Majoring on the minority
Marina Monfalcone and Marina di Scarlino are two very different marinas in different parts of Italy. But, in a world where sailboats represent just 9.5% of the global leisure fleet, they prove that sail-dominated marinas can be operated successfully and effectively. Donatella Zucca reportsA very high proportion of the world’s leisure sailing boats are to be found in northern Europe, with the UK, France, Netherlands and, most particularly the Nordic countries – Sweden, Norway and Finland – dominating (source: Trend 2022/2023 Nautica in Cifre – Confindustria Nautica).
In Italy, sailing boats account for 23% of the registered fleet and sports sailing is taken very seriously. Various Italian yacht clubs scattered all round the coast, sailors, investors and keen supporters all rally to the cry of events like the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup.
The operators of Marina Monfalcone (CEO Hans-Peter Steinacher) and Marina di Scarlino (CEO La Marina Srl, Claudio Gilemmi) are inspired by the thrill of competitive sailing.
Marina di Scarlino
Marina di Scarlino, a luxury marina owned by the sailor and entrepreneur Leonardo Ferragamo, who also owns the Nautor Swan shipyard, sits in Tuscan regatta country. Countless regattas are staged by Yacht Club di Toscana and other clubs throughout the year. Ferragamo took to sailing as a boy with his beloved Swan and in 1998, in addition to playing his part in the family fashion house, he took over the Nautor yard, relaunched and renewed it to ensure it continued on a path of excellence. Nautor Swan Global Service and Marina di Scarlino are now the perfect example of an integrated offering; a mix of high-level services for pleasure and sports boating.
ISO 14001 9001 certified, Marina di Scarlino has a multifunctional electronic badge and 400 parking spaces for electric cars. It offers 580 wet berths for vessels of 10 to 36m (33 to 118ft) at floating pontoons with fingers and a further 380 moorings up to 12m (39ft), in a canal basin. On land, exclusive resort apartments provide an unforgettable stay for owners, crews, passing nautical guests and sportsmen. The Isole di Toscana Yacht Club, chaired by Andrea Lunginotti Buitoni, organises competitive regattas and supports national and international sporting events, including several World Championships, the Melges 24 Championship and the RC44 World Championship. The Swan regattas, such as Swan One Design Circuit, Swan Rendez Vous, and much more, complete the picture. The SYS shipyard, Nautor Swan’s authorised centre for the Mediterranean, provides technical assistance for sailing events and enjoys busy refit activity for tourist, racing and even motor sailing boats. Its clients include Azimut Benetti.
“In general, I believe that sporting and cultural activities that focus on the relationship between man and nature should always be encouraged and rediscovered, unfortunately this balance is often lost sight of,” says Leonardo Ferragamo. “Sailing has this peculiarity, as well as being a discipline capable of forming and inspiring the best sporting values, favouring the creation of deep and lasting relationships between those who practice it.”
Claudio Cilemmi, CEO of La Marina Srl, develops this view by outlining that Marina di Scarlino was created specifically to welcome a large community of lovers of sailing, sea, nature and relaxation. Located in the heart of Maremma and the Tuscan Archipelago, a few miles from Elba Island, it enjoys a great density of parks, nature reserves and fauna. It is also one of the safest and most protected marinas in the Mediterranean and its value as an ‘integrated offering’ is being extended. “A further expansion of the housing offering with the Residenze Isole di Toscana complex is in the final stages,” Cilemmi confirms. “This will add 66 exclusive homes.”
Q: How important are sailing sports activities, such as the Club Swan regattas and those organised by the Yacht Club Isole di Toscana, and what do they mean for the marina?
A: [Claudio Cilemmi] They are one of the fundamental elements of the project as well as being an important driving force for the seasonal adjustment of the tourist life of the marina. The international calibre of the competitive circuits that we host ensures great visibility and constant growth in terms of value, with the presence of important shipowners and entrepreneurs who share a passion for sailing. In order to host important and structured events, we have to face demanding technical and logistical needs and undertake challenging coordination.
