An innate longing for adventure got international lawyer Mariacristina Rapisardi into sailing, learns Grace Trofa
Where I got this sense of adventure from, I have no idea. When I was young, I was always sailing, climbing, skiing, and always in movement. I started sailing with my father when I was seven on a six-metre yacht on Lake Como. I bought my own boat when I was 29, a 10-metre Freedom yacht. After I was married, I sailed as a family with my husband, children and dog, but always in the Med. Once my children were grown, I decided it was time to go outside of Gibraltar.
I always thought how nice it would be to go to the Arctic and Antarctic. I met Skip Novak, a friend whose boat was designed for high-latitude sailing, so I chartered it for my first trip to the Arctic in 2003, then again in 2004 to go to the Northwest Passage, but it was closed.
Afterwards, I bought an Oyster 72 and, in 2005, with my Oyster, I started to go both north and south. Then in 2009, I bought the boat I now have [the Royal Huisman Billy Budd]. I was looking for an aluminium boat to go into the Northwest Passage. Getting stuck in the ice is a real possibility, so I wanted a strong boat, and not too big but big enough (34.3-metres) to be able to go into remote places.
In 2011, I did the Arctic and in 2012, I finally did the Northwest Passage. I met my husband in 2012. When he asked me what I was doing that summer, I told him I was going to do the Northwest Passage and would he like to come. He said yes, and that’s when I knew he would be OK for me. My friends used to say I needed to find an Indiana Jones.
I went eight times to the Arctic and many times to the Antarctic Peninsula. I like wide spaces and long trips where you don’t see anyone for days. I like to be challenged by difficult situations. I like the fact that you don’t know what can happen in two hours. In the Antarctic, but in the Arctic, the ice can change in 10 minutes, or you could be surrounded by whales or polar bears.
Once, while anchored in the Grise Fiord, near Devon Island, which I think is the world’s most beautiful place, I received an email – I have very good satellite communication on board – from a nurse at a nearby village. It said, “Can you come back and show the boat to our schoolchildren?” We went ashore and it was fantastic. There are not many people around, so when you arrive everyone wants to know you.
This is the fourth Billy Budd boat. I was 17 and living in Milan during a time of social revolution when I decided my boats would have that name. My interpretation of the story is that it’s about the conflict between law and justice; I think even then I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.
I want to go north again, this time with my grandchildren; I have 10. For me, sailing in the Med is very boring. I did it last summer just for the children.
Like all seafarers, I am superstitious. I have dreamcatchers on board, no green dresses, umbrellas are forbidden and no one can say “rabbit.”
First published in the January 2023 US edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW