Sailing: a sport with an ancestral tradition, the eternal fight between the nature and the man who can only rely on his abilities. To Marco, sailing is a long-life passion he keeps following since he was a kid, first all by himself, then in teams, and his enthusiasm has taken him to some of the most important competitions among the boys.
Let’s find out through this article everything about Marco Perillo’s story, his experience and his inspiring love for this unique sport.
Tell us a little about yourself, who you are, what you do, what is your educational background.
I am Marco Perillo, I was born in 1995 and I currently live in Milan. I have lived in many different cities and I used to spend a lot of time with my grandparents who live on the coasts of Italy. That's one of the reasons why sea has always fascinated me. Last year, I graduated at Trinity University in Dublin, now I am working as a consultant for PwC Company.
Tell us about your career in sailing. How you started, your biggest challenges and achievements in your journey.
I started boating with my father when I was 4 and I attended my first sailing course at the age of 6. It seemed like I was born for it, so I decided to enrolled in the Italian Naval League of Milan, and I started living for the boat since (I was only 8 at the time). In the team, I learnt the value of friendship, thanks to the long periods of time spent side by side with my teammates.
I won an Italian Cup while in the Cadet category, then, at the age of 11, I moved up to the Juniors, where you compete to get in national and world championships. The teams bought a boat for each of us: the very moment I saw mine, with the colors I picked myself…I was love at first sight and I realized how deep my love for sailing was. Unfortunately, my parents divorced, so sailing was no longer just a sport, a leisure, but it soon became my refugee, my safe place where to hide and feel free of all my thoughts and worries.
In the junior category, my team and I won the Italian Team Championship. Then, I changed teams and start competing for the Italian Naval League of Manedello. Here, something happened that would change forever my point of view on sailing. During an important match in Milan, we were racing against my former team and I made mistakes for which I was disqualified from the race. So, in order to allow my team to continue competing, I gave up my place to my teammates. That very moment, I realized that team comes always first and that personal interests should not exist in sailing.
Time passed and I made the transition to a higher division: I had to change mates and coaches over and over the course and this kept me from achieving constant results. However, this transition has been very important to me because I started putting into practice what I had learnt over the years. Then, I ended up in the first team, where at first I played the role of prow rather than helmsman, the role I had always played. In that division, I raced 8 months of the Olympic season, where we got in the world championship and competed for the CICO (Italian Championship of Olympic Classes), an unforgettable experience.
I finally joined the professional division, where I won 2 Europeans and 2 CICO titles, but I didn't feel as exciting as before because we competed as a team on big boats and no longer individually on smaller boats. When I was 20 years old, I started coaching for the Yacht Club Como Team and it was nice to see my teachings leading my colts to win several races. I was then forced to abandon the 470 division, so I started competing as a professional at the age of 21. I won a championship with Epervier, an incredible experience, and then I changed crew and joined Athena, eho taught me how to enjoy every moment. These were the years I had the most fun and enjoyed every day out on the boat. I sacrificed my career, but I learned to enjoy sailing and live it to the fullest. I still practice sailing but lately I've been interested in kitesurfing, which is another world that I would like to get to know more deeply.
What does 'sailing' mean to you? What do you think and what emotions you feel when sailing? What are the reasons that push you to go sailing?
For me, sailing is all about freedom. Over the years, I have realized that the time I spend on the boat is when I am truly free. When you are at sea, it's just you, with your crew, the sea, the boat and the wind. Nothing else. There are no other external thoughts or worries: the only thing you can do is to adapt to the wind and the sea because you can't control them, they are stronger than you and you have to act according to them. When sailing like that, I feel in complete harmony with nature and a perfect inner peace. I feel a sense of calm, reconciliation with myself, the world and nature. The main reason why I go sailing is the need to feel 'free' in this sense.
How does sailing change you? What does it give you?
Sailing has been fundamental in my life. Thanks to sailing, I am the man you see today. However, sailing also has some negative aspects, such as constantly competing, all the time. In my opinion, people must be in control of competitiveness, erasing it from their mindset when the race is over. Unfortunately, at first I had a very hard time finding my inner balance: everything was a competition to my eyes,.
The positive aspect is that I learned to put the group, the goal, the boate before my individual needs. This is something that I also learned thanks to the role I played on the boat, because I had big responsibilities. Being a helmsman, for me, is comparable to being a bus driver, because he is responsible for all the people he carries. This made me grow wiser and it taught me the sense of belonging: you need to stick together to achieve goals because the the group achieves more than the individual.
