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Stolen Yngling Found

by Sharon Ferris, NZL 4

(July 22, 2003) This story from Inspiration Challenges is a sense of de ja vu for Emanuele Cecchini and Luigi Ciccarone. Emanuele and Luigi are both managers at Harken Italy, which is already one of our biggest sponsors! On Monday, July 14th, 2003 they were walking down the dock in Angera, Italy when they saw a yacht with a blue cover and four stars that were in the shape of the Southern Cross. They asked each other, "Do you know what kind of boat that is?" "No, an Yngling?" Then they remembered hearing the story of the stolen Yngling from the Kiwi team in Lake Como last year?

After some early morning research on the Internet, making a few inquiring phone calls and Luigi taking some photos of the boat, they sent me the email that we have been hoping for for the last eleven months. Sure enough it was our Inspiration. I could tell immediately it was our boat by the up-lines on the venturies, the small traveler and all our Donaghys ropes on it. The batten on the backstay and the extra inspection port in the floor close to the Harken mainsheet block were both unique to our boat. I read the email six times to check what I read was true.

I immediately rang Emanuele to find his English was perfect and realized how lucky I was to have Emanuele and Luigi working on the recovery of our Yngling. Emanuele gave me a list of things he needed me to do. The first was to get a copy of the police report that we filed with the Carabinieri on August 8th, 2002. Fortunately, Andy Stonelake was able to find it in the storage boxes at home in New Zealand and I had the ownership papers and the measurement certificate with me. These were faxed to Emanuele and Thursday morning he went to the Carabinieri with the info. Meanwhile none of our team slept; we started dreaming of "air castles" as our team manager Veruschka Krafft would say.

The Carabinieri took the For Sale sign down and the boat was padlocked to the dock. The police made some connections and were able to find the trailer in a town nearby called Castelletto Ticino. Emanuele spent four hours with the police going over the boat and recovering some of our gear. Most of it still had NZL 4 written on it. They renamed the boat Bond 2 and painted the mainsail where the Yngling Logo used to be. The spinnakers were gone. The Carabinieri did a fantastic job to make things as easy as possible for me. Within hours they had obtained the boat and found the trailer. They also knew who stole our boat!

I arranged to fly down to Italy on Friday to identify with the police that the boat was ours. Jo and Sara stayed in Germany to prepare Inspiration 2 for the Open World Championships starting on Monday, July 21st. After arriving in Italy we went to the Carabinieri where they had the trailer but the boat was still under the control of the Magistrate as the identification numbers had been removed. I had to prove that the boat was ours. With photos, a letter from Borressen (the Yacht builder) and NZL 4 written everywhere this was not so hard to do.

Late Saturday morning the Magistrate released the boat back to me. Sabina (a new Italian friend) and I sailed her to another boat yard to pull her out of the water to see what damage was done. It was a very funny feeling as the boat was rigged perfectly; only Yngling sailors would know how to do this. It gave me a very uneasy feeling to think that I could know the person who had been sailing the boat. It was very obvious that it was a stolen boat. Why would you paint a mainsail and have three buckets with NZL 4 on them?

While we were sailing, her rudder was very difficult to move and the boat felt just too slow. I was starting to dread the worst. I pumped eighty liters of water out of the bilge while trying to figure out what else was broken. Luigi joined us at the end of our sailing trip to help lift her out of the water. We pulled her out of the water and she had 3mm of growth and lots of barnacles. The rudder looked okay but then right at the end I did a double take. Most of the bottom of the keel was missing. My fears were realized that it was not mud she was sitting on, it was rocks!!!!

This made me very upset and angry. I cannot understand how someone can take an Yngling in the first place and then to treat it like this. Unbelievable, our fantastic Olympic boat is only good now for a fishpond! It is not that bad but at that moment that was all I felt. The air temperature was 42 degrees with no wind, so by this stage I was very hot and starting to worry. As we dropped the rig the mast plate broke from the mast step, (this is where the mast sits on the cabin top). Not a good start. There was mud in the rigging and I knew there was a huge curved line on the port side of the boat. I was starting to think she had been lying on her side for a long time, sitting in the mud!

After spending five hours with a water blaster and the most powerful cleaning detergent you have ever seen, she starting to look like an Yngling again. We cleaned out the trailer boxes that were full of dust and rubbish and then packed away what was left. The trailer has to go to a garage as all the lights and brakes are missing. Thankfully they did leave the storage boxes and the spare tire. The Danish number plate was well gone. I made a list for the Carabinieri of what was still missing and what was with the boat. They are still investigating where the remaining missing equipment is. Our biggest problem is that the person who stole the boat is already in jail for theft.

A huge thank you to Emanuele, Luigi, Sabina, Aldo (the yard owner) and the Carabinieri for all their help in putting this Olympic Campaign back in the game for Athens 2004! We still hope to use this Yngling at the Olympic Games. She needs a new keel and has a lot of work to be done, but she is worth it! We are determined to have her up and racing within four months. - Sharon Ferris NZL 4

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