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Thread: Rolex Middle Sea Race Underway

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    Rolex Middle Sea Race Underway



    17.00 CEST Even with a reduced fleet, half the size of recent years, it was hard to not get sucked into the emotion and atmosphere of today’s Rolex Middle Sea Race start. The 41st edition got underway, as planned, on schedule and, most importantly, all clear. Seven starts and 50 yachts. Given the backdrop of a global pandemic, it marks a remarkable achievement for the organisers, the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and its highly professional volunteer team. As we go to press, the main body of the fleet is streaming across towards Capo Passero on the south eastern tip of Sicily. Impressively, the leading multihull, Maserati (ITA), was abeam the lighthouse on Isola di Capopássero at 1445 CEST, a mere 2.5 hours after its start.

    Meanwhile, the VO70 I Love Poland, skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski, leads the monohull fleet on the water, passing Capo Passero just after 1600 CEST. The VO65 Sisi-Austrian Ocean Race Project, skippered by Gerwin Jansen was approximately 20 minutes astern with Marton Jozsa’s Hungarian RP60 Wild Joe behind.









    It was a glorious day to start a yacht race. Valletta’s golden limestone bastions, rising boldly from the waters of Grand Harbour, bathed in bright sunshine. The force 4 north westerly, creating a whitecap strewn vista beyond the breakwater, was sufficient to allow crews to clear the line with relative ease. The pin end at the foot of Fort St Angelo was understandably favoured with Valletta casting a wind shadow over section beneath the Saluting Battery, where the race committee was located. The early starts were close fought affairs with teams keen to press home an advantage on their immediate opposition.

    Class 1 Start
    The most powerful monohull start, and the penultimate in timing, took a while to wind up. Aragon (NED), the biggest in the fleet, belted across the start with the smaller Wild Joe on her hip and just to leeward. The arguably more powerful I Love Poland and E1, together with Sisi-The Austrian Ocean Race Project were slow to power up in a diminishing wind. Aragon held position and nerve to exit on one tack. Once on the wind, I Love Poland took control overhauling both Aragon and Wild Joe by the turning mark at St Julian’s. If conditions do as predicted, the Polish crew will have their work cut out to protect the lead overnight. Many of the Polish crew on E1 are doing the race for the first time. Sailing skipper and helmsman Rafal Sawicki was enthusiastic ahead of the start: “We’re a mainly amateur crew, and we are very happy we can do this 600-mile race even with all the problems around the world. It is really good that the organisers have managed the race and we can take part. It is a must do race.”

    Multihull Start
    The six-boat multihull class was an extraordinary sight. Reminiscent of a Klingon battle fleet (for anyone that remembers Star Trek from the 1970s), five racing trimarans set up their timed start-line runs from deep within Grand Harbour. Poor Asia, the Outremer 55 Light, more cruising than racing in this company, looked like a startled rabbit in the headlights as she tried to keep clear and find her own lane. Riccardo Pavoncelli’s MOD70 Mana crossed at speed edging Maserati and leaving Antoine Rabaste’s larger Ultim’Emotion in her slipstream. Mana only arrived in Malta yesterday evening. Brian Thompson commented ahead of the start: “We are very excited about this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race. It is probably the best multihull fleet we have had and, this year, the racecourse looks as challenging as ever.”

    Maserati had cut their arrival time even finer, reaching the Valletta Fairway Buoy at 0800 CEST this morning and starting the race without setting foot on Maltese soil in an effort to avoid a period of isolation when they return to Italy after the race. It was quite a sight as Maserati chased Mana through the fleet after exiting the harbour, eventually overhauling them 10nm after the laid mark at St Julian’s.










    Class 2 Start
    The five-boat group is many people’s favourite to provide the overall winner under IRC. Eric de Turkheim’s Teasing Machine (FRA) has form at this race winning her class in 2017 and finishing third overall. Vadim Yakimenko’s Russian TP52 Freccia Rossa has won the Rolex Giraglia and is reckoned to be a demon in the light conditions predicted to lie ahead. These two led from the line with Freccia Rossa breaking free of the harbour confines ahead of Teasing Machine.