We have always managed to achieve excellent results thanks to the strong team spirit of the various sectors and the availability of our community, made up of yachtsmen, shopping mall operators and our shipyard Nautor Swan Global Service, which assures us the impeccable specialist technical support that is essential for the regatta operations and for assisting the boats. Thanks to the concierge at our resort, we provide a complete service for all tourist needs helping them to better enjoy what Maremma offers.
Q: What are the essential conditions and the most requested services?
A: Marina di Scarlino was created in a location suitable for sailors. The marine weather conditions are perfect and always make it possible to sail in a fantastic geographical context surrounded by nature. The mild microclimate, with winds blowing all year round and the presence of Elba Island with the Tuscan archipelago, are key elements.
The marina offers high quality services which guarantee great safety and comfort in all climatic conditions thanks to the finger piers and the logistics of the complex. The technical assistance for mooring, and the support provided to yachtsmen, guarantees excellent standards and, as mentioned before, the concierge service enables every tourist to better enjoy what Maremma has to offer, from nature and food and wine, to art, culture, sports and entertainment.
Q: How important are the non-sports boats?
A: Despite having had very important sailing calendars over the years, including more than ten high-level international regattas, and making international regattas one of the main assets of our port, visiting sailboats ensure that a large number of boats are always moored up at the marina, enjoying the extraordinary duration of the season in our area. Their importance prevails.
Q: Is it possible that so much sports sailing inhibits tourist sailing?
A: I believe the passion for sailing can be experienced on both levels at the same time. It is no coincidence that the most innovative vision to support this trend is best represented with the latest generation boat models. Nautor Swan perfectly combines the dream of being able to have a versatile boat to enjoy both for leisure moments and for high-level technical regattas, without sacrificing design and style. Over the years, Marina di Scarlino has alternated sailing classes of different genres and this has given it the versatility to offer everything from youth classes up to shipowner classes.
Q: Can you make an identikit of the average sailing tourist and sports sailor? What do they appreciate most and complain about the most?
A: Sailing tourists loves tranquillity and silence and sometimes tend to sail without a timeframe: they always know their departure time, but never their arrival time. The very meaning of sailing is the journey, exactly the opposite of the motor boater who plans the day with times and destinations. Our yachtsmen appreciate the climate and the location, as well as the restaurant, shopping and event services. We receive reports and useful suggestions from them which we value with the greatest attention. Further development of access points to the sea and the yacht club, with all its services, are among the objectives we are pursuing. This will complete in 2024, and the calendar of autumn and winter 2023 events is already active.
Q: Is it wrong to think that in Italy the most passionate sailing boaters are mostly in the north, as is the case in northern Europe?
A: In our marina, the ratio between sail and motor is the same, thus highlighting a counter-trend with respect to the national and world average. Certainly the ideal climatic conditions and the context favour an abundance of sailing vessels. Our yachtsmen mainly reside in central Italy and northern Europe.
Previously known as Marina Hannibal, Marina Monfalcone is located in the northern Adriatic where the spirit of sailing is at its most passionate. CEO Hans-Peter Steinacher, born and raised in the heart of the Austrian mountains, took to sailing with the same determination as when climbing peaks or tackling a black ski slope.
Together with Roman Hagara, Steinacher was part of the Red Bull Extreme Sailing crew, won two Olympic gold medals and important global regattas. In their final World Championship in Villasimius, Sardinia, they sailed Red Bull Sailing to victory in the GC32 World Championship.
