means through which to develop and promote his broad cultural interests: “I use the visibility that my boat offers to promote projects focusing on social and environmental sustainability, and youth training. In recent years, I’ve devoted myself to projects embracing three main themes: cultural and musical for the integration of diverse cultures, environmental and ecological, and educational for young people.
Two years ago, I took part in the ARTatSEA social integration and enhancement project, which involved Italian singer-songwriter Alberto Visconti and the immigrant artists of CoroMoro in creating a song and an original video, presented at sea as a symbol of connection between distant cultures, ‘Welcome Refugees’, with which we won a singing festival (note: here’s the link to the video clip: https://youtu.be/FBY-bE-k8J8). This project gave birth to a documentary: ‘The Voice of Those Who Have None’, selected for the 22nd Glocal Film Festival in Turin and received a Special Mention at the Potenza Film Festival, directed by anthropologist Andrea Fantino.
Last year, at the start of my GSC qualifier, I devised a way to raise awareness about environmental sustainability and over the space of 62-mile at sea I virtually wrote on the sea, through the Aspra route tracker, the name of the ‘SailGreen’ project, of which I was an ambassador for the city of Imperia. I wanted to convey this message especially to those who don’t sail.
Moreover, for years, I’ve organized summer Sailing Camps for kids under the age of 15. I offer weeks of coastal and offshore sailing with the goal of creating awareness in young people about eco-sustainability issues, while at the same time teaching them about sailing and life at sea. Far from their usual terrestrial habits, the youngsters are encouraged to reflect on various issues, from navigating with clean energies, waste disposal on board, to retrieving plastic from the sea. Experiencing days of ‘digital detox’ without their phones and sharing moments at sea helps direct their, and our, choices towards more sustainable behaviors. The educational activity with the kids brings me great joy due to their enthusiasm and also serves as a constant stimulus to operate safely and keep updated on sailing’s evolution.”