    Class 3 Start
    A fight for the favoured pin end caused several teams to suffer a less than perfect start. Maksim Nemchenko’s Farr 45 Favorit plus, stayed out of trouble and perfectly executed towards the middle of the line. Dominique Tian’s French Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen adopted the same tactic. Favorit plus led the class out of Grand Harbour, much to the delight of the team whose home port is Kotor, Montenegro. At 1700 CEST Kito De Pavant’s Class 40 Made in Midi was leading on the water.

    Class 4 Start
    Right from the gun, two Maltese yachts locked horns in a battle that is set to continue around the 606nm course. Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso and First 45 Elusive 2, skippered by Christoph, Aaron & Maya Podesta, both made a great start. While Xpresso was the first boat in class to leave Grand Harbour, after rounding the Fairway Buoy, Elusive 2 soon took up pole position on the water.








    Class 5 Start
    Jonathan Gambin’s Maltese Dufour 44R Ton Ton Laferla judged their approach to the start to perfection and found good breeze to win the exit from Grand Harbour with the crew stacked high on the windward rail. Also starting well were Paul Debono’s Elan 410 Bait in their first race, Jonathan Camilleri Bowman’s Maltese Falcon II, Alexey Moskvin’s J/122E Buran and Max Muller’s German Luffe 4004 Prettynama2. Towards the back was Italian entry Mia. The owner, Luigi Stoppani, is taking part in not just his first ever Rolex Middle Sea Race, but his first race ever: “Last year I bought my boat, and decided I needed to get to know myself and my boat better. So I took the chance to participate in this race. There are many difficult parts, but we are prepared: the boat, the sails, and the crew, we are ready to start.”

    Class 6 Start
    The Grand Soleil 40 Aziza, sailed by a Latvian crew and skippered by Ilgonis Balodis, started on port tack at the pin end and pulled off a stunning start. Starting well too was the young Maltese team on J/109 Jarhead, skippered by Lloyd Hamilton. Another J/109, Chestress from Italy, also put in a good start. The owner, Leonardo Petti, is on his second Rolex Middle Sea Race: “We have not sailed as a crew since the race last year. We wanted to, but it has not been possible,” Petti announced. “I think this is one of the most beautiful races I have ever done. The course is fantastic. It is wonderful to see volcanoes, to experience hard conditions. It’s tough.” One of the smallest yachts in the race had the honour of leading the class out of Grand Harbour: Jean-Francois Nouel’s French Sun Fast 3200 Hakuna Matata. At 1700 CEST, Jean Luc Hamon’s French JPK 10.10 Raging Bee was going well.

    Seven teams are racing Double Handed, front runners on the water are three Italian boats: Marco Paolucci’s Comet 45 Libertine, Natale Lia's Mylius 14 Zenhea Takesha and Alessio Bernabui’s Akilaria 40 Crossing Routes – Vaquita. Going well after time correction is the French J/109 Jubilee, sailed by Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas.
    Following the Rolex Middle Sea Race


    For more information, visit www.rolexmiddlesearace.com
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    Stromboli Achieved!



    1700CEST The classic moan in offshore yachting is how the ‘rich get richer’; often aimed at the bigger, faster yachts using waterline length and sail area to profit from tidal gates to gain an advantage over their smaller rivals This morning, it certainly looked that way as day two of the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race dawned. A clutch of boats squeaked through the Strait of Messina just ahead of a change in direction of the dominant current. As the door shut on those behind, it looked like a game changing moment for the race as a whole. As ever though, ‘it ain’t over, till it’s over’. Just as those en route to Stromboli let out a sigh of relief, the wind shut down. The game is still on.

    Looking at the overall picture, the five racing multihulls all passed Stromboli between 0400 and 0800 CEST. 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.

    As we head into 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.











    First Maltese boat on the water is currently Lee Satariano’s Artie III, just ahead of Elusive 2 skippered by the Podesta siblings. It was not always so. Artie III had been leading comfortably as the HH42 reached Etna, sailing inside the rhumb line. Following its GPS Tracker plot, it appears to have become stuck, perhaps in the lee of the famous mount. Elusive 2 and Ramon Sant Hill’s Ben Estates Comanche Raider sailing east of the direct route to Messina were able to make the clearly favoured turn northeast to the mainland side of the entrance to the strait and, in doing so, almost stole a march on Artie III. At sunrise though, all three were together again. Artie III wriggling free of Etna’s clutches and managing to keep pace with her rivals, even if now behind.