Marina Monfalcone was inspired by sail from the outset. Established in the 1950s by the sailing champion Sergio Sorrentino, it was seen as a futuristic project. Now owned by the Austrian holding company DM GmbH, it is currently part of an important restyling and development of the entire area, thanks to the acquisition of extra space for pleasure boating, and the creation of an academy for the preparation of foiling world athletes. The 298-berth marina is the top marina in the Upper Adriatic and accommodates boats up to 40m (131ft) in length. Onshore facilities include equipment for all types of seasonal maintenance and refitting for sailing and motor boats up to 50m (164ft). Originally covering an area of 12ha (29.7 acres), today - including purchases and concessions – it has 26ha (64.2 acres) of space.
Q: What are your ongoing plans, in general, and for sport sailing?
A: [Hans-Peter Steinacher] We see great potential for the nautical sector here and we are diversifying our activity. For example, by constructing a beach and building a petrol station for the whole area. The central point of innovation and the direction we want to give to the investment, however, is influenced by our contract with Red Bull for the Red Bull Foiling Academy.
The Academy, due to complete by 2025, is a partnership with sailing federations and sailing clubs of all countries and will welcome athletes who want to prepare to excel at the Olympics in foil disciplines. This is our vocation and a substantial part of our future. We are doing something in the world of sailing. In two years’ time, Marina Monfalcone will become a reference centre, which will have a high-level sports industry and context around it. The geography, the winds and the position make this area a perfect place to develop this activity.
Q: Despite the sailing tradition present in many countries, motor boating prevails. What do you think has gone wrong in the world and in Italy?
A: What is “wrong” with sailing is not the competition with motor, but the lack of educational programmes. The best teachers do not take part in the world of pleasure boating, but only the competitive arena, so those who want to approach sailing too often find teachers who are not suitable for the task. The difficulty in learning and being at ease in this context means people often give up and do other things. It is up to our industry, our world, to reverse the trend. We at Marina Monfalcone are doing it, for children, with the Tito Nordio Sailing School, the first in Italy to offer courses for adults and children. The different market share between sailboats and motorboats is affected by the fact that sailing requires more skills and more time and therefore there is a slower learning curve. To increase the market share of sailors, we need to offer more training.
Q: What does hosting so much sailing entail? What are the indispensable conditions and the most requested services?
A: Marina Monfalcone hosts sailing and motor boats in a basin protected from prevailing winds. Being in the extreme north of the Adriatic, in a strategic position with respect to central Europe, we have the fundamental elements for pleasure sailing as well as quality of infrastructure and environment. On the competitive sailing front, we focus on every element necessary to host events: efficient docks suitable for racing hulls; facilities for land activities, such as convivial and technical spaces; services; and a shipyard whose service meet the needs of competitive events. The restaurant, the concession services on the beach, the bar and the bungalows for those taking part in the sailing courses are upgrades. We deliver a perfect sailing arena, and an excellent environment for regattas, a sector in which we continue to invest.
Q: What takes precedence for you – sport or leisure sailing? Is it possible that the first inhibits the other?
A: It’s a fact that professional sailors don’t like to train in isolated settings - they’re not in the military! Just as passionate sailors enjoy professional contexts as an added value to their experience. There is no reason for the two types of sailing to get in each other’s way. Our experience is the opposite: a context of tourist sailing is appreciated by regattas, and the services necessary for sport sailing make it possible to raise the level of quality to the advantage of everyone with sailing passion. Our spaces are designed to accommodate both types of sailboats and owners.
Q: Can you make an identikit of the average sailing tourist?
A: Ours is a marina undergoing an upgrade and different sailor profiles coexist. Alongside the owner who has moored here for many years, there are a growing number of foreigners who treat the marina as a home port. In the Upper Adriatic the average size of boats is under 15m [49ft], but our infrastructure allows us to have larger sailing and motor hulls. The generous land area and the entrance, which has a depth of over 7m [23ft] as it shares the entrance basin of a shipyard well-known for cruise ships, guarantee safe and straightforward access. Thanks to the refitting know-how and the facilities on land and at sea, we are the reference point in the Upper Adriatic for boats over 50ft [15m] under sail, and we concentrate on guaranteeing owners of these vessels the best services, with an extremely high focus on quality.