• A Finish With A Flurry




    OCTOBER 24, 2019
    Not so Elusive after all
    The 40th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race has continued to provide plenty of twists and turns. For many yachts the race is over; they are tied up to the dock, enjoying the hospitality of the Royal Malta Yacht Club or the historic city of Valletta. Some 54 yachts have completed the course to date. With 17 yachts officially retired, a further 42 are still out on the course. The wind in the Sicily channel finally started abating today and a transition zone is moving eastwards from the western Mediterranean. Later tonight (Thursday, 24 October) a north-westerly flow will start to dominate.


    The standings in all classes are beginning to take shape and the overall picture is now in sharp focus. This afternoon, at 16:30 CEST, the Maltese First 45 Elusive 2 was announced as the overall winner of the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race.


    Late last night it had looked likely that 2018 race winner, Géry Trentesaux’s Courrier Recommandé (FRA), might be the first yacht to win the race back-to-back since Nita IV won three in a row between 1978 and 1980. As it was, the Blackwater incident on Day 4 (Tuesday), which saw a number of yachts standing by to lend assistance to the dismasted catamaran, ended up influencing the results. The Jury had to sit for several hours today hearing requests for redress from the crews involved. At the end of the final hearing the results were recalculated. Elusive 2 had moved into the lead with a margin of 15 minutes.


    For the Podesta siblings - Aaron, Christoph and Maya - racing the yacht and, indeed, their mother Christine ashore – this is a massive moment. The three have raced together every Rolex Middle Sea Race since 2002, except 2014 the year of Aaron’s marriage. When they first started racing as a trio, it was with their father, Arthur, who in turn had taken part in every race since 1968 until his untimely death in 2015. For the Podesta children to continue the family legacy is a commitment of effort and emotion.







    Arthur won the race, himself, as crew on three occasions with Josian in 1968, Tikka in 1970 and Saudade in 1983. The only minor blemish on his otherwise impressive record was that he never won the race as skipper of his own yacht; something he tried very hard to do. Significantly, though, his knowledge, experience and, above all, passion for the race have been passed onto his children. All three are exceptional sailors in their own right. This win is a tremendous confirmation of their talent and determination. It is equally affirmation of the lessons learnt with their father.


    “Our father was with us on the boat and everything that we have managed is down to him and for him,” said an emotional Maya. “The race itself has meant a lot to us for a long time and this result is 18 years in the making. We started racing because my dad wanted us to join him. We quickly picked up the bug, and we have always wanted to climb up the ladder, and now we have done it.”


    “A huge portion of this race is preparation, as soon as we finished last year's race we started preparing for this year,” advised Christoph. “The boat was fantastic, it did not fail us in any way and that was a big part of our success. Winning this race is a massive achievement for us, the whole crew is family and friends.”


    “This win hasn't sunk in yet. All of our sailing is planned around this race, it affects our family plans, but the whole family realise how important it is to us,” explained Aaron. “Their support gives us the possibility of putting in so much preparation. This is the top, the name Elusive has been associated with the race for 18 years and it is an unbelievable achievement to win against the best.”


    Elusive’s arrival at 19:31 last night was the beginning of 24 more hours of activity at the finish as 26 more yachts filed in, a number helping to complete class podiums. The stories from the boats were primarily focused upon the extraordinary upwind conditions encountered on the leg from Pantelleria. For most, the wind had not been the problem. It was the waves that posed the greatest danger. Short, steep and increasing in size as the wind built, yachts were subjected to jarring and slamming as they punched through to Lampedusa. On the following leg to Comino, the angle was a little easier, but it was still an upwind fetch.


    Elusive was not the only yacht to receive a time deduction from the Jury. Four Xp 44s, that enjoyed a colossal scrap throughout the race were all awarded time for lending their support. In the end, it was Sean Borg’s Xpresso that won through, beating their Maltese sistership Xp-act, co-skippered by 14-year-old Richard Schultheis on his first race and Timmy Camilleri on his 26th race, by 30 minutes on corrected time.









    In IRC 6, Ludovic Gérard's JPK 10.80 Solenn (FRA) has provisionally won IRC 6. This is the French team’s second race. In 2018, they lost out to Timofey Zhbankov's JPK 10.80 Rossko (RUS) in class by just 30 minutes on corrected time. This year, racing in the largest class of 25 crews, Solenn and Rossko engaged in a 606nm match race. Arriving this morning, half an hour apart, Solenn won by just four seconds on corrected time in a dramatic finish at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.


