Man of the Mountains

Text by Jon Bramley
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Man of the Mountains Text by Jon Bramley
 
One of the toughest challenges for a Volvo Ocean Race sailor is not just doing the nine-month stretch of the event itself – it’s how on earth do you follow it?

For Alberto Bolzan, the Trieste-born 33-year-old, it has been a case of rediscovering a world which feels a million miles away from his life on board Team Alvimedica during the 2014-15 race.

“I’ve been trying to find the best way to relax. I have spent most of the time in the mountains. I’ve started to train again with my bike, some time in the gym and I’ve started to enter normal life again,” he tells us, three months on from the June finish of the race in Gothenburg.

“After nine months on a boat, it’s not easy to come back 100 percent immediately. It takes some time to return to normal life, real sleep, eat normal food and meet up again with your old friends.

“After a race like that, you need to stay away from a boat for a period. It depends on you how long it is, but for me I had two months when I generally stayed away from a boat.

“That’s not because I hate sailing – I love sailing – but in the morning, I was waking up and said to myself, ‘today, I’d like to go up into the mountains, not into the sea’.”

Alberto says he feels like a different guy now the event has finished.

“I feel something different inside of me after the race. But it’s only because in this race you stay away for a long time from your life so you understand what you really need in your life when you come back, your priorities.

“After an experience like that, from a lot of angles, you change. I cannot say that I feel depressed. I think I now feel better than before. I value my life.”

He continues: “It’s only two or three months since we finished this race. I spoke to some guys with a lot of experience and they told me that it takes at least six months.

“So now I start to feel normal again but probably six months is the time it will take me to feel really back.

“I feel like I’ve lost a lot of muscle and gained some fat. Only two weeks ago, I’ve found the motivation to go back into the gym and work out, to be fit again and be ready for the next challenge.”

Bolzan, a four-time world champion before he set off in Charlie Enright’s crew back in October 2014, was away at sea mid-leg when his girlfriend, Nicole, suffered a very serious back injury in a paragliding accident.

“It’s not easy when you’re so far away. Everything is fine if everything is going in the right direction at home but if something goes wrong from the boat, you cannot control anything,” he recalls.

“An email can’t help you with the feelings and so on that you have to deal with.” Fortunately, she has made an incredible recovery.

“The worst part of the race was when she was injured, but she’s so strong – two months later she got the bronze medal at the (Paragliding) Worlds,” says Alberto.

“She’s absolutely okay. The back is sore, but she’s fighting this problem. She’s training a lot and is back at the top level again. But for sure, it’s a chapter of the race that I’ll remember forever.”

Unlike many of the crew of Team SCA, Alberto has not been short of offers to sail. “After the race, I had a lot of proposals because of how people perceive this race. People think you are more of a complete sailor after an experience like the Volvo Ocean Race,” he says.

“So I had a lot of proposals, but I took only two opportunities: I sailed in the Palermo to Monaco Race and I did the Maxi Worlds in Sardinia.

“Now I’m starting to be ready again to sail. I have just recently rediscovered the real motivation that makes you a good competitor.

“Now I have some races to do, but it’s winter time so in Europe, the sailing season is nearly done.”

We finish by discussing the topic which is so hot in Italy right now following the success of the Genoa Boat Show – an Italian boat in the 13th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“It’s the dream for every Italian sailor – and not only for the sailors here. I think we have a big culture in sailing with a lot of very good people involved and a lot of very good sailors,” he replies.

“It would be nice to have a boat to show what Italian sailors can do in a competition like this. I think we would have a big opportunity if we were able to put all the things together and have an Italian boat ready for the next edition.

“But it’s not easy. A lot of people are working on it.”