    It was a tortuous passage north through the channel. Sailing within touching distance of the shoreline, Elusive led throughout the journey until they reached Villa San Giovanni and the brunt of the counter current. Elusive’s tactics appear to have gone awry at this point offering Artie the opportunity to slip across to the north side of the strait and back into the lead. Crushingly, Comanche Raider found herself glued to the southern side seemingly unable to escape the grip of Scylla, the six-headed sea monster that Greek mythology sites on the Calabrian shore.

    Comanche Raider is currently sailing in company with Jonathan Gambin’s Ton Ton Laferla, some seven nautical miles back. The young sailors on Jarhead, Paul Debono’s Bait and Jonathan Camilleri Bowman’s Maltese Falcon II form the next group of local boats a further 4nm back. The Jarhead crew is all 18 years old or under and learnt a valuable lesson today from their highly experienced British skipper Lloyd Hamilton.

    Lloyd explained the rationale behind their tactics in the strait, which has kept the team in the race. “After attempting to make headway by every means possible, it was impossible to maintain any forward momentum,” explained Lloyd. “We were going backwards and at risk of going aground in a busy commercial shipping area. We took our lat’ and long’ then informed the race committee that we were suspending racing. We motored to a safe place to anchor.” Under the race Sailing Instructions, all boats are permitted to do this, so long as there is no advantage gained.

    Finally and sadly, the eighth Maltese entry Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso retired overnight with a damaged forestay. All crew are safe and well.

    IRC Class Round Up

    IRC 1
    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.

    IRC 2
    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.










    IRC 3
    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.

    IRC 4
    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.

    IRC 5
    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.

    IRC 6
    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.
    Following the Rolex Middle Sea Race

    During the race there will be live daily updates on Facebook at 0900 each day (and other times to be advised).

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    The Rich Get Richer



    OCTOBER 19, 2020
    2020 | Rolex Middle Sea Race : Degrees of Separation
    1700 CEST. After another long day, the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race may record its first finisher this evening. At the time of going to press, the two Italian powerhouse trimarans, Maserati Multi70 and Mana, are 30nm shy of the finish struggling in a light wind band in the lee of Malta. Despite their immediate difficulties, they are over 400nm further along the track than the backmarker on the course.

    It took until 2330 on Sunday night for the pair to clear Favignana and settle into the leg south to Pantelleria and eventually Lampedusa. Running dead downwind is not a favoured point of sail for the tris, and the crews will have put in a proper shift gybing their way down the 165nm section. Reaching Lampedusa at midday, any hope of a simple routing back to Malta would have been tempered by the predicted hole in front of Malta, evident on most public wind models. Still locked together after over 550nm of racing, Maserati holds a slight edge over Riccardo Pavoncelli’s Mana, but Giovanni Soldini’s crew will need their wits about them to convert that to a victory.


    When we left the Rolex Middle Sea Race monohull fleet yesterday, a handful of participants had rounded the mark at Stromboli. 24 hours later, there is only one yacht left to get around the landmark: Carsten Sommer’s Logoff. The German crew was subjected to a real Messina Strait experience in the small hours of this morning (19 October) and has 13nm to run.


    As predicted, the wind conditions to the north of Sicily were light and fickle during Sunday night and throughout Monday. Every boat has experienced some form of park up in little or no wind. The length and extent of the disruption has varied. Some boats appearing to escape relatively unscathed, others overwhelmingly frustrated.








    At the front of the monohull fleet, a fascinating duel continues to develop. At the Favignana transit point, the gap between I Love Poland and Marton Josza’s Wild Joe was around 0.5nm and three minutes on the water, with Wild Joe seven hours ahead on corrected time. An enthralling race to the finish beckons. There appears to be a thin slither of wind from the north on the eastern side of the Sicily Strait offering reasonable pressure down to Pantelleria. The slither looks likely to diminish in strength overnight, while turning more easterly in direction before building again. At the same time, the situation around Lampedusa at the bottom of the course looks particularly sketchy.

