The Advanced 80 Apsaras has embarked on a trip round the world full of thrills and excitement. A fascinating journey that all sailors dream about making
by Niccolò Volpati, photo by Carlo Borlenghi, Cristian Marani and Chui Shing Kin
«Some papers have already told bits of this story but got my name wrong, so my mates at the pub have been taking the mickey. I hope you don’t make the same mistake». Meet Fabio Becattini, one C and two Ts, captain of Apsaras, the Advanced 80-footer that’s sailing round the world.
He’s 53 years old, married with two daughters and this is his first world voyage, but he’s definitely no novice, with over 200 thousand miles under his belt and numerous ocean crossings. He’s also taken part in the Arc a dozen or so times and several other races, and it was while doing the Arc that the spark was triggered with Apsaras.
He was hired by the Hong Kong boat owner for this race, which he’d already won in 2004. Advanced 80 and its captain didn’t disappoint by coming first in the cruising class and ninth overall, thanks to a crew consisting mainly of expert racers from the Far East, not to mention a boat that proved to be pretty quick. «200 racing boats took part in the Arc. We came ninth so we beat quite a few», states Fabio Becattini. Once the race was over Apsaras set sail for Brazil.
The crew changed as the racers were replaced by sailors more suited to the hard work involved in ocean crossings. From Brazil they sailed to Cape Town in a leg that covered 3800 miles. On board were eight crew members and four guests. There were two boat owners and, contrary to popular myth, they love voyages and races.
«They’re extreme. They love sailing in the most demanding conditions. They return to dry land when it’s time to enjoy onshore activities. They’re likeable, obliging and respectful. The best I’ve ever had», states Becattini. «Getting to Cape Town was really exciting», continues the skipper. «We were sailing with three reef-bands and a staysail because the wind was blowing at 45 knots and the boat wasn’t managing to go below a speed of 18 knots». Advanced 80 is a spectacle, she goes like a bullet.
After travelling 22 thousand miles onboard the Advanced 80 Fabio’s in no doubt. «She’s quick and light. I’ve sailed lots of racers and cruisers in the past, but this really surprised me». She’s strong too because she dealt with demanding conditions without getting damaged.
She was fitted out for the ocean but without changing the hull in any way, or the upper deck we had admired at the autumn shows last year. What’s different is the additional electronics, the double autopilot, some satellite systems and a decent bank of batteries, because sailing almost continuously requires a lot of power to operate these devices.
«I went up South Africa hugging the coast», continues Becattini. «There was a really strong head current that forced us to sail just a few miles off the coast». Then on course towards Madagascar they met with rough stern seas that had them hydroplaning at 27 knots. «It was like falling from a waterfall», the captain explains. «The bow was going into the waves up to deckhouse level and when one crashed right against the stern of Apsaras it pushed me hard against the helm».
In this case too the boat performed well. They didn’t only get strong wind in the Indian Ocean, it was the same in the Atlantic, it only took them eight days to sail from the Bermuda islands to the Azores. «We never went below a speed of 17 knots for four days in a row», comments the skipper. The boat is so fast that even the fish caught during the journey are as impressive.
Tuna, marlin and swordfish never weigh less than 15 kg, the largest was as much as 25. Only the largest fish can manage to swim so fast as to be caught by the hook on the stern. Since last spring Apsaras has sailed in a more leisurely fashion, travelling from Madagascar to Phuket in Thailand, passing the Seychelles and the Andaman Islands.
The owners are using the boat to promote sailing in China so when they stop to enjoy onshore activities they take the opportunity to invite guests on-board to let them try sailing an 80-foot cruiser racer. The owners enjoy themselves during the races, not to mention during more demanding crossings, which is why they’ll be on board again at the beginning of December when Apsaras will be taking part in the Phuket King’s Regatta.
«I’d really like to take part in the Sydney Hobart race but I don’t know if we’ll manage it» states Becattini. The race starts in Australia on 26 December and covers 628 miles to reach Tasmania. At the moment Apsaras is scheduled after Phuket to go to Bali and then Australia. From there next year it will be on course towards Chile, then sail up the Pacific Coast of the Americas till it reaches Canada.
They’ll continue to race throughout this voyage round the world. The owners also plan to take part in the Transpacific race from San Francisco to Hawaii, and given that this boat often wins we can safely say, without fear of being proved wrong, that it’s a very successful cruiser racer. In fact in our opinion it resembles the boats that used to take part in the 100-Guinea Cup, the forerunner to America’s Cup.
Back then it wasn’t possible to transfer boats onto containers or aeroplanes. Whoever challenged the defender often had to tackle the ocean before racing between the buoys, which is one of the reasons why the defender often won. Challengers had to increase the weight of their boats to make them more robust, and on reaching the race destination they were much less able.
Apsaras is extremely able though, and can deal with gales and stormy seas no problem before going on to take part, and often win, a race. With such a long schedule to complete the trip round the world, which will eventually finish in Hong Kong,
I’ve got to ask Fabio Becattini if his family complain. He explains it’s as if they were also on a trip round the world, given that they meet up with him at each stage.
I express my suspicion that it’s his wife who encourages the owners to keep adding on legs and taking part in all possible races imaginable. He bursts out laughing and we say goodbye. I hope I’ve written his name correctly so he can tuck a copy of Barche under his arm when he goes to the pub and sees his mates.
Advanced 80 – VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD
22 thousand miles already covered and a lot more to do. The adventure started on 13 November 2016 when they set sail from Porto Santo Stefano in Argentario for Gran Canaria where they arrived on 19 November. After a stop of a few days, on 25 November the owners came on board and the boat sailed towards Cape Verde and, after passing the Equator, onto Brazil. The longest and most demanding leg of the journey awaited them there – 3800 miles to reach Cape Town in South Africa. In the last few days they were sailing with a 45-knot wind speed, three reef-bands and a staysail. At the beginning of April the yacht left South Africa and sailed for Madagascar, then the Seychelles in May and Sri Lanka in June, where it didn’t stop in order to avoid monsoons, then set sail for Phuket in Thailand after crossing the Bay of Bengal. In a few weeks it will be at the starting line in the Phuket King’s Regatta.
From there it will set off in more leisurely fashion for Australia and New Zealand. The hope is to cross the Pacific pretty low, without intermediate legs to get to Chile. From there the route will go up the coast of the Americas until reaching Vancouver in Canada, then finally the last crossing to reach Japan then Hong Kong.
Project: Reichel-Pugh Yacht Design, Nauta Yachts and Advanced Yachts
Hull: LOA 23.98m • Waterline length 21.60m • Max beam 6.20m • Draft 3.50m • Light displacement 39700 kg • Ballast 11780 kg • Sailing surface 326 m2 • Fuel tank volume 2000 l • Water tank volume 1300 l
Hull building material: Sandwich with fibreglass and carbon reinforcements under vacuum epoxy resin and reinforcements in high fatigue areas.
Deck building material: Carbon fiberglass sandwich made in vacuum epoxy infusion.