MARCO GRADONI, ITALY'S OPTI HERO CAMPAIGNING FOR PARIS 2024 AND AMERICA’S CUP05 Apr 2023
Italy's Marco Gradoni made competitive sailing history between 2017 and 2019 when he became the first athlete to win the Optimist World Championships three times in a row, achieving the worlds hat trick in Antigua where there was a record entry of 250 sailors from 65 nations. In 2019 he became the youngest ever winner of the Rolex Sailor of the Year at 15 years old.
Since moving to the Olympic 470 class, pairing up with Alessandra Dubbini, the duo last year won the 470 Junior World Championship title. Now, here at the 52 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mallorca by Iberostar, the duo started well winning their first heat and lie third overall.
“This is the second year that we’re competing in the 470 Mixed class, campaigning for Paris 2024. It’s relatively difficult for me because there are a lot of crews that have a lot of experience in this class and are so competitive. But we are always doing our absolute best. Everything is going well but we have to keep pushing.”
“And now some months ago I was asked to join the Luna Rossa team for the America’s Cup. The first times I trained with them it felt a bit crazy, but now it feels normal for me. We’ve been training a lot this winter. So I’ve been quite busy these past months, but I’m good, I feel that I’m doing my best and I’m enjoying my life.”
“My role at Luna Rossa has not been settled really, but now I’m helming the prototype. We have to see”.
“It’s quite difficult to combine the Olympic campaign with the America’s Cup, because you need to spend a lot of days on the water. Sometimes it’s a bit stressful and things don’t go the way you want, but I like the Cup stuff. It is really what I want to do.”
You are a hero for so many young sailors, Opti sailors mainly. What message do you want to send to them?
“I want to say to them that they always have to enjoy themselves, have fun and do their best”.
And how is the change between Optimist and 470 class?
“It’s very difficult when you step up to a new boat, because there are many experienced sailors and you struggle to reach their level. You need to stay focus to try to fill the gap, and one day you will be the best. In between the Opti and the 470 I’ve tried the 49er, but just a bit, so it was practically direct from Opti to 470.”
If you could talk to Marco in 2019, what would you say to the young Marco knowing that in four year time you would be driving an America’s Cup boat and campaigning for the Olympics in the 470?
“If I could talk to the Marco from four years ago, I would tell him keep having fun, keep doing your best, keep enjoying sailing and the sea, because all the effort and the work will be paid off.”