Giovanni Soldini out to break ancient Hong Kong-London tea route record

Shortly after sunset in China, under a cloudy sky and with light winds, the trimaran Maserati Multi 70 left Hong Kong in search of the famous record set by Gitana 13 in 2008.

An official from the World Sail Speed Record Council, the organization that validates oceanic records, started the stopwatch on 18th January at 10:43:23 UTC (18:43 in China) when Maserati Multi 70 crossed the starting line positioned between the Tai Long Pai and Nga Ying Pal lights, at the exit of the Tathoong canal, the eastern access to Hong Kong harbour.

The 13,000 mile Hong Kong-London route (approximately 24,000 kilometres) follows the shortest orthodromic route passing by the Cape of Good Hope, and begins with a run down the South China Sea. It follows the same route sailed by the clippers who were delivering tea from China to England in the second half of the nineteenth century.

In 2008, skipper Lionel Lemonchois aboard the Gitana 13, a 100-foot maxi (32.5 meters) maneuvered by a crew of 10 people, set the record time that is to be beaten by Soldini and his crew: 41 days, 21 hours and 26 minutes.

To beat the record Soldini and the crew of the 70 foot trimaran Maserati Multi 70 – Guido Broggi, Oliver Herrera Perez, Alex Pella and Sébastien Audigane – must complete the course and cross the finish line under the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge on the River Thames before 08:09:47 UTC on 1st March 2018.

“The weather situation has been very unstable in these last days”, explains Pierre Lasnier, the router who will follow the record on land. “According to the latest models, it's getting clearer. Departing today, Maserati Multi 70 is almost certain to find an average wind of NE between 17 and 18 knots of speed for the next three days, enough to get down to 5°N, under the southern point of Vietnam. But, they will not be able to sail on the direct route; they will have to make several gybes downwind to go towards South.”

“Finally we are off,” says Giovanni Soldini, skipper of Maserati Multi 70. “It was a tough decision to make because the weather situation is not ideal, but we do not see any other useful windows in the coming days.

“From the technical point of view, at the moment at the Equator, there is a bubble with no wind that we will have to cross. We hope that the conditions change once we'll get there and be kind to us.

“During the first days we will do our best to stay in deep water, but there is more wind near the Vietnamese coasts, so we will try to find compromises between the need to go fast and the attention to pay at the myriad of networks and boats of local fishermen who do not even have navigation lights. The boat is ready, we are motivated and we will always try to give our best.”

The same enthusiasm and desire to navigate is echoed by the Spaniard, Alex Pella. Pella has previous experience with both the team and the trimaran, however this will be his first race on board Maserati Multi 70.

“We are all super happy and motivated, the stand-by periods are always complicated and stressful, especially in Hong Kong, far from home. Before the start we never know when we will leave, now we are here, it's up to us,” Pella said.

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