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A Magnificent Maltese Start

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  • A Magnificent Maltese Start

    October 23, 2021
    A Grand Day in A Grand Harbour

    1700 CEST The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race has so far lived up to expectations, putting on a sensational start. All 114 yachts got away cleanly in a fresh south-easterly breeze that built from 10-12 knots, in the confines of Grand Harbour, to 15 knots plus once past the outer breakwater. From the smallest to the largest, the slowest to the fastest, it was a magnificent sight. The impressive bastions of Valletta, Vittoriosa and Senglea providing a fitting setting for this highly competitive fleet, as cannon fire signalled each start.

    The fleet is currently spread between Syracuse to the north and midway between Malta and Sicily, to the south. Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo (USA) is leading on the water, with Skorpios, the ClubSwan 125, the first monohull. The race is on for the leaders to reach the Strait of Messina where the current is now heading north and turns foul just before 2100 CEST. The Maxi Multihulls are hoping to keep enough of the breeze to the east of Sicily to make a seamless trip into the Tyrrhenian Sea and into the brisk easterly established to the north around Stromboli. This morning, Will Oxley, navigator on Mitch Booth-led Comanche (CAY), was uncertain if the Maxi Monohulls would be able to take advantage of this window of opportunity, but still felt confident that a new race record is on the cards.


    Class Starts

    The Multihull class was the first off the start line at 1110 CEST. Antoine Rabaste’s Ultim’Emotion (FRA) and Riccardo Pavoncelli’s Mana (ITA) hit the line at speed, with Maserati Multi70 in the second row and Argo even further back. A wind shadow created by Fort St Angelo, a feature of every subsequent start, compressed the fleet, but it was Mana first out of the harbour. Spare a thought for the intrepid cruising trimaran Minimole (ITA), a Neel 47, also part of this start. Aldo Fumagelli and his crew must have watched in wonder as the four mega-beasts sped away. At least they will have comfortable overnight accommodation to look forward to. The three 70 footers made short work of the passage to Capo Passero, at the southeast corner of Sicily, and the first transit point of the course. Touching 20 knots at time, Mana, Argo and Maserati were virtually line abreast, with Ultim’Emotion on their hip. At 1432 CEST Maserati reached the Sicilian shore with a 10-minute lead on the water over Argo and Mana. Giovanni Soldini is showing no intention of relinquishing his line honours crown, and perhaps multihull race record, without a fight.

    The final start, and seventh, of the day was reserved for the fastest monohull entrants and some of the largest. The group ranged in size from the clutch of 52 footers up to the, frankly, overpowering 42.56m/140ft Skorpios. The towering mast of the Swan yacht is taller than the Saluting Battery from where the Royal Malta Yacht Club race team, led by Principal Race Officer Peter Dimech, controlled proceedings. Skorpios and the 30.48m/100ft Comanche took some time to wind up to warp speed. Both were caught briefly in the irritating wind hole just off the line. Meanwhile, George David and his five-time line honours winner, the 27m/88ft Rambler, took full advantage to lead the class out of the harbour and to the first mark of the course just past the breakwater. By Dragonara, proper order had been established with Skorpios leading Comanche and Rambler at the turn to the north. Compared to the Maxi Multihulls, the leading monohulls made the crossing to Sicilian at a relatively pedestrian pace of around 13 knots, arriving at Capo Passero later in the evening.

    Congested Starts

    The slowest yachts in the international fleet that represents some 25 countries set off at 1120. Their start was a less dramatic than the spacecraft that had preceded them, but it was full on. Some 28 yachts filled the gap between Valletta and Fort St Angelo. The favoured position appeared to be just beyond the mid-point of the line, towards the pin, avoiding any issues caused by the sheer-sided St Peter and Paul Bastion beneath the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

    Unsurprisingly it was a Maltese boat, Calypso, that launched. Even less surprisingly, the tiny J/99 was crewed by the Ripard family, whose name is etched into the history of the race. Leonardo Petti’s well-sailed J/109 Chestress (ITA), Noel Racine’s JPK 1030 Foggy Dew (FRA), and the JPK 1080 Rossko (RUS) of Sergei Desukevich all made great strides in the early stages, as did Kiboko Tatu (USA), George Greer’s Arcona 380. These smaller yachts are the real spirit of the Rolex Middle Sea Race. It will take them between four and six days to complete the course. In the words of Gabriele Spagiari, skipper of the smallest competing yacht, the Hanse 311 Catina 4 (ITA): “It is a challenge within a challenge. The first part is to complete the race, the second is to do our best against boats that are all bigger than us!” These yachts will experience more weather than most over the course area: good, bad and indifferent. This year they are likely to be buffeted twice - first, at dawn on Sunday 24 October, when upwards of 25 knots are forecast east of Sicily, and then again on Monday afternoon around the Aoelian Islands, where similar windspeeds are expected. For one member of the otherwise experienced crew on the Russian J/99 Space Jockey, taking part in his first ever sailing race of any kind, the first couple of days could be a proper baptism.

