Tidal swing in Rolex Middle Sea Race
Published on October 18th, 2020
(October 18, 2020; 1700CEST) – As the rich got richer on day two of the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race, having squeaked through the Strait of Messina just ahead of a change in direction of the dominant current, the wind shut down for the lead boats, swinging the pendulum back for the bulk of the fleet.
Looking at the overall picture, the five racing multihulls all passed Stromboli between 0400 and 0800 CEST, with Ricardo Pavoncelli’s Mana (ITA) and Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi70 (ITA) leading the way.
Around this same period the front running monohulls were exiting the Messina Strait. At 0545 CEST I Love Poland, skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski, was first through the narrow stretch dividing Sicily from mainland Italy, with Wild Joe (HUN), E1 (POL) and Aragon (NED) popping clear about 45 minutes later.
The remainder of the fleet were hugging the mainland shore searching for positive counter current and any available breeze to help them up the 20nm channel.
Approaching the evening of the second day, Mana and Maserati are locked together north of Palermo, midway between Capo Gallo and the island of Ustica. They have 50nm to run before making the turn south, just off Trapani and the Egadi Islands.
Some 30nm behind, Ultim’ Emotion (FRA), Shockwave (AUS) and Primonial (FRA) are engaged in their own battle. According to the forecast, there is still north westerly wind filling the Sicily Strait. It is not set to last and there look to be holes in the pressure between the multihulls and the grail-like turning point.
Brian Thompson called in from Stromboli to report: “We are having a fantastic race with the other multihulls, but with Maserati we are glued together. We are just 500 metres ahead of them going across the ocean at 20 knots.”
The two trimarans have not always been so close, according to Brian: “We did split with Maserati on the way to Messina, which was a bit risky, but we wanted to go where the wind was. We did a few more miles but it paid off as we did it faster and made a net gain.”
For the multihulls, their assault on the course record of 49 hours 25 minutes and 3 seconds is in the balance.
For the leading monohulls, a mix of IRC Class 1 and Class 2 yachts, the second key juncture of the race has been negotiated. I Love Poland led the selection round the volcano of Stromboli and the islet of Strombolicchio at 1230 CEST. The Swan 50 Balthasar was one of the last to round, three and a half hours later, but reassuringly in the lead provisionally after time correction.
With so much of the race still to go, it will be a small comfort for the Belgian crew, but a nice present for their skipper, VOR veteran Louis Balcaen, who celebrates his birthday today. Eric de Turckheim’s Teasing Machine (FRA) is three minutes behind on corrected time, with Freccia Rossa (ITA) in third, a further three minutes back. This group is now stretching its legs as best it can, heading west, with the likelihood of a long and difficult night ahead.
Gordon Kay of Wild Joe reported in at 1330 CEST: “We’ve just rounded Stromboli, cracking sheets to Trapani. We had a very good, interesting day yesterday.” It has not all been plain sailing. Some good decisions blighted by hydraulic problems, leading to issues with the headsails. Gordon ended on an optimistic note: “We’ve just the VO70 in front of us, so plenty to do, but a good race so far.”
Of the smaller yachts, the French crew on Dominique Tian’s Tonnerre de Glen will have been thrilled to have sneaked through the strait on the tails of the bigger yachts. Life seems to be looking good given they have now overhauled the JP54 The Kid Mermaid (FRA), the Scuderia 65 Hagar V (ITA), and the V65 Sisi (AUT), rounding Stromboli at 1630 CEST.
The next boats in Tonnerre’s class are Katsu (GER) and Made in Midi (FRA), some 11nm astern and making slow progress to the talismanic volcanic island known to mariners as the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean. The almost-perfectly conical island is 900m high, two km in diameter and rises 2000m from the sea bed. It has been in a state of near-continuous eruption for 2000 years. Rounding at night can be as spectacular as the day with orangey-red spouts of lava clearly visible.
Maltese entry Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso retired overnight with a damaged forestay. All crew are safe and well.
IRC Class Round Up:
Boat of the race so far is I Love Poland. Rarely out of step with the wind, the Polish maxi is pushing on, keeping Marton Josza’s RP60 Wild Joe a solid 45 minutes behind on the water throughout the day. The Marten 72 Aragon (NED), skippered by Wouter Roos, is a further 50 minutes back. Under time correction, Wild Joe leads by an hour and a half from Aragon.
The story of the day has to be Louis Balcaen’s birthday present. Balthasar led in class at both Messina and Stromboli, and even holds first overall by just over two minutes from the NMYD 54 Teasing Machine and almost four more minutes from Vadim Yakimenko’s TP52 Freccia Rossa.
First through the funnel at Messina, Tonnerre de Glen held a commanding lead on the water and after time correction from Carl-Peter Forster’s Aquila 45 Katsu and Kito de Pavant’s Class 40 Made in Midi. Tonnerre was also lying fifth overall at this point, moving up to fourth at Stromboli. Given the Ker 46 is the only yacht in class to have rounded this mark, she is in a good position heading into the third day.
After IRC time correction at Messina, Maltese First 45 Elusive 2, skippered by Aaron, Christoph & Maya Podesta, was leading the class and an impressive third overall. Marco Paolucci’s Italian Comet 45 Libertine was second with Luigi Stoppani’s Italian Frers Swan 48 Mia third.
Racing in light airs can be frustrating and one has to feel for the Maltese Dufour 44R Ton Ton Laferla. Having sailed a brilliant race for 24 hours, Ton Ton Laferla failed to escape the strait before the tide turned and could only watch as a huge class lead evaporated as the fleet sailed up from behind. Alexey Moskvin’s Russian J/122E Buran now leads the class on the water. After IRC time correction at Messina, Max Müller’s German Luffe 4004 Prettynama2 leads, with the First 40.7 Maltese Falcon in second and Buran in third.
Timofey Zhbankov’s Russian JPK 10.80 Rossko was the first boat in class to pass through the Strait of Messina. However, three French boats are leading the class after IRC time correction at this point. Jean-Francois Nouel’s Sun Fast 3200 Hakuna Matata leads and was eighth overall. In second place was the J/109 Jubilee, raced double-handed by Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas. Third at Messina was Jean Luc Harmon’s JPK 10.10 Raging Bee.
In the IRC Double Handed Division, Jubilee was leading at Messina by approximately two hours after time correction. Francesco Cerina & Riccardo Angelini racing the Giro 34 Lima (ITA) was second with Marco Paolucci & Andrea Fornaro racing the Comet 45 Libertine (ITA) in third.
About the Race:
The Rolex Middle Sea Race was established as the result of sporting rivalry between great friends, Jimmy White and Alan Green, two Englishmen residing in Malta, together with Paul and John Ripard, two Maltese members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Jimmy, Alan (later to become the Race Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), Paul and John would eventually map a course designed to offer an exciting race in different conditions to those prevailing in the immediate Maltese coastal waters.
The 606nm course, essentially a clockwise circumnavigation of Sicily starting and finishing in Malta, would be slightly longer than the RORC’s longest race, the Rolex Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as used today, although sailed in the reverse direction. The Rolex Middle Sea Race course record has been broken on five occasions since the inaugural edition in 1968.
The course record, established by George David’s 90-foot Rambler (USA) in 2007, is 47hrs 55mins 03 secs. The multihull record of 49 hours, 25 minutes, 1 second was set by the Multi70 Maserati in 2016.