    “Can you imagine how intense that was? Winning by just four seconds is peanuts, it is just one bad tack,” commented Ludovic Gérard. “The first two or three days were difficult, we had very little wind and at Messina for example we struggled with the current.” As for the competition presented by Rossko, Gérard was full of admiration. “We were rarely apart for the whole race,” he continued. “At Lampedusa, we did make a break from them. We thought that the wind would change direction, so we went south while they went to the west. We ended up two miles behind.” It was on the final short leg from Comino to the finish, that Solenn made the decisive move, heading inshore.


    The smallest boat in this year's Rolex Middle Sea Race is Pegasus (ITA), the Akilaria 950. Just 9.5m (31ft) and raced double-handed by Francesco Conforto and Roberto Rovito, at sunset on the fifth day of the race (Wednesday 23 October), Pegasus was approaching Pantelleria. Conforto and Rovito decided to pull in to assess the weather conditions for the final 200 miles of the race. “We made the difficult decision to retire,” commented Conforto. “There was too much wind and the waves were sometimes over four metres high. The wind is due to turn northwest, which will mean the sea will be even more agitated. We felt that it was not safe for Pegasus to continue.”


    The Pegasus crew has every intention of making the prize giving in Malta this Saturday. They will not be disappointed. A Maltese win, and perhaps especially this one, will be cause for an even bigger celebration than usual.


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    OCTOBER 23, 2019
    Out with the Old, In with the New
    The fifth day of the 40th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race has been a bountiful one on the docks of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, as yachts start to finish in numbers and tales of the race are shared. The strong winds to the west of Sicily have, as predicted, begun to affect the contest for the overall prize. Rambler’s near 24-hour tenure at the top was ended by Black Pearl’s arrival early this morning. The turnovers then came thick and fast and, at press time, the ClubSwan 42 BeWild is sitting atop the pile. With 84 yachts on the course, including three yet to round Favignana at the halfway point of the racetrack, there is plenty of racing left.


    The Rolex Fastnet Race winners Richard and David Askew, with the Volvo 70 Wizard, were the second yacht to finish, arriving just after midnight on Wednesday morning. Never really in contention for the overall race win after a less than perfect start followed by a difficult opening passage to the Strait of Messina, the American maxi finally asserted her ocean-racing pedigree in the open water after Favignana. On what has been a fetch from Lampedusa, Wizard was able to stretch away from a group formed of R’92 Pendragon (HUN), Wild Joe (HUN), Aegir (GBR) and Aragon (POL), which had been snapping at her heels. These four yachts eventually finished in a 50-minute window between 05:00 and 06:00 CEST. The first three within 8 minutes of each other.


    When Black Pearl (GER) crossed the line at 08:24 CEST, the crew were clearly elated to have completed the course and to have topped their class (IRC 2) in the process. There was a sense that too many boats were still at sea for any thoughts to turn to greater glory. Theirs had been a hard race, especially the second half. “This boat is built for reaching and downwind more than upwind, so whenever we go upwind it is like a rodeo. You get bounced around, it’s hard to catch a nap and it’s even harder to cook. Boiling water becomes a hazard,” explained owner, Stefan Jentzsch. “It was tough, but every year there is a tough part and that is what we like about the Rolex Middle Sea Race. It was a fun race and we’ll have to see about the result. There are great competitors out there and I am sure they will give us a hard time to the very end. The best boat will win as always.”


    Half an hour later, the first of the two Cookson 50s arrived. Franco Niggeler’s Kuka 3 (SUI) beat Brian McMaster’s Riff Raff by 30 minutes on the water. Then, just as the lunch crowd was gathering on the deck of the RMYC, the ICE52 PrimaVista-Lauria, skippered by Italian Olympian and round the world sailor, Pietro D’Ali, and whose crew included Olympian and 49er World Champion, Gabriele Bruni from Sicily, crossed the line. Already winners of the Rolex Middle Sea Coastal Race, PrimaVista-Lauria slipped into the overall lead of the Class 3 and more significantly event by 40 minutes.





    “We have a very good crew and we know each other very well, so we were pushing the speed of the boat all the time,” commented D'Ali. “We played the shifts very well and never stopped, especially on the northern part of Sicily, where there were many holes in the wind. It was like inshore racing.” One of many key points on the course was the approach to San Vito Lo Capo. “We went offshore at the right time, just before the big wind hole inshore near Trapani,” advised D’Ali. This was very important, as we knew after rounding Favigana, the south-easterly would fill in.”


    PrimaVista-Lauria was followed across the line by two more yachts featuring world sailing stars, this time two short-handed round the world sailors from France. Seb Josse on Frederic Puzin’s Corum-Daguet 2 and Jean-Pierre Dick skippering the The Kid.


    The next major arrival was Lee Satariano’s Maltese entry, Artie III, with Christian Ripard in the crew. A two-time winner of the race, Satariano’s latest boat is a step up from previous projects based on production yachts. Artie III is an HH42 and as the crew reached the RMYC dock to the cheers of the assembled crowd, it was clear they had endured, as well as enjoyed, the race.