    The third start was another congested line, with all the action at the St Angelo end. Timofey Zhbankov’s 1080 Rossko Racer (RUS), Tom Kneen’s JPK 1180 Sunrise (GBR) (winner of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race), the First 40 Tevere Remo Mon Ile (ITA) and the J/111 Blur (SWE) (winners of the 2021 Yachting Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday) all took off like scalded cats. The Italian crew would reach the Dragonara turn first. Meanwhile, the all-American crew of J/122 Noisy Oyster made a more restrained start. The crew, led by John Duncan, is a mix of seven US West Coast and Mid-west friends, who have raced together for many years. According to crew member Marian Lambrecht Hoskins, whose husband John is the navigator, “This is a bucket-list race in a beautiful location. We are a little nervous because the conditions look challenging at times, in keeping with the race’s reputation. But overall, we are excited.”

    Expectant Starts

    The next three starts saw some of the highly fancied yachts get underway. The Maltese contingent included the Podesta-led First 45 Elusive 2, winners of the past two-editions; the HH42 Artie III, with multiple winners Lee Satariano, Christian Ripard (with more than 30 races under his belt) and Timmy Camilleri (on his 28th race); and Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44 Ton Ton Laferla, third overall under IRC in the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race. Potential international contenders included French yachts, Jacques Pelletier’s Milon 41 L’Ange de Milon; Federic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3 – Corum; and Eric de Turkheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine with ocean race winner Laurent Pages in the crew. The Swiss Cookson 50 Kuka 3 skippered by Franco Niggeler will relish the more challenging elements, while British entrant James Neville with the HH42 Ino XXX will be looking to better his second place in this summer’s Rolex Fastnet Race.

    Tomorrow there will be a live morning update on Facebook and an afternoon press release with all the news from the course.

    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    The Race Of A Lifetime

    Once in Every Lifetime Comes a Race Like This

    1700 CEST The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race continues deliver. After shredding the first 450 nautical miles of the 606nm racecourse the front-running Maxi Multihulls are only 66nm from the finish and expected in some time after 1930 CEST, well inside the race record of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds set in 2007. The leading Maxi Monohulls are also treating the existing benchmark with disdain and look set to better the time as well, albeit not so comprehensively. It has not been plain sailing for any of the fleet. In the early hours of this morning, many yachts to the east of Sicily were greeted with rapidly building wind, which has persisted throughout the day both north and south of the Messina Strait.

    After yesterday’s spectacular start in Grand Harbour, Valletta, the fleet made quick work of the passage north to Sicily. Out in front, a triumvirate of multihulls - Maserati (ITA), Mana (ITA) and Argo (USA) – together with a trio of monohulls – Skorpios (ESP), Comanche (CAY) and Rambler (USA) - were rolling like unstoppable trains. Waterline length, colossal sail area and highly skilled crews combining with a steady easterly gradient to power up the frequently treacherous route to the Messina Strait. Even Etna appeared to take note, choosing yesterday to erupt, sending a plume of ash and smoke into the Sicilian sky. Air traffic was brought to a standstill. The racing yachts hardly had time to notice the sideshow.

    Mario Debono reported in this morning from the Maltese yacht Janissah (MLT), summing up the experience of many: “Late last we were hit with sustained winds of 40 knots. The seas were pretty rough too. We’re now in the Messina Strait, with very little wind. At least the crew are well fed!” On Escapado (GBR), Dave Pritchard noted: "A breezy night, beam reaching in the Strait. Just passing the spit to escape and it is a bit tricky. The crew are keeping a good eye on the depth. Next we visit Stromboli!" Meanwhile, the double-hander Ludovic Gérard, on Solenn for Pure Ocean (FRA), found time to advise: “All good on board, we’re now on the way to Stromboli. There is a contest between the JPK 1080s and the 1030s. We are always so close to each other! The wind is a strong easterly now, and we are eager to round Stromboli and set our spinnaker.”

