Stefano Casiraghi, 29 years ago the last tragic race

Pinot di Pinot di Stefano Casiraghi
Pinot di Pinot di Stefano Casiraghi

On Wednesday 3 October 1990, the sky above Montecarlo is gray. A blanket of clouds from which some splashes of water occasionally fall off covers the Principality and the sea of the Côte d’Azur, chopped by a sirocco which blows strongly and generates increasingly steeper waves. Not the best conditions to drive a motorboat at full speed. Even if it is designed to run and face the sea at 100 knots.

When the offshore were around

On board one of the offshore vessels involved in the Monegasque leg of the then highly popular world class championship there is Stefano Casiraghi, the beautiful and well-liked Italian husband of  Princess Caroline of Monaco. The Monegasque businessman is 30 years old and has three children –  Andrea, Charlotte and Pierre. That morning, he is at the helm of the Pinot di Pinot, a white-and-red catamaran, assisted by his co-pilot Patrice Innocenti. Stefano knows that he has no choice but to finish first in this second race of the leg if he wants to remain “World Champion”, defending the title won the year before with a monohull.

The last race

On Monday, the first race didn’t go too well. The leg started two hours late due to poor visibility conditions and Casiraghi, while occupying the eighth position, decided to stop to help the crew of a competing team that had a fire on board. Re-admitted as per regulation in the same position, he mustwin. Stefano sees no other result for himself at the end of the 97-mile race between Montecarlo, Cap Ferrat and Nice, with three roundabouts. At the Wednesday morning briefing, he looks cheerful and makes plans for the future. Like buying a new, more equipped boat, for example. He wants one like Adriano Panatta, the former tennis player, got, equipped with bimini top and cushioned chair.

On the departure, the parents look worried at the sea from the quays of the port, they know about Stefano’s determination and they are not calm: “We hope you decide to stop”, are the words that more than one hear the father repeats. Carolina, instead,  is in Paris, her return is scheduled for tomorrow. At the time of the start, the sirocco is even more strong and the sea is even more rough.

Pinot di Pinot, l'offshore di Stefano Casiraghi

Pinot di Pinot, l’offshore di Stefano Casiraghi

However, no one thinks about a race suspension: it is a world championship and riders know what it means to race in such conditions and everyone is free to decide whether to face the sea or not. And Stefano doesn’t want to face it, he wants to dominate it together with his competitors. Meanwhile, unfortunately, the sea conditions begin to thin the fleet.
One of the first to give up is the then European champion Angelo Spetta who will declare:

“The boat flipped due to a high wave. I had just decided to take off the throttle, but the engine didn’t respond in time. So I decided to stop “

Then it’s the turn of Vincenzo Polli, another historical name of the offshore:

“After a couple of jumps in my boat I slowed down, you couldn’t risk so much. But I saw Casiraghi pulling at maximum, impaling himself on the waves “.

While the Italian sailor flies towards the top positions two other crews overturn for the sea, Sireg and Reggiani, but the only one to injure himself is Marcello Curioni, a pilot, who beats his head violently against the hull. When the clock strikes 11:18 two waves arrive and stop this time in the history of powerboating. The first one upset Pinot’s Pinot’s balance and the second one, even higher and worse, first raises and then overturns the catamaran that immediately begins to sink from the stern. Patrice Innocenti is thrown out and tries to attach himself to the keel while waiting for help, he is seriously injured, he has many fractures in his pelvis and right shoulder and he has an endless effort to swim while Stefano is still in the driver’s seat that is now under water . It is thought he has got caught.
Ironically, Casiraghi has not wanted the helicopter that generally follows him during the races. But other boats stop and someone even dives to try to free the Italian pilot, including Domenico Achilli and Steve Curtis. But Stefano is already dead. The impact broke his spine under the neck.

At 11.20 divers have arrived with the organization’s helicopters who extract the lifeless body of the pilot and lay him on the deck of another catamaran, that of Emanuele Colletta to bring him to shore.

It almost seems a cruel joke, to hear her friend Luisella Berrino, journalist of Radio Monte Carlo. Stefano, or Carolino, as many called him by virtue of his wife’s name, would have intended to listent to his wife and parents’ requests, stopping his races at the end of this season to devote himself only to the organization.

The red flags are placed on the buoys, but some competitors do not notice them and go ahead, like Panatta who will still have to stop for a failure. Given the confusion caused by the accident, the former tennis player remains more than an hour tossed by the waves before a rescue vehicle picks him up to tow him to the port.
While Carolina arrives in the principality already dressed in black, the reigning prince Ranieri of Monaco declares that, in order to commemorate and honor the memory of his beloved son-in-law, the races will continue anyway.

“Stefano would have liked it that way”
However, the races were canceled as a sign of mourning among many controversies over the safety of the offshore world championship. A few days before Stefano, the young Antonio Guarducci, just 23 years old, had died during a European championship race. Despite the cancellation of the race in Monte Carlo, many riders remained for the funeral. It was also decided that, at the end of the funeral, a procession of yachts and motorboats would have broughht a wreath in the stretch of sea where the boat of Casiraghi had capsized.



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