Italian Ambassador resurrects ‘life-changing’ regatta, backed by Transnet and the V&A Waterfront

You can count on the Italians to bring the style.

In fashion as in football, in pasta as in pizza, our friends from the boot-shaped country to the north know a thing or two about finesse.

And it’s the same with sailing, in particular the resurgent Ambassador’s Trophy which is firmly back on the sailing calendar thanks largely to Italian largesse – and a helping hand from the Royal Cape Yacht Club, Transnet, and the V&A.

The fifth edition of the event, which was initiated by a previous Italian ambassador and first staged in 2012, took place on October 9. But the current Italian Ambassador went one better this year by introducing a new stakeholder to the event – a famous Italian non-profit organisation that wants to get involved in development sailing in South Africa. The Foundazione Tender Nave Italia (FTNI) will use money raised at the regatta to host five sailors from the RCYC’s Sailing Academy aboard their 61m schooner brig for a week of ‘adventure therapy’.  The vessel  was built in Poland in 1993 and is crewed by the Italian Navy. It is used for outreach and educational work in Italy.

Local sailing stakeholders are hoping that the partnership between the RCYC, FTNI and the Italian embassy will now become a permanent annual fixture, to the benefit of local youngsters who get the adventure of a lifetime.

Despite the Race-day 35-knot south-easter, the Regatta raised an impressive R150 000 thanks largely to enthusiastic sponsors. The event was also preceded by a generous reception at the Ambassador’s Bishopscourt residence where locals – SABBEX included – were treated to gourmet delights amidst an outpouring of support for the new-look Trophy.

None of it would have been possible without input from a stalwart of the local boatbuilding industry – Alberto del Cinque, who recently departed Southern Wind for a new opportunity in the mining sector. Alberto was pivotal in connecting FTNI — which is linked to his native Yacht Club Italiano — to the South African embassy and to RCYC.

“I am a member of the Yacht Club Italiano since my childhood and when I moved to Cape Town in 2001, I also joined the RCYC,” Alberto told SABBEX.  Earlier this year del Cinque met with the former president of the Yacht Club Italiano, who also happens to be the creator and executive director of FTNI.  “I was discussing with him the activities of the RCYC Sailing Academy and we found that there were many points in commonality between the two organisations. We thought that it would have been beautiful to join forces on a common project: allow  a number of children of the RCYC Sailing Academy (established in 2012) to participate in a training cruise in the North Tyrrhenian Sea on Board of Nave Italia in June 2023.”

“This is how the idea of the twinning between the RCYC Sailing Academy and Fondazione started. I thought that the perfect set up to seal this initiative would be the Italian Ambassador Trophy, so I proposed my project to Paolo Cuculi, the Ambassador of Italy in South Africa, who agreed with my enthusiasm.

“The Italian Embassy then made contact with a number of Italian companies who operate in South Africa and requested their support to allow the pupils of the RCYC Sailing Academy to take part in an adventure therapy on board Nave Italia. At the end we managed to raise R150,000. Also Transnet and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront joined the initiative,” del Cinque said.

FTNI was founded by the Yacht Club Italiano of Genoa (the oldest Yacht Club of the Mediterranean)  and the Italian Navy. To date FTMO  has successfully concluded more than 300 projects involving a total 6,000 participants.

This year’s Ambassador’s Trophy coincides with more good news for development sailing. A grade 12 pupil from Lawhill Maritime School, Nqobile Khuzwayo, is set to join an all-female crew aboard the yacht MAIDEN, which is circumventing the globe to raise money for girls’ education. Khuzwayo will board the vessel during its December stopover in Cape Town. Her studies were funded by Phil and Anne Wade via the SATS General Botha Old Boys Bursary Fund.

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