    In recent years crews have cursed the light winds in the narrow channel for holding them up. This year, they provided some respite with the mountain ranges that dominate the Calabrian peninsula, on the toe of mainland Italy, protecting yachts from the brunt of the powerful easterly. Those same mountains, however, were funnelling the wind above and below the strait. To the north, winds have been gusting in excess of 40 knots from Stromboli to Favignana for the whole of Sunday.

    Records are falling everywhere, and it is hard to keep up with the rapid progress. Until last night the fastest time to the Stromboli transit was 16 hours 8 minutes, set by the trimaran Mana last year. Previously, the 30.5m/100ft monohull Leopard had held the record at 16 hours 10 minutes, from 2009. Indeed, only six yachts had ever reached the volcanic island in under 17 hours. In her five line honours victories, the current Rambler had never come close to that time. By this morning, four yachts had rounded the talismanic landmark in under 15 hours and three more in an astonishing sub-12 hours. Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi70 passed the island at 2220 CEST, with Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo rounding 25 seconds later, following a ding-dong battle, which is continuing to the finish.

    Maserati and Argo steadily separated from Mana during the passage to Favignana. Once they turned south, they extended still further despite the obstacle of a light transition zone just beneath the Egadi Islands. The front two pressed on averaging close to 30 knots en route to Lampedusa, while Mana looked to be wallowing off Pantelleria. Maserati reported in: “We have been experiencing Caribbean-style squalls with the clouds coming in off North Africa. Very sharp increases in wind speed, followed by torrential rain and no wind.” Right now, having lost the initiative early this morning, the Italian crew look to be struggling to stay on terms with their American opponent.

    Among the monohulls, the 42.56/140ft Skorpios ripped round Stromboli at 2335 CEST, followed by Comanche 12 minutes later and Rambler 45 minutes behind. The three made good time to Favignana, before arriving at the threatening hole established in the middle of the Strait of Sicily. Skorpios appears to have come off worse, ceding hard won territory and the advantage to the smaller, but still capable Comanche. The elastic band keeping Rambler in touch has shrunk from just over 30nm to just over 20nm. Comanche is about to hit the fresh north-westerly just south of Pantelleria and, if so, will stretch her legs and pull out a solid lead on her nearest competitors.

    Among the smaller boats, the ride has been somewhere between frightening and exhilarating. Most of the fleet still racing are past Stromboli and are currently surfing downwind and towards the west in big seas with wind that shows little sign of abating before Monday morning. The skies are overcast and heavy with rain; thunderstorms have been reported off Trapani. So far, there have been 10 retirements from the 114 entries.



    Only three have passed the north-west transit. Comanche is leading Rambler by one hour, with Skorpios approximately two hours further behind. The next yachts - Way of Life (SLO), I Love Poland (POL) and Viva Mexico (MEX) – are just north of Capo lo San Vito.


    Teasing Machine (FRA) is leading on the water with Kuka 3 (SUI) just behind and closer to the Sicilian shore. Daguet 3 – Corum (FRA) is showing one hour ahead on corrected time from Fra Diavolo with Teasing Machine a further 5 mins back.


    Ino XXX (GBR) leads from Artie III (MLT) and Chenapan 4 (FRA) on the water. The British yacht is over an hour ahead of Artie III on corrected time, with Freya about 11 minutes behind. Matador (SWE) and Otra Vez (MLT) are also in touch.


    Pata Negra (GBR), L’Ange du Milon (FRA) and Albator (FRA) have the edge on the water. Meanwhile, Elusive 2 leads Silveren Swaen by only 4mins on time correction, with L’Ange du Milon a further 19 mins behind.


    Sunrise (GBR) has done a horizon job on the water, leading Rossko Racer (RUS) by 24nm. At Stromboli, the British yacht was 1 hour 22 minutes ahead after time corrected with Joy-Spartivento (ITA) some 31mins behind Rossko.


    Foggy Dew (FRA) is having a close contest with Bogatyr (RUS) on the water, with Rossko (RUS) and Solenn for Pure Ocean (FRA) further back. Under time correction, Foggy Dew leads Rossko by 35mins with Solenn a further 7mins back

    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


    • #3
      New Records Established

      October 24, 2021

      This morning, Monday 25 October, the VPLP/Verdier designed 30.48 metre/100 foot racing maxi, Comanche (CAY), skippered by Mitch Booth, crossed the finish line of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race at 04:27:50 CEST to take Monohull Line Honours in an elapsed time of 40 hours 17 minutes 50 seconds.

