Modern Magellan Francesco Cappelletti

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Photo by Modio Media.

With only himself for company and a sexton as his guide, he will compete to be the first of two dozen sailors to sail around the world without making landfall.

Francesco Cappelletti is the only Italian skipper among a group of hardcore, adventurous purists who’ve signed up to sail 30,000 solo miles around the globe in a race devoid of modern technology.

The 2018 Golden Globe Race will take place on the 50th anniversary of the first solo, nonstop circumnavigation done by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston during the Sunday Times Golden Globe Yacht Race in 1968.

The 2018 race starts July 1 at Les Sables-d’Olonne, France. The skippers will sail around the world via the five great capes without setting foot on land and return to Les Sables-d’Olonne. There will be four checkpoints with media rendezvous along the nine-month voyage.

“Once I accomplish something like this, there will be no doubt about my being a very strong seafarer,” he says. “That is my biggest desire in life.”

A total of 23 participants were listed in December. Cappelletti, 39, continues to raise money for his $150,000 budget, including the purchase of an Endurance 35 Ketch boat from 1975. Those who are interested in contributing can visit

Cappelletti has 20 years of experience as an amateur sailor and four years as a professional. He sailed the west coast of Italy on his own for about five months, going three to four days at a time without touching land, he says.

Photo by Modio Media.

He crossed the Atlantic twice, once in 2013 from the Dominican Republic to England and France, and the second time in 2014 from Trinidad and Tobago to Italy. Both times he sailed with crews, delivering sailing boats to clients who bought them abroad.

Sailing on your own is all about balance with nature and the elements, feeling both lord of your own environment and a tiny part of a vast world, he says.

“It’s quite a thrilling experience. It’s quite different from living on the land, in every environment you can live in. The best experience you have is to rely on your own. Rely on your own experience. You estimate all the situations, your own technical skills, your own self-control.”

During the Golden Globe Race, a satellite tracker will be mounted on the boats and skippers will be able to send and receive messages at set intervals, Cappelletti says.

He also will be able to communicate with his parents and girlfriend via an old-fashioned high-frequency radio his father is building in his home in Tuscany.

He’ll bring mostly dry food — he’s a vegetarian — and a big tank of water, and he’ll collect rainwater that he can purify and mineralize. He also will bring books and blank journals, but there will be long stretches of time when he’ll be too busy managing the boat and the weather conditions.

“You go back to an animal-like state, surviving, basically,” he says. “When things are right and you can take a breath and you have a few days in a row of easy time, then you start thinking a lot.”

He will sail by following the sun and the stars, and expects to get off track with overcast skies and back on course with clear skies. “Unless I am sick and unless I lost my sextant, I will be fine,” he says of the celestial navigation tool.

Despite his enthusiasm, Cappelletti says he abandoned his plans for a time in late 2016, when he was faced with having to pay 2,000 euro on deadline. He gave up his spot for about five months, but he became reenergized when he started making connections and finding sponsors, he says.

He also started marketing himself as the only Italian in the race, a factor he didn’t give much weight to at first, he says.

“We are a small country and we are 60 million, so why not try to find some help?” he says. “Anybody who wants to help an Italian to do the Golden Globe Race, they have only one choice — it’s me.”

The above appeared in the March issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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