“Festina lente”, from Ravenna to the Caribbean by catamaran (in wood)

“Festina lente” is a wooden catamaran almost 12 meters long designed by the English Master of multihull design James Wharram. The boat, rigged by Fabio Malcovati from Milan, president of ASDEC (Associazione Scafi d’Epoca e Classici), is preparing for a journey of over 4,000 miles from Ravenna to the Caribbean islands

Festina lente is not only a motto (to act, accompanying the rapidity of action with the slowness of adequate reflection) or an ancient Latin maxim already present on Roman coins, but also the name of a boat, strictly made of wood, which summarizes a choice and a philosophy of life and navigation. In this case we are talking about a catamaran 11.80 meters long by 6 meters wide, built by Andrea Rossetti at LWB of Bonirola di Gaggiano, a few kilometers from Milan, on order of Fabio Malcovati, a lawyer with a passion for traditional boats, as well as president of ASDEC, the Association of Classic and Vintage Hulls founded in the Lombard capital in 1987. More specifically, it is a Wharram Tiki 38 model, one of the many projects realized by James Wharram, English from Manchester born in 1928, a pioneer of naval engineering who became an icon of reference all over the world for lovers of wooden multihulls suitable for self-building, fast and unsinkable. Suffice it to say that his boats, ranging in length from 6 to over 18 meters, have been called the “Jeep of the sea” and are used by globetrotters all over the world. The creator of Festina lente is Andrea Rossetti from Milan, a former collaborator of Raul Gardini at the time of the Moro di Venezia’s adventure in the America’s Cup. In 2000, he and Malcovati were fascinated by a Tiki 38 when they saw it, in Greece, “land” on a beach and unload the entire crew directly onto it, shortly afterwards sitting at a restaurant table a few meters from the boat: incredible, a large and livable catamaran, but manageable with the ease of a dinghy! Then the idea of building one was born.

In this period Festina lente is planning what in 2020 the pandemic prevented, that is, to cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach the islands of the Caribbean. The departure date of this journey, more than 4,000 miles, is still uncertain, but this has little importance compared to the firm intention to make the project concrete. From 2019 at the command of Festina lente there is the Roman Flavio Cingolani, class 1994, sailing instructor with professional title Yachtmaster and experience as a boat maintainer and navigation on board the schooner of 30 meters Pandora, wooden reconstruction of an ancient nineteenth-century postal. In 2019, Cingolani circumnavigated Italy aboard the Festina Lente, transferring it from La Spezia to Marina di Ravenna.

The construction of Festina lente began in 2008. As for many of his other projects, James Wharram was inspired by Polynesian catamarans: the two lateral hulls, made of marine plywood and both with solid oak keels, are held together by four sturdy solid larch crossbars with cordage bindings that guarantee elasticity to the structure. Each hull is divided into 4 watertight compartments. In the starboard one there is a small engine room at the stern, a bathroom, a chart room, a double berth and a single cabin. In the one on the left, in addition to the second stern thruster, there are the kitchen with convertible dinette and a forward cabin. In 2013, hulls and transoms made by Rossetti were transferred to Walter Lavagnini’s nautical-mechanical workshop in Le Grazie di Porto Venere, where the various components were assembled, the dual motorization was installed, as well as the systems and finally the launch, which took place in 2016 at the Cantiere Valdettaro in Le Grazie. After a couple of years of trial-testing in the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Corsica, Elba and the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, in 2019 Festina lente left for Ravenna, the Adriatic city where the catamaran is based and from which it departs every year for a series of cruises to the nearby Dalmatian islands.

Festina Lente does not have a central cabin: for this reason, the crew has very ample outdoor living space, so much so that each guest (a maximum of six) can have their own space, waking up in the roadstead in the morning for a collective yoga session, before a nice swim and breakfast, or, in the late afternoon, to stretch out in a hammock and enjoy the quiet of a sunset, sipping a prosecco.

The masts of the Festina lente, both set against the bow, have two fully battened mainsails, the mainsail at the stern and the foresail at the bow, with a schooner rig and North Sails sails (made under the supervision of Guido Cavalazzi, historic sailmaker of the Italian challenges in the America’s Cup) that include foresail, genoa with furling jib and gennaker. The sail area is about 70 square metres. To date, the maximum speed reached by Festina lente at the crosswind and with little wave has been over 11 knots.

Who is Fabio Malcovati, the owner of Festina lente? Born in Milan in 1946, he established a deep relationship with the sea by spending, from a very young age, the four months of his summer vacations on the island of Ischia, in his family’s vacation home, surrounded by the sea on three sides. Every summer he makes “life as a street urchin”, then he begins to sail on a classic Dinghy 12 ‘, with which he goes up to the Amalfi coast. As a student he attends the Liceo Parini in Milan, he graduates in Law at the State University and in 1971 he obtains the nautical license at the Italian Naval League. He sails on the Mousquetaire of the lawyer Mazzola, his mentor in the legal training, and explores the coasts of Sardinia aboard an Arpège. In 1974 he buys, to keep him in Ischia, Monna Pazza, a small wooden outboard 4.90 meters long, made in 1962 by Santi Palma of Lake Maggiore, a company specializing in wooden mills whose owner delighted in the construction of motor boats with hull Hunt. It purchases then a Dufour 1800 with which it navigates for all the Tirreno. In the nineties on board of Reginella, motoryacht in planking crossed of 1946 launched by the English yard Vosper of Portsmouth, circumnavigates Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily and navigates up to Greece. The end of this 16.80 metre long boat was dramatic: after 10 years of ownership, it sank to a depth of 120 metres during a storm between Livorno and the island of Elba. After overcoming the shock, Malcovati fell in love with a small sailing cabin cruiser, a Muscadet, in La Rochelle: he bought it, renamed it n’ombrina de vin and, being able to transfer it on a trolley, took it to Greece, where he sailed, often alone, among the Ionian islands, and then participated in important events such as the Barcolana in Trieste and the Vele Storiche Viareggio meeting. Currently Malcovati is restoring Monna Pazza, which has remained unused for years, in Beverino (SP), at the headquarters of Vela Tradizionale: the restoration is entrusted to the care of the shipwright Cesare Cortale, assisted by Flavio Cingolani. Since 2016 Malcovati has taken over as president of ASDEC and today, with his love for wooden boats, he can be considered an authentic champion of maritime traditions.


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