A few days ago we had the joy to meet Gianni Di Meglio, one of the most famous offshore powerboat racers in Italy and…not only. Any discussion with Gianni, a pilot with huge distinctions who with Antonio Gioffredi were an unbeatable duo known as "Giant Killer", is certainly very interesting.
- Dear Gianni tell us some words about the period you were taking part in competitions and the boats with which you were running?
I ran seven consecutive years in offshore powerboat races during the years '80, and with good approximation I've been to about 70 competitions. During my youth I ran into other categories such as regularity and the circuit with mono hull with 70 HP.
The boats that I used were for class 4 litres the first Phantom mono hull British, then from 1981 onwards along with my boat mate, historian Antonio Gioffredi, we opted to use cat's outboard inboard diesel, all designed by Ing. Fabio Buzzi. With Gioffredi, I ran in all classes from class 3 to class 1 offshore.
- Ηow many championships have you won?
Although I didn't run many years, I can say that I won a lot, but I like to remember the most rewarding victories.
Two times European Champion (1981) 6 litre class and class 8 litres (1982).
Two times 6 litres class world champion (1983 and 1986) and finally the most prestigious World Championship in New Zealand in 1986, class 1, (Sam Griffiths Thopy, as the football World Cup, the more you can win in offshore) against American boats, Italian, German, French, British, New Zealanders etc.
- Which was the most interesting race?
The best race and challenge was the Viareggio-Bastia-Viareggio, won in 1984 and in 1986 in class 1 with only 9 metres catamaran and setting both the editions the speed record for the race.
This race is not held over for many years, but it was important to win to show that both the means that the pilots knew both drive, that go to sea without assistance.
Then a lot of Italian champions, and 4 world speed record in 1984, for class 6 litres e 8 litres, in Moregallo (Lecco Lake).
- Which was your best racing time?
The highlight was of course the victory in New Zealand 1 class World Championship in 1986. This victory has itself a number of records, in fact with my friend Antonio Gioffredi, historical pilot in that year, we won in September 1986 the World Championship offshore class 6 litres and only 3 and a half months, we won with the same boat (30 feet cat turbo diesel), also the most important title that exists in offshore world class Championship and 1, won for the first time in history by a motorized boat diesel! We called it the giant killer!!
Anyway it was very nice to win races even when there were no suitable conditions for our little cat, which preferred quiet sea or slight.
At the time we ran only with compasses and clocks, and often, we sometimes have to make different routes, compared to other boats to search for the right way in the rough seas. This involved a series of calculations in mind during the race and at that speed, but often the result was fantastic, we could pass the buoys off in first position, with great astonishment and distress of far richer team who had also helicopters to mark the route.
…and your worst one?
The worst time is always one in which comes the mechanical disruption or if the boat sells for stresses. With our little cat, knowing well what are the best conditions for use, often during the races with very rough seas, reduced ourselves speed and arrived on buoys or on steps described by the route, we did some real edges like sailboats.
If it took steps to ranking was mandatory to finish the race, so it was necessary to make a virtue of necessity!
One of the ugliest moments of my career, it was the accident that we had in Florida to Key West to 6 litres of 1981 world, when in the Gulf of Mexico to a strong gust of wind, our cat outboard capsized in a split second.
Basically the same incident that occurred in 1990 to Stefano Casiraghi, except that in our case the speed was less and I luckily managed to get inside the boat and wait for the same wounds.
- What is the most exciting feeling in a race?
What I liked most in the race was definitely a departure. In fact we often made departures with 30 boats, with which we were fighting until the last mile.
But in the end what made me proud in my years of offshore, was being able to run and share successes with Anthony Gioffredi, one of the best throttleman all the time, and bringing in my town Naples, the most important modern offshore powerboat racing trophy, the Sam Griffith, that crowns the world champions of class 1.
- Which is the most important thing in a race?
The most important thing during my races was first of all the use of your brain, then be quick, to know the sea and know also maintain the means, because the races were truly on the high seas also 220 routes/240 nautical miles.
Often with our catamaran of 30 feet and with only 1100 hp diesel as we could stand up to 15 meters boats with over 2000 HP. Needed lots of head and a lot of coordination and trust between driver and throttleman.
- If you compare the races in the past with the races of nowadays, what would you say?
The races now cannot be compared in anything with the races of the past. The boats today, but already 15 years ago, are much longer, fast, lightweight and with more powerful engines. But at the same time, they are more fragile and dangerous and not suitable for paths of 150/180 nautical miles. Security and the show sponsors have been right about the ability of crews to know managing a medium.
Before the pilots were, connoisseurs of the sea, mechanical and often who ran was a gentleman driver, then with time you switched to professionalism, however was fun already in my day, get in front of a team with a lot of money and no budget limit, leveraging our knowledge of the sea and of the medium.
Remember that in Monaco in 1982, with a small Buzzi cat of 7.20 meters and two mercury outboard 2.4, we came third in the first race of the European Championship class 1! Against 15 meters boats and 2000 hp, with sponsors like Rothmans, Gitanes, Marlboro, etc.
With this little cat, which then we won the Italian and European Championship Season 2 class, we broke the boxes at all ... because we called it out of spite "SMOKING IS BAD"!
However today the only race worth mentioning that still has its charm is the CTC and Venice to Montecarlo, only if there are boats om the grid!
- Which advice would you give to a young racer? What should he and what shouldn’t he do during a race?
By the time the races are very different. I have to confess I don't follow them much anymore, partly because you find ridiculous the paths, the boats today and the lack of knowledge of the sea that have almost all the practitioners of this sport today.
But I can say what I've always tried to instill in my son Giovanni, who in addition is a sailor competitor, unfortunately for my peace of mind, runs from his 13 years. However what makes me feel relatively safe is his experience of over 15 years, travelling around Europe with a surf and he managed to know better the appearance related to weather.
If you can I think you need to know how to do everything on board, the sailor, the mechanic, the navigator, the weatherman and finally the pilot. For starters today the sport, I say it's very important to watch, do tests and races as navigator and then proceed to guide or at accelerators. Now winning races and Championships is much easier, I don't know if it's more.
My advice for those who want to start running is to always use the brain and not get carried away by the excitement of winning and being the fastest.
There is always time. Maybe start with those who already have a little experience and steal from their little secrets for proper trim and boat maintenance.
The power boat like any sport of motor racing is dangerous, so you need to stay alert, use of boats with safe and possibly do always reckon with the sea which can be your friend, but if you feel superior and disrespectfully, the sea can punish you.
- The relationship between driver and throttleman is certainly the most crucial factor in a race. It is a relationship of absolute synchronization and total trust.
Do Great races build Great friendships?
You can firmly say, races and even sport events make the most solid and inseparable relationship. In my case and Antonio Gioffredi, knowledge goes back to our childhood. I shared everything and even with few financial resources we succeeded where others after years and much money have failed even to approach.
With Antonio, we refinished an unbeatable duo, capable, fast, smart and always ready to not take itself seriously, but…
Neapolitan soul, with the salt in the veins.