Pilar Rossi: A Boat Story
By Mira Nencheva
This article was first published in the April 2015 issue #235 of Caribbean Compass on page 21
Some stories begin with a dream. Such is this story.
We arrived in Grenada in mid-October, after spending almost the entire hurricane season sailing slowly down the Caribbean Island Chain. It was our first year of cruising; our first time visiting the region. Every place was new and unfamiliar to us and everything seemed wonderful and magical. Yet, I remember one particular moment when we were so amazed that our jaws literally dropped like in the old animation films and we went:
“Woooow! Look! Have you ever imagined, have you ever dreamed about anything like this!?”
And it wasn’t the crater of a bubbling volcano beneath our feet, or a family of green monkeys watching us from the trees in the late afternoon, or an infinite pink beach where the only footsteps are those of sea turtles crawling out of the ocean to lay eggs at night, or an old fort built up on top of a hill facing the sunset; not even a waterfall booming amidst insane tropical vegetation.
It was a boat. A most extraordinary boat.
We dropped anchor in the wide anchorage outside of St George’s Bay and with our orange kayak started for the Port Luis Marina. As we paddled pass the channel, keeping near to the south shore, we saw two masts sticking high above the hills, reaching for the clouds. Slowly, we turned the corner.
And there she was looming above us like a giant white bird from a different world- Pilar Rossi , one of the top 10 biggest megayachts in the world.
Pilar Rossi is a 211-foot steel luxury megayacht with aluminum superstructure, width of 46 feet, and draught of only 7 feet. With such glorious proportions and unique design, there isn’t a single person who remains calm at the first sight of the ship. A magnificent enchantress.
But even more amazing and unbelievable is her story.
You see, Pilar Rossi wasn’t always as big and impressive as she is today. Like in the story of the little duckling who transformed as he grew older into a beautiful white swan because such was his destiny, so did Pilar Rossi change with time.
In the 1980s one person who believed in himself, a daring man for whom limits do not exist, or if they do, he goes beyond them, and dreams are a matter of passion and dedication, decided to build a boat.
Pilar Rossi began her life at sea in Turkey in 1989, as a 112-foot Alucraft motor yacht with one hull and no masts. But some years later, her owner, the legendary three times Formula One World Champion Nelson Piquet from Brazil, together with his uncle Mauricio Piquet, a naval architect, drew up a new design. Another 100 feet of length was added in the back of the boat thus doubling her size, as well as two massive outriggers built with the semi-SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) concept which was at that time the best options for multihulls, minimizing the ship’s volume near the surface area of the sea, where wave energy is located, thus maximizing the vessel’s stability, even in high seas and at high speeds. Two new masts, one 148 feet and another 138 feet high, made by Formula Yacht Spars in Lymington, England, gave the boat her new sailing soul and transformed her into a mega-schooner-trimaran. With hydraulically operated genoa, fishman, staysail and mainsail, she now has 2,200 sq m of sail area, capable of 8 knots under sail and up to 15 knots when motor-sailing. The main engines are two 1360 HP / 530 Kilowatts MAN, and two John Deer engines with 90kw each one as generators. One of her advantages is that the new hull is built on top of the old one creating an air cushion and thus making her virtually unsinkable.
We walked around the pier at the marina admiring Pilar Rossi for some time and there we meet Tomaz A. Christovao, one of the boat’s crew members. A tall young guy from Brazil born in Ila Bella, Tomaz is a licensed yacht master with extensive sailing experience and a great passion for the sea. He invited us for a tour aboard Pilar Rossi and revealed some of her many secrets to us.
Inside, the boat looked even bigger, especially compared to our 38-foot Leopard catamaran Fata Morgana. We walked around the teak decks. Everything seemed enormous: the winches, the cleats, the blocks, the shrouds. Looking up at the massive masts gave us vertigo.
Besides the private cabins which can accommodate up to 18 guests and the luxurious saloon, the boat is equipped with a helicopter landing pad, a cinema room, an outdoors Jacuzzi and an enormous gym occupying a big portion of the lower deck. One racing boat (Cigarrete) 39ft as tender, bigger than our catamaran, and another one contender 34ft were stationed on both sides of the main deck.
Even though Mr. Piquet spends aboard only a few weeks per year with family and friends, Pilar Rossi is home of 7 permanent crew members who maintain the boat and all of her systems at dock in Grenada and when at sea. Mechanics, electricians, welders, carpenters, fiberglass-workers and sailors, they are all from Brazil: Tomaz A. Christovao, Francisco Soares, Marcos Dutra, Adao Pereira, Genivaldo Silva, Franciele Bastos “The Warrior”, chef Maria do Carmo, and Captain Ricardo de Fretas .
One of them, Marcus Dutra, is the chief mechanic aboard Pilar Rossi since 14 years. He showed us the engine rooms deep inside the belly of the boat, a dark labyrinth populated by huge pipes, cables and instruments, some very old and surely impossible to operate or fix by anyone else but Marcus. He explains how the systems have been adapted to fit the new design, and what things have been added after the boat has been remodeled so drastically.
– But why did Mr. Piquet do this? Why did he have to go through all the trouble of adding and changing things on the boat, instead of selling the old one and getting a new one? –I ask the captain Ricardo de Fretas, a member of the Rio de Janeiro Sailing Club, a club with 4 Olympic regattas medals.
– Because he loves the boat. And he is a loyal guy. Maybe he even made a promise to her, and he is the kind of man who keeps his promises. But also, he wanted to create the perfect boat for him and his family and friends to enjoy. The boat is his creation. He is always focused on even the smallest of details. It is incredible how much he cares for Pilar Rossi. Sometimes he calls me from the other side of the world and wants to know if a specific battery in one of the bathrooms works. When Mr. Piquet is aboard Pilar Rossi, he spends much of his time sitting on the large main deck table thinking what will be the next improvement, the next project.
Yes, it is a love story between a race car driver and a boat.
*This article was only possible with the help and information provided by Tomaz A. Christovao, licensed yacht master and crew aboard Pilar Rossi. Thank you!
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