    When the two boats passed Stromboli yesterday afternoon, they were separated by approximately 10nm. That distance was maintained until the Polish VO70, skippered by Zbigniew Gutkowski, was abeam the Aeolian island of Alicudi. At this point she fell into a hole, speed dropping off rapidly, while the Hungarian Reichel/Pugh design kept on moving, almost slipping into the lead until they too sank into the quicksand. I Love Poland’s lead had compressed to three miles as the two started moving. By San Vito lo Capo, the gap had shrunk still further.

    Some 20nm back, Eric de Turckheim’s Teasing Machine (FRA/IRC 2) and Vadim Yakimenko’s Freccia Rossa (RUS/IRC 2) are keeping pace despite also experiencing a testing night. Passing Favignana just before 1600 CEST, the pair are chasing hard. The impressive IRC 3 entry, Dominique Tian’s Tonnerre de Glen (FRA), continues to forge a path hard in the heels of the larger Balthasar (BEL/IRC2). Tonnerre passed San Vito lo Capo at 1530 CEST, far in advance of her immediate competitor Carl-Peter Forster’s Aquila 45 Katsu, 34nm behind, and outpacing her bigger rivals Hagar V (ITA), Sisi-the Austrian Ocean Race Project and The Kid Mermaid (FRA).

    There is real excitement among the Maltese boats. The desire to be first boat home is strong and there are three, possibly four, boats in contention despite being in different classes. Lee Satariano’s Artie III (IRC 3) led the Podesta siblings’ Elusive 2 (IRC 4) around Stromboli at 2145 CEST on Sunday. The two continued on towards Trapani locked together. Then, at just before 2330 CEST, Jonathan Gambin’s Ton Ton Laferla and Ramon Sant Hill’s Ben Estates Comanche Raider passed the volcanic island. From Salina, things became a bit of a lottery and by Alicudi, some 20nm on, Artie, Elusive and Ton Ton were virtually line abreast. By 1700 CEST, Elusive, lying due north of Palermo, had managed to establish a clear lead over Artie, 5nm to the north east, with Ton Ton only marginally behind, two miles to the south. Comanche Raider continues to push, but has fallen away.

    Towards the back of the fleet, Dave Latham on the Reflex 38 Intuition, the sole GBR flagged yacht in the race, reported in from just north of Filicudi: “We are currently at the bottom of a snake in this game of snakes and ladders.” Jan Scharnetsky and Lars Gerchow, the double-handed crew racing the Dehler 30 One Design, Atlas, also off Filicudi messaged in: “Sunset was a true redemption on Sunday evening after a tough passage through the Messina Strait!”

    Jonathan Camilleri Bowman, skippering, Maltese Falcon sent in a video report: “Last 24 hours have been both interesting and amazing. A great start, nice and speedy up to Sicily. We lost some ground going to Messina, mainly due to some of the decisions we have taken! The strait proved quite tricky as usual, but we had some really good tactics helping us breeze through compared to some others. The team is happy, motivated and doing well. We are all happy to be here doing this amazing race. Thank you to the committee and the organisers!”







    IRC Class Round Up


    IRC 1
    Wild Joe holds a two-hour lead over Aragon (NED) at the Favignana waypoint. The GPS tracker on E1 (POL) has stopped functioning so transit times are unavailable and Sisi (AUT) has to reach Palermo. Wild Joe and I Love Poland are closing in on the multihull Shockwave at Pantelleria.


    IRC 2
    Freccia Rossa and Teasing Machine are the only two yachts in class to have passed the transit at Favignana. Freccia Rossa has eked out a fragile lead of 19 minutes. Balthasar is another yacht whose GPS tracker is playing up, but according to an AIS plot is just off Levanzo, 27nm behind the leaders. Gregor Stimpfl’s Scuderia 65 Hagar V and Jean Pierre Dick’s JP54 The Kid Mermaid are on the approach to Palermo.


    IRC 3
    Tonnerre de Glen has continued to impress over 30 miles ahead of her class rivals. The closest on the water are Katsu, Kito de Pavant’s Class 40 Made in Midi and Artie.


    IRC 4
    Maltese First 45 Elusive 2, skippered by Aaron, Christoph & Maya Podesta has extended their class lead on the water to over 30 miles ahead of Marco Paolucci’s Italian Comet 45 Libertine. Luigi Stoppani’s Italian Frers Swan 48 Mia is still estimated to be third in class.


