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Fabio Buzzi, the legendary Italian engineer, boat designer and powerboat racing champion, died in an accident yesterday (Sept 17, 2019) during the closing stages of an attempt to beat his own speed record between Monte Carlo and Venice. He was 76. Two of his three crewmen also perished.

Born on the shores of Lake Como in 1943, Buzzi took part in his first boat race at the age of 17. The boat sank. He said later: “People who are not sinking are not good designers; they’re not at the limit.” By the age of 20 he had won the first of many titles, and for a period during the 1980s boats designed by Buzzi ruled the world of offshore racing.

Fabio Buzzi

Fabio Buzzi

Spotting a loophole in the rules he oversaw the design of the 8-liter Seatek diesel engine, cramming four of them into the 105-mph monohull Cesa 1882. With 700 hp more than its gasoline rivals, it won World, European, U.S. and Italian Class 1 titles in 1988. The following year he campaigned a four-engine catamaran of the same name, so dominating the sport that the Union International Motonautique rewrote the rules. Buzzi moved on to long-distance Endurance racing, and chalked up more successes.

He specialised in setting records, including the round-Britain, Venice-Monte Carlo, New York-Bermuda, and Monte Carlo-London. He set a new mark for diesel boats in 1978 of 102.89 mph, revisiting the record periodically. In March 2018 he raised it yet again, to 172.44 mph.

After scratch-building two cars during his engineering studies at the Politechnico di Torino, he declined job offers from Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo and set up as an independent boat designer in 1971. FB Designs has more than 50 patents for drives and control systems and has designed high-speed craft for numerous government agencies and leisure boat companies, of which the Sunseeker Hawk 38 is the most recent.