      In doing so, Comanche has broken the previous Monohull race record, taking 7 hours 37 minutes 8 seconds off the time set by George David’s 27.5m/90ft Rambler in 2007 (47 hours 55 minutes 3 seconds).


      Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo (USA) crossed the finish line of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race at 20:39:28 CEST on Sunday 24 October to take Multihull Line Honours in an elapsed time of 33 hours 29 minutes 28 seconds.

      Argo has smashed both the existing multihull record of 56 hours 31 minutes 31 seconds, set by Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi70 in 2020, and the outright race record of 47 hours 55 minutes 3 seconds, set by George David’s 27.5m/90ft Rambler in 2007.

      Argo crew: Jason Carroll, Weston Barlow, Chad Corning, Peter Cumming, Thierry Fouchier, Charlie Ogletree, Alister Richardson, Brian Thompson.
      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


      • #4
        The Modern-day Tritons

        The open space outside the City Gate of Malta’s capital, Valletta, is dominated by a fountain comprising three bronze figures of mythological Tritons. Inspired by the Fontana delle Tartarughe in Rome, they represent Malta's links with the sea, their posture gives a sense of potency. After this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race, the tritons could easily be replaced by Maltese sailors, whose affinity with the waters that surround their island home and whose strength in the face of extraordinary conditions, have been unquestionable this past week. The accounts of their experiences over course of the race have elevated the stock and reputation of an already proud seafaring nation.

        The HH42 Artie III, jointly skippered by Lee Satariano (15 races) and Christian Ripard (31 races), was the first Maltese boat to finish on the water. Provisionally lying in seventh place overall, second in IRC Class Three, behind another HH42 Ino XXX, and the best Maltese entry under IRC Time Correction by some margin, the team was highly satisfied with their result. “We knew from the forecast it was going to be fast, so our preparation took this into account,” advised Satariano. “We adapted our watch system to ensure the drivers and tactician were kept fresh. Once or twice from Stromboli (to Trapani) we were on the limit, broaching more than once. We were prepared for these moments and kept the boat intact.”


        The current Artie project began in 2019 and the team has been steadily developing the boat from an inshore racer to a capable offshore steed. “We had been waiting for a race like this,” continued Satariano. “One that would fully test the boat and the crew. Our best points of sail are reaching and running, and the race delivered this. It was spectacular how the boat and crew responded to the tough conditions keeping on the tight rope between going fast under control and suffering damage that puts you out of the race.” Christian Ripard has seen it all before and more. “It was great fun, good conditions, good boat, good crew. It was definitely the fastest race I have done on this size of boat,” he commented, before adding, “it was a constant balance between seamanship and going fast. During the day was one thing, but at night the conditions were much worse. You don’t want to wipe out with a big kite (spinnaker) up going 25 knots in the dark.” Sebastian Ripard is the grandson of John Ripard Sr, winner of the first race in

        1968, and was a winner himself on his first race with his father on the J/109 Market Wizard in 2002. Skippering the J/99 Calypso was a memorable experience. “It was once in a lifetime forecast with that tight low pressure over the racetrack creating mainly downwind conditions,” explained Ripard. “From Stromboli to San Vito lo Capo we had anything from 30 to 50 knots and five to eight metre waves.” A nice entry into and exit from the Messina Strait was a highlight, with positive current most of the way and a back eddy on the Sicilian shore for the final part. It was not all simple. Their sail inventory resulted in a difficult situation at Stromboli. “We tried the A4 in about 30 knots, but the wind quickly picked up to late 30s, early 40s and the boat was unbelievably out of control, either broaching out or trying to scream into a Chinese gybe,” described Ripard. “Fortunately, we got it down unscathed. It would have been easier with a smaller kite” This was Ripard’s 15th race and out of the seven crew, six were Calypso finished fourth in IRC Class 6 and 16th overall. fourth in IRC Class 6 and 16th overall. fourth in IRC Class 6 and 16th overall.

        In order to win an offshore race, first you must win your class. The Beneteau 45 Elusive 2, led by the Podesta siblings, did just that, finishing at the top of IRC Class 4. The winners of the past two races were unable to convert that success to a third win overall. “It was extremely challenging and non-stop. There are always things you can do differently, but we were undone by the park up at Favignana on Monday. Boats behind caught up and boats in front extended,” said Christoph (20 races), of Elusive’s 22nd place overall. Aaron (20 races) picked out some exhilarating moments that also served to emphasise the skill and knowledge of the crew who returned undamaged: “For our type of boat, hitting 22 knots of boat speed and jumping from wave to wave was insane. Constant breeze of 30 plus knots and puffs of 37 with a kite up, we were on the limit all the time.” Maya, the third triton in the indomitable crew, has done 21 races.

