“I think what attracted me to sailing in those early days was the freedom and the autonomy. I truly was the captain of my own ship. And at eight years old, you’re not normally the captain of any ship!”
When I was eight years old, my father built me my first little wooden boat in our garage here in San Francisco. No one in my family sailed, but I’d been introduced to the sport through a schoolmate when I was seven, and my father could see how much I liked it. I think what attracted me to sailing in those early days was the freedom and the autonomy. I truly was the captain of my own ship. And at eight years old, you’re not normally the captain of any ship! Since then my passion for sailing has never left me.
I think it’s an amazing fact of science that man figured out how to navigate all the way around the world solely from wind forces. If I want to go from San Francisco Bay to Thailand, Yemen or Alexandria in Egypt, I can get there. But at times, Mother Nature can be quite vicious and you really have to be organized and ready in order to manage yourself in face of Mother Nature when she’s at her angriest.
I think 90 per cent of it you can prepare for, but, no matter how experienced you are, it’s always possible to encounter something that you’ve never seen before. That’s maybe the most fascinating, and at the same time, the most dangerous part of Mother Nature. Sometimes you’re in the most isolated and remote place on Earth and, if anything goes wrong, you’ve only got the nine other people on the boat to help you − you are trusting them with your life. Camaraderie at sea means really having your brother’s back and knowing that he has yours.
This watch was given to me by Raul Gardini, the owner of Moro di Venezia. When we won the Maxi World Championship in 1988, right here in the San Francisco Bay where I grew up, Rolex gave a watch to the owner of the winning boat. But Raul generously ordered 25 beautiful Submariners, each engraved with “1988 Maxi World Champion, Il Moro di Venezia”, and gifted one to every crew member. It was the ultimate recognition of a job well done and to me this watch stands for the most important period of time in my career: we went on to win the Challenger Series of the America’s Cup before going on to the America’s Cup finals, and ultimately to around the world racing. Through the entire adventure, this watch has been with me.
I’ve raced with this Submariner in Porto Cervo when we came in second at the Maxi Worlds, I’ve raced in Japan when we won the World Championship of the 50-foot class in 1991. I’ve raced in Cowes on the Isle of Wight in England, I’ve raced in Travemünde, Germany, and I’ve raced in Key West, in the United States. This watch has even been around the world with me in 1997.
This Rolex means so much to me not only because of the races that it’s witnessed but also because of the man who gave it to me. Raul Gardini was more than just the owner of the boat − he had a huge influence on my career, and perhaps an even bigger influence on my life. He was my mentor; a second father to me.
This particular watch was heavily admired by my daughter when she was 18 years-old, so I lent it to her for a few years. She wore it to her high school graduation, and seeing her walk across the stage with the Rolex on her wrist actually inspired me to give each of my children a Rolex on their 21st birthdays. My children are avid sailors themselves, something I’ve had the pleasure of teaching them; my son received a Yacht-Master, and I gave my daughter her own Submariner − just like this one.