International lawyer Mariacristina Rapisardi on sailing Royal Huisman Billy Budd

An innate sense of adventure got international lawyer Mariacristina Rapisardi sailing, Grace Trofa discovers

I have no idea where I got this thirst for adventure. When I was young I was always sailing, climbing, skiing and always on the move. At the age of seven I started sailing on Lake Como with my father on a six meter yacht. When I was 29 I bought my own boat, a 10 meter Freedom yacht. After my marriage I sailed as a family with a husband, children and a dog, but always in the Mediterranean. When my children grew up I decided it was time to leave Gibraltar.

Credit: Mariacristina Rapisardi

I always thought how nice it would be to go to the Arctic and Antarctica. I met Skip Novak, a friend whose boat was designed for high latitude sailing, so I chartered it for my first trip to the Arctic in 2003, then again in 2004 to go to the Northwest Passage, but it was closed .

After that I bought an Oyster 72 and in 2005 I started sailing my Oyster both north and south. Then in 2009 I bought the boat I have now [the Royal Huisman Billy Budd]. I was looking for an aluminum boat to go into the Northwest Passage. Getting stuck in ice is a real possibility, so I wanted a strong boat that wasn’t too big, but big enough (34.3 meters) to go to remote locations.

Photo credit: Shutterstock Images

In 2011 I sailed the Arctic and finally in 2012 the Northwest Passage. I met my husband in 2012. When he asked me what I was doing this summer, I said I was going to do the Northwest Passage and if he would like to come along. He said yes, and I knew then that he would be fine with me. My friends always said I had to find an Indiana Jones.

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I’ve been to the Arctic eight times and the Antarctic Peninsula many times. I like long distances and long drives where you don’t see anyone for days. I like to be challenged by difficult situations. I like the fact that you don’t know what can happen in two hours. In Antarctica, but in the Arctic, the ice can change in 10 minutes, or you could be surrounded by whales or polar bears.

Royal Huisman Billy Budd

Photo credit: IYC

Once when I was anchored in Grise Fjord near Devon Island, which I consider to be the most beautiful place on earth, I received an email – I have very good satellite communications on board – from a nurse from a nearby village. It said, ‘Can you come back and show our school children the boat?’ We went ashore and it was fantastic. There aren’t many people around so everyone wants to get to know you when you arrive.

This is the fourth Billy Budd Boat. I was 17 and living in Milan during a time of social revolution when I decided that my boats would bear that name. My interpretation of the story is that it is about the conflict between law and justice; I think even then I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.

Credit: Mariacristina Rapisardi

I want to go north again, this time with my grandchildren; I have 10. Sailing in the Mediterranean is very boring for me. I made it just for the kids last summer.

Like all sailors, I am superstitious. I have dream catchers on board, no green dresses, umbrellas are forbidden and nobody is allowed to say “rabbit”.

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First published in the January 2023 US edition of BOAT International. Take this magazine home or subscribe and never miss an issue.