Leonardo on a journey with “Lo Spirito di Stella” to promote inclusion, sport and solidarity

22 February 2024

"Wheels on Waves 2023-2025 – Around the World" is a project of great ethical and social significance, realised in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Defence. It involves a round-the-world journey on the catamaran "Lo Spirito di Stella," the first fully accessible catamaran, offering people with disabilities the opportunity to experience the sea in complete freedom by breaking down architectural and psychological barriers. Leonardo is proud to support this initiative, which embodies technological innovation, inclusion, and the pursuit of excellence – values that are fundamental to our identity and that we passionately cultivate as an indispensable basis for progress and knowledge.

Sport as a vehicle for inclusion and solidarity: this is the mission of the Wheels on Waves 2023-2025 – Around the World project, the result of the commitment of Andrea Stella, a sailing aficionado who became disabled following an accident. His determination to return to sailing led him first to build "Lo Spirito di Stella," a catamaran fully accessible to all, and then to found the homonymous non-profit organization in 2003 to promote the rights of people with disabilities and raise public awareness about the importance of breaking down architectural barriers.

"Lo Spirito di Stella" departed from Genoa, Italy in October 2023, and will return to La Spezia in the spring of 2025. During its journey, it will cross paths with the Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian Navy's training ship, which is also engaged in a world tour to promote Italy abroad, and its historical and cultural traditions. The two vessels will meet in October 2024 in Darwin, Australia, and sail together until their return to Italy.

The Wheels on Waves endeavor is unique in the world of sailing: 18 metres of high technology and total accessibility, where the sea and sailing become a metaphor for inclusion. On board are individuals from the Italian and foreign Armed Forces, civilians and military personnel, who became disabled while serving. In particular, the Italian Armed Forces participate with athletes from the Paralympic Sports Group of Defence (GSPD), who, alternating, are an integral part of the crew, and whose presence on board represents a further step in their rehabilitation and social and work reintegration process.

After the Atlantic crossing, the last port of call for the “Spirito di Stella” was the port of Miami in Florida on February 8, from where it set sail again towards Tampa Bay, along a route that will take it across the Panama Canal and, through the Pacific, to Australia, along the coasts of Asia to the Middle East and finally returning to the Mediterranean.

The journey is also promoting various research projects, both environmental and oceanographic, and of medical-scientific interest, particularly using telemedicine to monitor the health status of the crew members and study the human body under stress conditions.

For Leonardo, as a main sponsor, this project has a dual significance. First, it provides the opportunity to reaffirm the fundamental value of diversity as an essential element within a collaborative and inclusive work environment. Transforming every difference into an opportunity for growth through teamwork is a strategic factor for competitiveness and innovation, key elements that ensure sustainable growth.

Secondly, it attests to the shared values that inspire the Armed Forces’ and Leonardo’s activities: both dedicated - in their respective fields - to promoting Italian excellence in the world, ensuring security and reliability, high technology, and great professional specialisation, combined with constant attention to people. For this reason, in addition to the Wheels on Waves project, Leonardo will continue to support the Paralympic Defence Sports Group - in the three-year period 2024-2027 - in various Italian and international sporting events.

Just as the “Spirit of St. Louis”, nearly a hundred years ago, marked the record for Charles Lindbergh's first solo non-stop transatlantic flight, today "Lo Spirito di Stella" is a pioneer in the endeavor of an "equatorial circumnavigation," where every disability contributes to its success. And Leonardo, always committed to delivering technological innovation in service of people's well-being, inclusion, and safety, is proud to be part of the crew.

Fair winds!