Before setting out to break an ocean-crossing record, it helps to have an ideal weather window. But as world-renowned ocean racer Giovanni Soldini knows, sometimes that’s just not possible. Despite a troubling forecast that included a potential hurricane along his route from San Francisco to Shanghai, China, Soldini and his international crew passed beneath the Golden Gate Saturday evening aboard the VOR 70 Maserati, to begin their 7,300-mile Pacific crossing. Their goal is to break the current record of 32 days, 9 hours, set in 1853 by the China clipper Swordfish, and to establish a new ‘official’ benchmark for the route, ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC).
“We decided to cast off today because we really didn’t have any other option." Soldini said Saturday. "Over the next two days, a huge depression will form in the Pacific and the high pressure area that is currently delivering some great trade winds will peak with the result that the first 1,000 miles off San Francisco will be completely becalmed. So we have to get through that area as quickly as possible, and into a zone with more stable, prevailing trade winds that should push us past the Hawaiian Islands and then on to Shanghai."
Currently, a large tropical depression west of Hawaii is showing signs of developing into a cyclone within the next two days — and, says Soldini, become "ugly and evil." Hopefully, the system will have petered out by the time Maserati reaches that longitude, but the storm’s aftermath could be tricky also. "Behind those things," Soldini explains, "typically the wind acts up and the trade winds take a while to recover."
Thanks to modern transponder technology, you can follow the big sloop’s route without even leaving your armchair. Check out the website for daily updates.