    IRC 5
    Jonathan Gambin’s Maltese Dufour 44R Ton Ton Laferla has pulled away from the rest of their class. Alexey Moskvin’s Russian J/122E Buran has found good breeze to place second, but the remainder of the class is making slow progress. Francesco Cerina, racing Giro 34 Lima double handed, has covered just 60 miles in the past 24 hours.


    IRC 6
    Timofey Zhbankov’s Russian JPK 10.80 Rossko still holds a handsome lead on the water. Leonardo Petti’s Italian J/109 Chestress leads the chasing pack, which includes Jean-Francois Nouel’s French Sun Fast 3200 Hakuna Matata and the J/109 Jubilee, raced double-handed by Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas.


    IRC Double Handed
    Natale Lia’s Mylius 14e55 Zenhea Takesha has taken pole position on the water. The Sicilian team took a hitch offshore north of Sicily and found good breeze. Marco Paolucci & Andrea Fornaro racing Libertine were second on the water with Jubilee in third.





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    Line Honors For Maserati



    Maserati Multi70 (ITA), skippered by Giovanni Soldini, crossed the finish line yesterday to take multihull line honours, closely followed by Mana (ITA),
    owned by Riccardo Pavoncelli, currently leading the MOCRA class after time correction.





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    Mana Y Maserati Fight To The Finish!




    1700 CEST The story of day three of the 41st Rolex Middle Sea Race was undoubtedly the dogfight between Maserati and Mana, which finally concluded last night (Monday) at just after 2030 CEST. A classic tale of boat for boat competition between two well-matched crews. Both going at it, hammer and tongs, for the entire length of a 600nm offshore race. The story of day four is less dramatic but, from a yacht-racing perspective, is still gripping. As the multihull chapter nears its end, the monohull one is getting interesting. The 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race is far from over.

    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.

    On Monday evening, the two were well on their way to Pantelleria and sailing at over 10 knots. 24 hours later, they are only 120 nm further on, having reached Lampedusa. If it was painful during the night, the daylight hours today (Tuesday) will have been excruciating. The Polish VO70 reached the southern-most mark of the course at 1100 CEST this morning. 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."


    TRACKER



    Gordon Kay called in from Wild Joe at Lampedusa: “We had a mixed day yesterday,” explained Gordon. “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 Gordon. 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. 12 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.




    In the battle of the Maltese, the Podesta siblings' Elusive 2 appears to have made a decisive break from her nearest competitors, Lee Satariano's Artie III and Jonathan Gambin's Ton Ton Laferla. Lee Satariano called in this morning. “Finally, we have made it past Favignana after another tough night,” advised Lee. “We are now back in the breeze. There has been a lot of upwind sailing for most of the race and that looks likely to continue. We currently have seven knots of breeze from the south east.” The crew are in good spirits, and Lee probably voiced the sentiment of the entire fleet when he added: “It is good to be back out racing offshore after what we have all been going through.”


    When Giovanni Soldini crossed the finish line in Marxamxett Harbour on Monday night at 2041 CEST he had a huge grin on his face. Soldini is a highly experienced sailor, with over 25 years of ocean racing to his credit. He won the 1999 Around Alone, a single-handed race in which he also became famous for his daring rescue of fellow competitor Isabelle Autissier, who had capsized in the South Pacific 1,900 miles from the nearest land. “That was really a great race,” said Giovanni. “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.” Giovanni was equally complimentary: "It was really nice to have a such great competitor. I think it was the best Rolex Middle Race I've ever done, for sure." It is typical of yacht racing for winners to be humble in victory and losers gracious in defeat. “To be in the zone, for so long, focused on that battle, was just fantastic,” continued Brian. “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.
    Following the Rolex Middle Sea Race

    During the race there will be live daily updates on Facebook at 0900 each day (and other times to be advised).

