a hundred more years
The Compagnia della Vela turns a century. From the rustic challenges between fishermen to the first board chaired by Count Piccolomini. From the sailing lessons of the young Gianni Agnelli to the two hundred budding sailors of today
Words Luca Basile - Photography Federico Neri
One hundred years later, the eternal roar of the sea still marks the daily life of the Compagnia della Vela in Forte dei Marmi. Actually, we know very little about the very beginning of this association that is iconic and in symbiosis with the community, which began in 1922. Carlo Giorgini, one of the founders of the association, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary wrote that “to be able to organize sailing regattas that could compete with those of La Spezia made it necessary to set up an association that was suitable for the purpose”.
One thing is certain: even before 1922 the sea of Versilia was pitted with small wooden fishing boats. And once the curtain fell on the working week those same boats, armed with elegant and well fixed sails, challenged each other in the open sea. “Next to the pier, where our headquarters are located today”, says the current president Lorenzo Barberi, “there was Giovanni Maremmani’s shipyard, known as “Giannetta”, “it was he who built the larger boats and small wooden fishing boats which, at the end of the day’s fishing, became the sailing boats preparing for the duel at the annual Saint Hermes’ regatta”. Then came the years of elegant dinghies and “of the challenges between Carlo Giorgini from Forte and the Tornabuoni of La Spezia: whoever lost had to hand over their boat to the winner”, remembers Barberi. Scrolling down the names of the members of the first board of directors, there are people who have made the history of Forte dei Marmi such as, just to name a few, the president Count Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the vice president Edoardo Agnelli, Prince Pio Corsini, his sister Donna Anna, Giangio Rucellai, Ilio Bertelli and the honorary president, the Duke of Ancona. Along with them, Galileo Vanni and many other young men from Forte. “There would be a thousand anecdotes to mention, like that of the young Gianni Agnelli who learned to love the sea on our beach and became godfather to the twins of his “sailing master” Aleramo Barberi”.
So the number of shipwrights grew - Livio and Athos Maggi, Virgilio Aliboni, Elia Zarri, Beppino Maremmani - called on to build sailboats for princes and industrialists who could afford the authorized “6 meters” and the “U Class” after the war. Later, with the pier rebuilt and the new headquarters inaugurated, began the era of Count Walter Pasquini, who would bring the Compagnia to its maximum splendor, with international regattas and many national “S Class” titles won by Gino Costa who still goes to the venue every day and gives valuable advice to young sailors.
Today’s Compagnia della Vela of Forte dei Marmi is that of an association that is always on the move, which can count on 150 members and a sailing school with over 200 students enrolled, taught by various instructors
Today’s Compagnia della Vela of Forte dei Marmi is that of an association that is always on the move, which can count on 150 members and a sailing school with over 200 students enrolled, taught by various instructors. Two competitive teams which are active all year round in the beating heart of the town and in regattas throughout Italy with their boats - 18 between Optimists and Lasers - all owned by the association. “You start sailing when you are 6 years old and in fact you never stop”, comments Barberi. “In this centennial year, we want to continue to be a meeting place for the community, thanks also to our headquarters which today are entirely back in our possession. In September, we will organize a big party, as we traditionally do, telling our story, talking about our people, and the century we have lived through. You will find updates and information on the website at www.cvfm.it.”
Undoubtedly, the Compagnia della Vela, even in the future, will always be the example of an association for all those people steeped in the briny ready to give life to a joyful eternal challenge, that between humankind and the sea.