30 years ago the (undefeated) record of the Steed in the Ocean

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Destriero, the record-breaking ship
Destriero, the record-breaking ship

The story of the Destriero, still the fastest ship on the Atlantic today, in the account of Fincantieri’s prime contractor at the time, Mauro Parodi. The full article is in issue 29, now on newsstands, of the magazine
Motor Boats
.

Destriero, the pure emotion

“We were sailing at 48 knots with sea 5 aft. Diving into the waves the bow raised two crazy foam whiskers. I was on the bridge and took a picture. It is hanging in my office. It was an incredible feeling. On the bridge you didn’t have the feeling of speed. But if you went to the aft deck and looked back there were two mountains of water. At full power the three jets were capable of emptying an Olympic-size swimming pool in seconds.”

Photo by Mauro Parodi aboard the Destriero
Photo by Mauro Parodi aboard the Destriero

The person who recounts that early 1991 move from La Spezia to Porto Cervo and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda with the Destriero is Mauro Parodi, then head of the order of that ship built by Fincantieri and wanted by the Aga Khan to attempt the record Atlantic crossing. Today Mauro Parodi is ‘senior vice president‘ of Fincantieri, among the largest international shipbuilding groups.

The adventure of the Steed, which in 1992 set the still-unbeaten record for crossing the Atlantic from New York from Ambrose Light lighthouse to Bishpop Rock lighthouse in England in 58 hours, 34 minutes and 50 seconds, returns to the spotlight every August 9. That was the day when, at the end of a 3,106-mile run at an average of 53.09 knots (an extra 0.90 knots and it was round figure: 100 km/h) Destriero arrived at Bishop Rock and called the lighthouse staff. The story, perhaps the legend, says that they replied, “Good morning Steed, we were not expecting you so soon.”

How the Destriero was born

Greetings and fractions of knots aside, and even disquisitions as to whether Destriero was a commercial ship so that it could sport on its mast the Blue Ribbon, which went to the fastest ship on the Atlantic, or the Hales Trophy, awarded to the fastest time, or was instead a private yacht, the fact remains that since then no one has done better than this 67.70-meter hull, 13 meters wide and propelled by three gas turbines totaling 60,000 horsepower coupled with hydrojets.

Steed in navigation
Steed in navigation

“The Destriero was born here in La Spezia, at Fincantieri in Muggiano, which has always been the shipyard for ships that are a bit special,” Parodi says. Designed by American Donald Lee Blount, exterior lines by Sergio Pininfarina, deep-V hull, aluminum construction, the Destriero was born in eight months. “I was 32 years old when we signed the contract in 1990. As a prime contractor I had just delivered two ships to the Guardia di Finanza. I was diverted to the Destriero. It was a unique experience.”

A piece of the Destriero was born, however, at Fincantieri in Riva Trigoso. “The bow section which was then, by sea, brought here to Muggiano. We took a big risk.”

Steed ship under construction
Steed under construction

Between Riva Trigoso and Muggiano, running along the Cinque Terre, there are a 30-mile. “It was January 1991. The transport arrived just before a gale broke out with very strong sea, wind, rain and even snow. If we delayed the transfer by just one day we were stuck for a week. And on the Destriero we worked three shifts, 24 hours a day. The times we slept on the construction site!”. Instead, timetable met: on March 28, 1991, Destriero went down to the sea. After one last thrill. “We were completing the set-up. A fire started at the base of the mast from a short circuit. It was immediately extinguished, but the fiberglass mast built by Bianchi & Cecchi of Genoa was damaged. The next day, however, the mast was disassembled, the equipment it held saved, Bianchi & Cecchi already at work on a new mast, and so were the technicians for the wiring that needed to be redone. Within three weeks everything was back in place.”

Then, the assault planned for 1991 is postponed. In July 1992, the first attempt from East and West is stopped by a gale halfway through. August is the time.

What is the ship Destriero today

 

But, record aside, what is the legacy of the Destriero then abandoned for years first in La Spezia, then in England, and now at the Lürssen shipyard in Bremen?

“From Destriero and the development of deep-V hulls in steel and aluminum Fincantieri has developed a series of fast ferries that have operated in the North Sea and the English Channel. And four for the Tirrenia. Above all, from the Destriero came the Littoral Combat Ships, 115-meter, 40-knot vessels for the U.S. Navy, no small customer. So the Destriero also left its mark on Fincantieri’s order book. Also.”

Destriero
Destriero

And then we ask? “And then he left a sense of belonging to a team that worked on a very unique project. This year, on August 3, for the record’s 30th anniversary, there was a commemoration here at Fincantieri. There were all those who worked at Destriero and family members of those who are no longer there. All together. I confess: I was moved. What was the Destriero for me? It was pure emotion!”

Emilio Martinelli – The full article in Motor Boats No. 28

 

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