    For more information, visit www.rolexmiddlesearace.com
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    IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge 2020 2021 Announced




    The prime role of the International Maxi Association, as endorsed by World Sailing, is to encourage and support all forms of maxi racing internationally. In line with this remit, five years ago it introduced the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge (MMOC), to entice more maxis out on to the race course and friendly rivalry between owners. Past winners of have included Miguel Galuccio/Vera (2018-19), Carlo A. Puri Negri/Atalanta II (2017-18) and George David/Rambler 88 (2015-16).

    “At the time maxi participation was strong at inshore events – in fact the trend appeared to be towards participation in day racing and away from distance events,” explains IMA Secretary General Andrew McIrvine of the Challenge’s origins. “This series was started specifically to encourage more maxis to race offshore again. Until things came to a halt this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were regularly seeing an improvement in numbers entering the events the IMA has included in this series and duly supported.”





    The IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge 2020-21 got underway this weekend in Valletta with the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club. While a maxi yacht hasn't won this event outright since Andres Soriano's Mills 68 Alegre in 2009, during the 2000s maxis enjoyed much more success with outright winners including Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory, Carlo Puri Negri's Atalanta II, Charles Dunstone's Nokia and Robert McNeil's Zephyrus IV. But the biggest win was certainly by George David’s Rambler when in 2007 she scored the ‘triple’ – line honours, the overall win under IRC and setting a new time of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds, a record which stands to this day.

    Into 2021, and, for a third time, the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge will include, as its second event, another long-standing Mediterranean classic: Regata dei Tre Golfi. Renowned for its midnight start following dinner and fireworks at the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia clubhouse in Naples, the course takes the boats north around the island of Ponza, then south around Li Galli before finishing in Capri. This will be the 66th running of this event and as usual it forms part of Rolex Capri Sailing Week, however in 2021 it comes with a schedule change: starting on 15 May it will follow the Maxi Yacht Capri Trophy (11-14 May) and precede the ORC European Championship.

    For a fourth time the 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar will be included. This is the youngest offshore race in the IMA calendar, and in 2019 celebrated its 10th anniversary, a special race that saw George David’s Rambler 88 claim line honours and setting a race record, while Argentinean Miguel Galuccio’s RP84 Vera won on corrected time.

    Starting on 30 May 2021, the 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar starts in Livorno, Italy, rounds a mark off Marina di Pisa, crosses to the Giraglia rock, before heading south again to a turning mark, then back north to the finish off Punta Ala. With excellent parties and hospitality at the start and finish, this race is one of the fastest growing in the calendar.




    The more famous event to round the rock off northern Corsica is of course the one bearing its name – Rolex Giraglia. First run in 1953, 2021 will be its 67th edition (after the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic) and remains a joint operation between the Yacht Club Italiano and Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez. For 2021 its course will revert back to the traditional finish in the YCI’s home port of Genoa rather than Monaco. In recent years around 30 maxis have typically taken part in this event, making it one of the world’s biggest offshore events for maxis.

    The IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge 2020-21 concludes once again with the Palermo-Montecarlo race. This will start from a line off the Circolo della Vela Sicilia clubhouse in Palermo on 21 August 2021 and then heads to a gate monitored by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda off Porto Cervo, before passing Corsica and on the finish where the event is hosted by the Yacht Club de Monaco.

    IMA members must compete in a minimum of 3 races from the series, with their best 3 results counting if they do more.

    IMA prizes will be presented at each of these events, while the overall winner will receive a vintage silver cup which is the Challenge’s perpetual trophy. The winner will receive this trophy at the IMA Dinner at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda during September’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

    Andrew McIrvine concludes: “We are cautiously optimistic that by next season we will be past the most difficult times of restrictions due to the coronavirus and will be able to enjoy a more normal season of maxi racing.”

    IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge 2020-21

    17 October 2020 - Rolex Middle Sea Race - Valletta to Valletta, anticlockwise around Sicily, via Messina, Stromboli, Favignana, Pantelleria and Lampedusa
    15 May 2021 - Regata dei Tre Golfi - Naples to Capri, via Ponza and Li Galli
    30 May 2021 - 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar - Livorno to Punta Ala, via Giraglia, Formiche di Grosseto
    16 June 2021 - Rolex Giraglia (offshore race) - Saint-Tropez to Genoa, via Giraglia
    21 August 2021 - Palermo-Montecarlo, via mark off Porto Cervo

    (by James Boyd / International Maxi Association
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    I Love Poland Secures Mono Line Honors




    1700 CEST What a day. No one following this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race had foreseen that two 70-foot ocean-racing maxis would match race the final 10 nm to the finish line to decide the monohull line honours title of the 41st edition of the 606 nm classic offshore. Even late last night, this appeared an unlikely scenario. For the two yachts concerned, both from Poland, it was a fairy tale ending with the winner only decided in the final few miles.