        "Next in order of overall results - 28th overall/8th in IRC 6 - was the double-handed Reflex 38 Vivace, sailed by Andrew Agius Delicata (8 races) and Matthew Gabriele (5), racing two-handed for the second time. “We are very good friends, and we have complete trust in each other whatever the conditions,” explains Delicata. Gabriele was quick to identify the strong winds of the first couple of days as one of the biggest challenges: “Even after the second day we were quite exhausted. The fact that we have been sailing together most of our lives was a big support. We knew the capability of our boat and it really helped us push through.” Vivace finished 3rd in the Double-Handed Class.

        Jonathan Gambin (14 races) sailing the Dufour 44 Ton Ton Laferla has an unbroken run of participation since 2008. “This year was very different to previous races because there was wind all the way round,” he commented. The overall result was a disappointment following last year’s third place, and it was an up and down race. “We had a bad first leg and could not get the boat trimmed properly,” Gambin explained. “Through Messina was better, with good current and wind. We did not hoist our spinnaker on the heavy downwind section to San Vito Lo Capo. Then a good leg to Pantelleria was followed by a disastrous one to Lampedusa, where we lost our best spinnaker, knocked down by a squall.” (44th overall/4th in IRC 4)


        The J/109 JYS Jan (45th/12th in IRC 6) was sailed by a young crew under the guidance of Matthew Farrugia. “The crew was a mix of very good dinghy sailors aged 16 to 18,” he explained. “Half had experience of this race and half were new to offshore sailing.” Of the many highlights, Farrugia was most impressed by their attitude in the face of a very difficult set of conditions. “They knew what was coming and were absolutely the driving force,” he said. “They showed infinite energy reserves, but also good decision-making. The first night was very tough with over 30 knots from the north-east. At the end, close to Malta, visibility was so bad in driving rain we could not even see the instrument panel on the mast."

        Jarhead, another young crew, finished 72nd overall and 17th in IRC 6.

        Jonathan Camilleri Bowman, owner of the First 40.7 OpenpaydSekuritance Maltese Falcon 2 (49th/14th in IRC 6) and on his fifth race, felt it had been challenging both mentally and physically. “We were always pushing the boundary between speed and safety,” Bowman advised. “The hardest part was definitely the first night when were struck by a gust of 46 knots and huge side swells. Overall, though, I will remember the way the team pulled together and got on.”

        Finishing his 22nd race, Ramon Sant Hill, skipper of Farr 45 Ben Estates Comanche Raider III (61st/7th in IRC 3), described the scene below deck: “It is a race boat. We have water inside, sails to wash and the mess you would expect after 10 guys have been living onboard with no opportunity to tidy up during the race. It’s normal!” Every race, the highlight for Sant Hill is often the same. It is the way the crew grows up: “We are a family onboard. Every year we learn to trust more in each other and the boat. We are amateurs and invest a huge amount of time and effort in the race. Getting to the start line and finishing the race is a real achievement.”

        Royal Malta Yacht Club’s Rear Commodore House, Mario Debono, was on his fifth race and is representative of the Corinthian spirit of the race. He openly admits that his Sun Odyssey 45 Janissah (71st / 16th in IRC 6) is a cruising boat with little chance of doing well in class or the overall standings. “We are very happy to have finished this race in good shape,” Debono said. “I would like other less competitive boats to see that, if you are a good sailor, you can do this race even if your boat is not a racer. It is a real experience, a personal challenge and extremely rewarding.” Janissah suffered in the strong winds and rain of the first night, and then again on the last leg sailing upwind into the full brunt of the storm. “We were completely underwater at times, and it was worse than the 2007 race. It was, though, a magnificent race and I am proud we took on everything the Med had to throw at us and came through it.”

        Three other Maltese yachts took part but were forced to retire: Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso, Aaron Gatt Floridia’s ICE 52 Otra Vez and Paul Debono’s Elan 410 Bait.
        The Tritons Fountain was created in 1952 by the sculptor Chevalier Vincent Apap and the draughtsman Victor Anastasi. Their design was drawn from Greek mythology. Were it being conceived today, inspiration could clearly be found much closer to home.