Renowned mariner Giovanni Soldini has a roguish sense of humour. When asked to describe the biggest lesson he’s gained in a lifetime of record-breaking sailing attempts, he’s quick to joke, “Water is wet,” the Italian laughs.
Giovanni is one of Europe’s most decorated sporting identities. A French Legion of Honour recipient, and an equivalent accolade from the Italian President - it’s fair to say the yachtsman’s transcended sport - soaking up column inches in Vogue, GQ, the New York Times and now smartMonday’s nest.
There’s something alluring and mysterious about a rugged man in his fifth decade of life who counts Maserati and luxury menswear brand Ermenegildo Zegna as sponsors and who has clocked up 24-thousand kilometres (equivalent to circumnavigating Australia twice) in just one of his record breaking runs in 2018.
Of that recent milestone from Hong Kong to London - dubbed the tea-route - the Italian says, “35 days at sea, I just love it, I am much better there than on the land.”
Giovanni reveals the most important element he’s learned in his all-conquering career is understanding your place in nature and to never think you’re bigger than anyone or thing, “That is for sure, you need to respect the ocean, you are to the limits of the human knowledge when sailing, nature knows a lot more and has many surprises to remind you of this.”
Respecting the ocean and understanding that you can’t prepare for every element of your life, nor every challenge while at sea, has helped the Italian negotiate trying circumstances. “I think to be scared is a great idea, it is the thing that makes you pick the right decision and allows you to go home alive. If you are not scared you are a dangerous man.”
The charismatic skipper insists there’s a difference between harnessing fear and being fearless, “It is not panic but you need to be scared because you need to deal with nature and do the right thing. To be scared is great,” says the man involved in a daring rescue of a fellow sailor in the Southern Ocean.
Despite a slew of record breaking feats and race wins all over the globe the man from Milan still understands that the pursuit of perfection - on and off the water - is fickle, “You can never sail the perfect race you will always make mistakes. We are not gods, but that isn’t the point. It’s about making less mistakes than the person next to you.”
Metaphors aside Giovanni believes there are certain tricks that help you prepare for the unknown that come with offshore sailing. Sometimes they are big picture - like planning a route and timing a run to negotiate weather patterns, but often it’s as simple as having a tiny reward to help break up a long journey. In the case of the Italian, it’s making sure the crew is well fed.
“I think it is very important, because that is the only way you have to take care of yourself is to have just five minutes of relaxation and something for you. To eat well is very good for you,” says record breaker.
Follow Giovanni’s latest exploits on the high seas online.
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