    In the end, it was I Love Poland, owned by the Polish National Foundation and skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski, that outmuscled their compatriots, the largely Corinthian crew from the Yacht Club Sopot near Gdansk, on E1, to secure the prize. I Love Poland had held the race lead virtually all the way from the very start, but when the two VO70s entered the South Comino Channel, at the north western end of Malta, just before 1000 CEST, the unfancied E1 had the temerity to take the lead. It was a short-lived moment of glory, as I Love Poland took the gun by a mere 3 minutes after four days of racing.

    “We are very happy. It was a combination of perfect crew work, perfect navigation and a bit of luck,” said a clearly fatigued Grzegorz, shortly after stepping ashore. “It was really tough from the beginning, with a lot of tacks at the end.” Despite a weather forecast that looked to favour the lighter boats, Grzegorz and his team of young sailors, mostly under the age of 30, were confident that if they did their best they could prevail. “When we saw the forecast, we knew there was going to be one or two real light spots,” recalled Grzegorz, a member of Karol Jablonski’s 2002 Match Race World Championship winning crew. “But that didn’t mean no wind. When we passed the first spot, we said ‘okay guys, probably only one more.’ But then it was one more, then another one more, and then another… We did it, but it was really frustrating sitting with no wind, lot of waves, the sails flapping.”








    For Johannes Schwarz, owner of E1, it had been a great contest. “I am super happy because we are probably the only pro-am team among the leading boats,” commented Johannes. “Only three professionals on board and the rest of the crew were members of the Yacht Club Sopot. We had a great spirit and our skipper, Zbigniew Gutkowski, is a brilliant tactician.”

    A quick look back at the records suggests this is the first ever line honours success for a Polish boat at any of the classic 600-mile races, which include the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Rolex Fastnet and Newport to Bermuda. “It was an amazing day for Poland,” enthused Johannes. “Of course, we would like to have won line honours, but seeing our colleagues winning on I Love Poland makes us really happy.” As well as congratulating his fellow competitors, Johannes was quick to applaud the Royal Malta Yacht Club for putting on the race: “I hope this proves a good example for other organisers. If you organise the event in the right format, it is possible. Sailors love to race.”

    “We really didn’t expect that kind of fight right at the end,” continued Grzegorz. “Our boat is a special government programme for young sailors to learn offshore sailing. For them this has been a perfect experience. They now know you have to fight to the end. They will remember this for ever.”

    The young crew of I Love Poland had a secret weapon in its midst, the talented French sailor Benjamin Schwartz, recent winner of the EUROSAF Mixed Offshore European Championship with Marie Riou and a member of the Spindrift Racing team. Onboard as navigator, this was his third time round the course. Benjamin was clear this would be a difficult race. “I knew it would be long with a lot of gates, park ups and restarts with regrouping of the fleet,” explained Benjamin. “I knew that each time we made gains we would also make losses. It was going to be hard on the nerves. It makes it even more beautiful to win.”

    There were a number of key points in the race. “The first was Messina,” Benjamin remarked. “We had the current against us so we could not make the gate. Then, we managed to get away thanks to a cloud that pinned others to the shore. It was a bit complicated across to the Egadi Islands. We made a big gain rounding Pantelleria, escaping the wind shadow nicely. Then last night was horrible. There was no wind for hours. We were match racing Wild Joe, which had done a brilliant race to that point, and then E1 did a nice move that we could not control. But it came good in the end.”










    While the monohull line honours battle may be over, the war for overall winner is far from won. As we close for the evening, only eight of the 38-boat IRC fleet have completed the course. Currently heading the leaderboard, is the French yacht Tonnerre de Glen, owned by Dominique Tian, which finished at 1501 CEST, bumping Freccia Rossa off top spot. Tonnerre look unbeatable in their class, IRC 3, which puts them in a good position for the all-important overall win. However, with so many yachts still at sea, and some with clear potential to unseat them, the crew has a tense wait ahead, taking nothing for granted.