    Satariano, on his 13th race, expressed real satisfaction with the boat, but admitted they have a long way to go to get her up to full speed. He was also very complimentary about his crew, a mix of experience, youth and skill, some of whom were on the race for the first time. “It’s good to be back after a couple of years away. I’m really happy with the boat,” said Satariano. “For a first race with this boat, part of long learning process, we have gained a lot. We can really work on improving her now. The crew have worked really hard, especially young ones and especially when it got really tough in the last part.”





    “I can’t really pinpoint any one part of the race that was the hardest tactically, but the first night was very hard,” said tactician Christian Ripard, on his 30th race. “We suffered because we are lacking some of the right sails, but we picked the right moves. And, we were with the big boys to Capo San Vito, when the wind came.”


    After a slow start, the race turned into a true test of stamina and determination. “It was truly rough after Pantelleria,” said Ripard. “We didn’t manage any cooking from yesterday morning on. The boat is very fast, but it’s really brutal. Very hard to stay in one’s bunk. It was better sitting on the rail, but then the watch system goes out of whack. Fortunately, we are a lot of good sailors and could rotate.”


    At 15:40 CEST, BeWild, the leader in Class 4, crossed the line leapfrogging into first place by just over an hour. “We have sailed this race seven times and the weather has always been different,” commented Renzo Grottesi. “BeWild is a good boat in light air, but it was difficult to decide which way to go. Then, for the last 200 miles, we were in strong winds. The humour on board and working as a team made us strong. It is a long race, with very strong competition, and you only relax when you have finished.”


    The twists and turns are far from done. Boats due in later this evening are in with a chance of podium places if the wind holds, particularly between Comino and Marsamxett Harbour where it has been directly on the nose and slow-going for the tired crews. Malta Focus


    With Artie tied up to the dock, the question remains which Maltese yacht will win under IRC handicap. The Podesta family on Elusive 2 are pushing extremely hard, in sight of Comino. Just behind, Timmy Camilleri and the 14-year-old Richard Schultheis on Xp-act are continuing their close fight with Sean Borg’s Xpresso. Ramon Sant Hill’s Comanche Raider III are on the leg from Lampedusa, while Jamie Sammut’s Unica is about to turn the corner, with Jonathan Gambin’s Ton Ton Laferla Insurance just ahead. JYS Jan, the all-female crew skippered by Gabriella Mifsud, has left their sistership, JYS Jarhead, skippered by Andrea Azzopardi, far behind on the leg to Pantelleria. Andrew Agius Delicata/ Matthew Gabriele’s double-hander Vivace is just south of Trapani, with Jonathan Camilleri Bowman’s Maltese Falcon II just behind.

    18:00 CEST IRC Class Analysis
    Based on Provisional Results/Tracker Positions


    IRC 1 (distances where stated are from finish)
    George David Maxi Rambler (USA)
    Fabio Cannavale Baltic 78 Lupa of the Sea (ITA)
    Przemyslaw Tarnacki Marten 72 Aragon (POL)


    IRC 2
    Stefan Jentzsch Carkeek 47 Black Pearl (GER)
    Eric de Turckheim NMYD54 Teasing Machine (FRA)
    Gerard Logel IRC52 Arobas² (FRA)


    IRC 3
    Pietro D'Ali ICE52 PrimaVista-Lauria (ITA)
    Frederic Puzin Mylius 15 Corum Daguet2 (FRA)
    Daniel Adrián Sydney 43GTS Adrian Hoteles Macaronesia (ESP) 5nm


    IRC 4
    Podesta Family First 45 Elusive 2 (MLT) 7nm
    Renzo Grottesi ClubSwan 42 BeWild (ITA)
    Arto Linnervuo Xp-44 Xtra Staerk (FIN) 15nm


    IRC 5
    Géry Trentesaux JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommandé (FRA) 12nm
    Tom Kneen JPK 11.80 Sunrise (GBR) 30nm
    Peter Gustafsson J/111 Blur (SWE) 36nm


    IRC 6
    Jaques Pelletier Milon 41 L'Ange de Milon (FRA) 61nm
    Ludovic Gerard JPK 10.80 Solenn (FRA) 116nm
    Timofey Zhbankov JPK 10.80 Rossko (RUS) 114nm


    IRC DH
    Daniel Martín Figaro II Inteman (ESP) 149nm
    Martin Hartl/Harald Wolf J/109 2Hard (AUT) 201nm
    Fabiijan Roic Akilara 40 Crazy (CRO) 126nm


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    This article was originally published in forum thread: Malta Eases The Rolex Middle Sea Racers Into A Mellow Initial Stage started by Photoboy View original post