Slow pace continues for Middle Sea Race

Published on October 20th, 2020

(October 20, 2020; 1700CEST) – With the multihull dogfight between MOD70s Maserati and Mana finally concluded last night at just after 2030 CEST, the 41st Rolex Middle Sea Race finds the multihull chapter nearing its end today while the monohull story gets interesting.

The overview sees three multihulls in the clubhouse, with two left to finish, while 42 monohulls are spread from Lampedusa all the way back to Stromboli. For the crew of the German yacht, Logoff, it must feel like they are on the set of Groundhog Day given they have yet to round the volcanic island mark. It may feel the same on the leading monohulls, the Grzegorz Baranowski skippered I Love Poland and Martin Jozsa’s Wild Joe.

Yesterday evening, the two were well on their way to Pantelleria and sailing at over 10 knots, but 24 hours later they are only 120 nm further on, having reached Lampedusa. If it was painful during the night, the daylight hours today will have been excruciating.

The Polish VO70 reached the southern-most mark of the course at 1100 CEST today, and six hours later they are past the pancake flat island, but only just. The crew on Wild Joe used the Poles’ discomfort to make up ground lost at Pantelleria, but they too are now stuck. It has taken four hours to sail the length of the five and half mile-long island.

I Love Poland called in to report they were in good humour in spite of the hold ups encountered on the course: “We are stuck with no wind just after rounding Lampedusa. From the beginning of the race, we have been focused on speed and sailing according to our navigation plan. In a few hours time, some wind should come in, and then we should be able to continue and sail straight to the finish line. The whole crew is motivated, and we will be pushing forward during the last night – just as soon as the wind allows it.”

Gordon Kay called in from Wild Joe at Lampedusa: “We had a mixed day yesterday. We let I Love Poland get in front of us at Favignana. We then sailed very different courses down to Pantelleria. It went okay, but then we made a ‘slight tactical error’ and positioned ourselves a little too close to Pantelleria and parked for a number of hours. I Love Poland moved on, probably, 20nm in front of us. Once we got away, we went into hunting mode.”

Wild Joe steadily ate into the lead and enjoyed watching the larger boat getting bigger and bigger. “It is going to be very interesting this final run to the finish,” concluded Kay. He is not wrong. While the wind is expected to turn further to the south, it is forecast to build from the west. Whichever one of the two picks it up first could gain the next significant advantage in the battle for monohull line honours.

At 1700 CEST, 16 teams, racing under IRC, had passed the island of Favignana. TP52 Freccia Rossa (RUS), skippered by Vadim Yakimenko, was leading overall after time correction. Less than 19 minutes behind, on corrected time, Eric de Turkheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine (FRA) continues to press hard. Dominique Tian’s Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen (FRA) was in third, an hour behind.

Twelve of those boats are also past Pantelleria, where Freccia Rossa has extended her lead by six minutes on Teasing Machine, but nearly three hours on Tonnerre. The wind does looks to be filling in, but from the south. Those heading to Lampedusa will be upwind, those on the leg to Malta will have a much more favoured angle.

After Maserati crossed the finish line in Marxamxett Harbour last night at 2041 CEST, skipper Giovanni Soldini relished the victory. “That was really a great race. There were many, many moments. It was really a close contact race. We were always together with Mana. It was all about speed and manoeuvres.”

It was clear that both crews had enjoyed the race, despite its intensity. “Giovanni is a great competitor,” said Brian Thompson, skipper of Mana. “For us, it is a lot more fun, more enjoyable, to come second to Maserati and have that amazing battle and learn so much about this new boat than to have won it by a country mile sailing on our own.

“To be in the zone, for so long, focused on that battle, was just fantastic. We are very happy for Giovanni and his crew.” Any pain felt by Mana with defeat on the water may have been soothed by a likely win under corrected time. If that comes to pass it will be honours even for two exceptional crews.

IRC Class Update:

IRC 1 (Lampedusa Transit)
Wild Joe leads I Love Poland by nearly 7 hours on corrected time. Aragon (NED) was four hours behind Wild Joe at Pantelleria and will need a big improvement in fortunes to dislodge Wild Joe.

IRC 2 (Pantelleria)
Freccia Rossa holds a 25-minute lead over Teasing Machine with The Kid Mermaid (FRA) in third, almost 19 hours behind.

IRC 3 (Favignana)
Tonnerre de Glen was nearly seven hours ahead of the class on corrected time at Favignana and third overall. Carl-Peter Forster’s RP44 Katsu (GER) was second in class, Lee Satariano’s HH42 Artie (MLT) was third. At Pantelleria, Tonnerre’s lead over Katsu was still seven hours.

IRC 4 (Favignana)
First 45 Elusive 2 (MLT), skippered by Aaron, Christoph & Maya Podesta, was the only boat in class to have rounded Favignana and ranked sixth overall in the fleet. Some 100 miles astern was Marco Paolucci’s Comet 45 Libertine (ITA), racing double-handed. In his first ever race, Luigi Stoppani and the Swan 48 Mia (ITA) were third in class on the water.

IRC 5 (Favignana)
Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44R Ton Ton Laferla (MLT) was the only boat to have rounded Favignana. Alexey Moskvin’s J/122E Buran (RUS) has had a great leg north of Sicily to close the gap to 14 miles. Off Palermo, Paul Debono’s Elan 410 Bait (MLT), another race debutante, is having a private battle with Francesco Cerina’s Giro 34 Lima (ITA).

IRC 6
Timofey Zhbankov’s JPK 10.80 Rossko (RUS) was 37 miles from Favignana leading the class. 20 miles astern was Leonardo Petti’s J/109 Chestress (ITA). Jean-Francois Nouel’s Sun Fast 3200 Hakuna Matata (FRA) lies third on the water.

IRC Double Handed
Natale Lia’s Mylius 14e55 Zenhea Takesha has continued to take an offshore position north of Sicily and still leads the class. Further inshore Marco Paolucci & Andrea Fornaro, racing Comet 45 Libertine, look to have made a gain. Alessio Bernabui’s Akilaria 40 Crossing Routes – Vaquita has also taken an inshore line, going into Castellamare del Golfo. The move looks to be paying off for Alessio who is racing with Francesco Cappelletti.

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606 nautical mile course

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.

Source: RMYC

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