    According to Eric Dahar, the boat captain, it was a fantastic race. “It is our third Rolex Middle Sea Race,” he explained. “Our first goal was to continue to perform, because we have won our class both times previously. Our other goal was to take our opportunities if the weather was good for us. We have done that and now we need to wait.”

    Looking back down the course, according to times at the Lampedusa transit point, one of Tonnerre’s biggest threats is the Maltese yacht Elusive 2. Jointly skippered by the Podesta siblings and winner of the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race, the Beneteau First 45, racing in IRC 5, scraped around the lonely outpost 40 minutes inside Tonnerre’s corrected time at the same point. Elusive, the clear leader among the Maltese contingent on the water, is now on the long leg back to the Malta archipelago with about 75nm to the finish. Yet another exciting finish is in store.









    DAY 5 CLASS UPDATE

    MOCRA
    All multihulls have finished the race, with Christiaan Durrant’s Shockwave (AUS) the last across the line at 0740 CEST this morning. Riccardo Pavoncelli’s Mana (ITA) maintained her position at the top of the corrected time results to win overall from Maserati Multi70 (ITA) and Shockwave.

    IRC 1
    Four of the five boats in this class have completed the course. Sisi-The Austrian Ocean Race Project is the last out at sea with about 35nm to run. Aragon, the Marten 72, entered by Andries Verder and Arco van Nieuwland, leads the class from Wild Joe (HUN) and I Love Poland.

    IRC 2
    Again, four out of the five boats have finished, with Jean Pierre Dick’s The Kid Mermaid 35nm off the finish. Louis Balcaen’s Belgian ClubSwan 50 Balthasar looks to have secured the class ahead of Vadim Yakimenko’s TP52 Freccia Rossa (RUS) in second and Eric de Turckheim’s NYMD54 Teasing Machine in third.

    IRC 3
    Dominique Tian’s Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen (FRA) finished the Rolex Middle Sea Race just after 1500 CEST, winning IRC3. Carl-Peter Forster’s RP45 Katsu (GER) was 60 miles from the finish, and second after time correction at Lampedusa with Kito De Pavant’s Akilaria 40 Made in Midi (FRA) in third. Lee Satariano’s HH42 Artie (MLT) had rounded Lampedusa fourth in class with 110 miles to go.

    IRC 4
    The First 45 Elusive 2 (MLT), skippered by Aaron, Christoph & Maya Podesta, has a huge lead in class. Marco Paolucci’s Comet 45 Libertine (ITA) and Luigi Stoppani’s Frers Swan 48 Mia (ITA), were 100 miles behind Elusive 2. Both had rounded Pantelleria.

    IRC 5
    Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44R Ton Ton Laferla (MLT) was leading IRC 5 and approaching Lampedusa with 120 miles to go. Two miles astern was Alexey Moskvin’s Russian J/122E Buran (RUS). Approaching Pantelleria, Paul Debono’s Elan 410 Bait (MLT) was just ahead of Francesco Cerina’s Giro 34 Lima (ITA).

    IRC 6
    Timofey Zhbankov’s JPK 10.80 Rossko (RUS) was 155 miles from the finish leading the class on the water and after time correction. Rossko’s nearest competitors was Leonardo Petti’s J/109 Chestress (ITA), 18 miles astern and one hour behind on time correction. Jean-Francois Nouel’s Sun Fast 3200 Hakuna Matata (FRA) was third.

    IRC Double Handed
    The leaders have now passed Pantelleria. Natale Lia’s Mylius 14e55 Zenhea Takesha (ITA) leads on the water with an impressive 24 hour run of 161 miles. However, 30 miles astern, Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas’s J/109 Jubilee (FRA) was leading at Pantelleria after time correction. Marco Paolucci & Andrea Fornaro, racing the Comet 45 Libertine, were second under IRC.
    Following the Rolex Middle Sea Race

    During the race there will be live daily updates on Facebook at 0900 each day (and other times to be advised).

    For more information, visit www.rolexmiddlesearace.com
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