In sailing, as in business, overcoming obstacles is the real key to success

Skipper Giancarlo Pedote talks about staying cool in the tight spots on his journey to the Vendée Globe.

Italian skipper Giancarlo Pedote, 43, is preparing for the Rolex Fastnet race on August 3, the next step on his journey to compete in the 2020 Vendée Globe, the only sailing race round the worldsolo, non-stop and without assistance at the helm of the IMOCA Prysmian Group. The Vendée Globe race is one of the world’s most demanding sporting events, and Pedote has been organizing for the challenge for a long time.

 The Rolex Fastnet will be the second IMOCA Globe Series race of the year for Giancarlo Pedote and Prysmian Group.  During the Bermudes 1000 in May, Pedote was forced to dive into the open sea with a mask and flippers, knife in hand, when the keel of his boat was entangled in fishing gear. Facing this sort of unpredicted obstacle on your own is what makes solo sailing so challenging, and is what makes the Vendée Globe such a dangerous race.

 When he looked down into the water from the boat, did he experience fear? Of course. But the point is to solve the problem, and not give up, he says.

Certain charateristics come out when things are going badly,” he says. “Overcoming the difficulty is part of the package. If you can’t overcome difficulty, you can’t be a solo sailor because it doesn’t matter how prepared you are: something unexpected will always happens during navigation.

He came in third place, just minutes behind second-place finisher Yannick Bestaven, a result he calls “pretty good.” He is being modest, because after the tangle with the fishing net at the start of the race, Pedote made a come-from-behind dash to the finish line that was truly spectacular.

Pedote and his IMOCA Prysmian Group will compete against 25 other crews in the Rolex Fastnet race.

In order to prepare to this spectacular race – which tours around the Fastnet Rock - Pedote took care of his physical preparation (to swim, run or practice a sport each day) and studied meteorology, as always.  But a lot of his time is taken up with overseeing the 100 suppliers and five people needed to manage the boat and organize the Vendée Globe qualification – making it similar to running a company.

It’s not a sport like tennis, where if you break a racket you can buy a new one and still play,” he explains. “It’s more like Formula One, with a machine at the center of a complex organization that needs to be managed well or it won’t work.

Problem solving, therefore, is a big part of Pedote’s preparation, just like it is for a manager at a large company, he says.

Pedote’s collaboration with Prysmian began in 2007, since he started in offshore racing. For the Vendée Globe, Prysmian Group and Pedote have also partnered with by Electriciens sans frontières.

After 12 years together, we have a strong symbiosis,” he says. “This long type of sponsorship is rare in sport, 12 years.

Pedote and Prysmian have a similar vision and a mission, he says. The first is a reach for excellence, which is a good fit with an athlete like himself that is always seeking perfection: Pedote knows perfection is an unreachable goal, but it is one that makes him push for self-improvement.   

The second is the attention to surroundings, in the sense that both Pedote and Prysmian must work with their surroundings to be effective.  

The third is integrity.

I bought my first boat with my own money at age 33,” he says.  “That means I needed to be consistent with my own goals.

Pedote has been racing professionally his entire adult life. In a certain way, he has been preparing for the Vendée Globe as long as he can remember, he says.

You have to keep your guard up and never reach a comfort zone, because that’s when stuff can happen,” he says. “As you move forward, you get less emotional: clearly emotional detachment that comes with experience is a plus. It means you can act with clarity and be at your best, but the challenge is not to get too relaxed! Because if you do that, you let your guard down...


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