Behind the Scenes:
Getting to know Stefan Debattista, skipper of Geisha
Skipper Stefan Debattista has a long list of Rolex Middle Sea Race campaigns on various boats. Interestingly, he raced on Geisha in 2006, when it was owned by David Pizzuto. Over the years he has raced on several local and international boats including Lurigna, four times on Sonke Stein’s Juno, once on Melle Boersma’s Tulip, five times on Josef Schultheis’ Xp-Act, once on Sean Borg’s Xpresso and twice on Mark Emerson’s Phosphorus. His best placings were obtained in 2011 on Juno and 2017 on Xp-Act – both times the crew placed fifth overall.
How did you first become interested in participating in the Rolex Middle Sea Race, and what keeps bringing you back to this event?
I have been racing dinghies since I was round 6 and yachts since I was 12 – so naturally the MSR was a goal which then became an addiction.
Can you describe the evolution of your experience in the race from your first time competing to your most recent entry?
The first one I did in 2006 was the toughest, it was a hard fetch/beat almost all the way around on a boat that doesn’t love strong winds – so that was a baptism of fire.
How has the competition and the event itself changed over the years, in your perspective?
Personally can’t say that it has changed very much.
What challenges have you encountered in the various editions of the race, and how have you adapted your approach to overcome them?
I’ve been fortunate enough to say that each time I raced I was with an excellent crew, while we faced some challenges nothing was ever overwhelming. We always managed to deal with things well as a team.
Are there any specific race years or moments that stand out as particularly memorable or significant in your career?
In 2017 I raced on XP-ACT. We had broken the backstay which tore the mainsail and which needed repairing for around 2-4 hours. We still managed to finish in 5th place Overall and 2nd in Class.
In 2014, racing on Tulip we encountered 56 knot winds and were surrounded by dolphins playing in our whitewash. In another race, I cannot remember the year, we had a meteor shower lighting up the whole sky and more recently in 2021, we were screaming downwind on Phosphorus in 2021 – the video we shared got over 1 million hits across the Rolex Middle Sea Race and North Sails social media accounts
Watch Video Here : https://www.facebook.com/StefanDebattista/videos/4400264936677607
The Rolex Middle Sea Race covers a diverse and challenging course. How do you prepare for the unique conditions and navigation challenges it presents?
We do our best to try to think of everything which might come our way, and we do involve and consider every crew members’ input and experience.
How did you choose your crew for this race?
I approached the two owners of the boats I raced on before – (Melle Boersma – Tulip and Mark Emerson – Phosphorus). Once I knew they were game I asked some other people who I raced with from Phosphorus, their two bowmen who took part in this year’s Fastnet – I have not yet met them but look very much forward to meeting them. Craig Macdonald who has joined me for most of the local sailing/racing we have done on Geisha will also join us. Craig has lots of sailing experience and is building up his racing experience.
How do you manage the mental and physical demands of competing in a multi-day offshore race multiple times?
I just go with the flow and not think too much about it!
Are there any particular traditions or rituals that you and your team follow before or after the race that have become important to you?
No, not really
How do you balance the thrill of competition with the camaraderie and sportsmanship that are often associated with offshore racing?
I try to always have fun.
Looking ahead, do you have any specific goals or aspirations related to your 2023 participation in the Rolex Middle Sea Race?
To finish the course, take care of the boat, enjoy ourselves and sail fast!