Sailing has given me so many things, such as the right attitude to work and sacrifice. In high school, I gave up on spending time with my friends because after school I only thought about sailing and I used to spend weekends on the boat. This means that in order to achieve results I had to sacrifice some aspects of my life, but now, as an adult, things have changed. For example, I think that if I had kept going sailing as I used to do, I would have sacrificed many friendships that are so important to me today.
Tell us about one or more important moments in your journey.
It may sound trivial, but I think the most important moment of my career was when I entered this world, never to leave it again. I remember when I was a kid and my dad used to take me sailing with him. I remember the day when I started to steer the boat and it began to pick up speed. That was when I fell in love with the boat: the most important moment of my career and perhaps of my entire life. That memory is unforgettable to me and it will never fade from my head. But I do believe that the whole journey is important too. I started training with average coaches and ended up with excellent ones, who made me change my mentality and approach; all of these goals were important to me as they made me improve. All the people who stood by my side me during these years of sailing, like my coaches and teammates, were fundamental. I could talk about all the races I won, but what really count are the moments I spent with people and the feelings I shared with them. However, I believe the moments I spent by myself are just as important, because the time spent on the boat really makes you think. You look at the horizon and see nothing; that gives you a sense of smallness and makes you wonder about your place in the world. All the times I came back to the port after training were important moments of reflection.
In your opinion, what’s the sailing culture like in Europe? And outside of Europe?
It's a kind of culture that seeks a reconciliation with nature. I believe that in Europe people enjoy sailing because it allows them to escape the city or the countryside they live in, so that they can connect with the sea, the wind and nature in general. I don't think people like to sail only to brag about it, to prove something to others. Probably some of the people who own a boat do think so, but this has nothing to do with the sailing world. The sailing world is very different, it wants to get back in touch with nature. I am not sure what is it like outside Europe, but surely if you ask any European citizen this question, you will get similar answers: it is something deeply rooted in European sailing culture. Of course, it's not an easily accessible world: it definitely has an elitist side and I believe that being more accessible would be a great advantage for it.
As a sailor, what are the best advices they ever gave you?
I was given a lot of advice during my career, but one in particular was very powerful to me and changed my way of thinking both inside and outside the sailing world. I remember one day, on our way back from training, my coach and I were talking about Matteo, one of the Italian top-sailors. We were talking about his mindset, and my coach said to me "Whenever Matteo does something wrong, he shuts down and starts thinking about it, so that he can keep the lesson in his mind, trying not to repeat the same mistake in the future. And once he learns the lesson, he laughs at anyone who repeats his own mistake". The first part was fundamental for me, because every mistake we do has to be worked hard on. If you feel that something in you or your behaviour is not right, then you must immediately work on it and do everything you can to change it. This has been fundamental in my learning process in any field, because everything I do wrong remains embedded in me and I try my best never to do it again. It's important not to forget your own mistakes, otherwise there's no point in making them.
Is there a fashion component in sailing?
I do think so, there's a fashion component even in sailing. The image of the boat is there and I don't think it's well used – just think of the few sponsorships on boats. I think that for sailors dressing well on and off the boat helps giving a positive image of the team. On the boat you'll never see a skilled sailor dressed badly. Fashion is a way of expressing oneself and this is true for sailors as well. It has also some psychological consequences, of course, because giving a better image of yourself pushes you to try to keep up to that standard, being more confident in your skills and potential – and I have to say that any opponent would even feel intimidated by a more stylish sailor. In my opinion, fashion can help you value yourself compared to others. Even a better-looking boat can "frighten" the opponent.
Our magazine is called DARE CLAN, "the ones who dare". Is there a 'daring' component in sailing?
I dare when I find myself on the edge. When on a boat, you have a lot of responsibilities and I know that if I showed my fearfulness, it could negatively affect my teammates. So, instead of dropping out, I push harder to get to the edge. I love extreme situations, where a mistake can result in a catastrophe – the adrenaline is pumping and I feel more alive than ever. So yes, I dare in the most extreme situations to get the best out of my mates and myself.
Talk about anything you want to talk about that I haven't asked.
In conclusion, I would like to say that in sailing, as in any other sport, beyond the individual moments, the most important thing are the personal ties with the people you live with. In sailing, I felt a team unity that I have found nowhere else. The team is what marked me the most. There is no result without the team.
Follow Marco's sailing adventures on his instagram.