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A Lite Wind Middle Sea Race Taking Its Sweet Time!

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  • A Lite Wind Middle Sea Race Taking Its Sweet Time!

    Light on Wind, Large on Spectacle
    Grand Harbour performed some magic today, as an assembled 118 yachts set off on the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race. The ancient limestone walls of Valletta seem to come alive in bright sunshine, and they duly offered the gathered spectators, high up on the bastions, a perfect setting to send off the intrepid fleet. While cannon fire aloft marked each start, whispering zephyrs greeted the crews at water level. Would there be sufficient breeze to exit the harbour was the key concern. As it was, all seven starting groups got away cleanly, with several yachts putting down markers as they made the best of what wind was available.

    By 1600 CEST Saturday, progress has been as expected: exacting and demanding, as the crews representing 24 countries do their best to navigate between fluctuating cells of pressure that litter the channel between Malta and Sicily. At the front, the five maxi multihulls are leading the way, with debutante Frank Slootman’s Snowflake making the early running. Among the monohulls, the tracker shows Elusive II to be ahead on elapsed time by virtue of a fast departure from Grand Harbour and the most northerly positioning on the rhumb line to the finish. No one will be getting carried away on the experienced Maltese entry. There remains a long stretch ahead just to reach Capo Passero, 90 nautical miles from Malta, let alone the finish.



    With five maxi multihulls among the eight-boat start, it was a highly anticipated moment, not without jeopardy for craft almost as wide as they are long. Even in the thin breeze they did not disappoint. These racing trimarans grace the confines of the harbour, even if more reminiscent of alien space craft. As each picked up speed off the line, they presented an extraordinary sight. The US entry, Snowflake, made the smartest break mid-line, and showed a clean set of transoms to her opposition, some of which were caught behind the three more cruising-oriented multihulls, also participating.

    Ahead of the start, Giovanni Soldini, skipper of Maserati Multi 70, confirmed the conditions pointed to some difficult days ahead. “We are expecting a very slow race, with very little wind,” said Soldini. "However, there is great enthusiasm: this is the first time that five boats like this are competing all together [in this race], so morale is high and as usual we will sell our lives dearly, even if it will be a challenge." As the afternoon comes to a close, Mana lies in second place on the water with Zoulou just behind.


    The fight to be first to finish is taking time to develop in the monohull fleet. Unsurprisingly, the Italian maxi, Bullitt (93 feet) is snapping at the heels of Elusive (45 feet) and looks set to pass before the evening sets in. Andrea Recordati’s seasoned crew will be pleased to be in front of their immediate opponents, Leopard 3, and will consider Elusive’s elevated position as a fly in the ointment rather than a significant impediment to the ambition to secure line honours. The extreme light airs mean the elapsed time standings will need some time to take proper shape.

    At the start, though, it was Leopard 3 that set the final departure of the day alight. Using massive sail area to carve a decisive path towards the breakwaters at the entrance to Grand Harbour, the Farr 100 led by Chris Sherlock was a majestic sight for the well-wishers. The smaller yachts – small being a relative term in this last group - showed plenty of tactical nous and resilience to hang onto their larger rival. The wind was still offering opportunities for the adept and alert to keep pace. For the rest of the fleet, it was a trickier affair.

    The smallest yachts had the honour of starting after the multis, and it was slow going. Shorter rigs struggling to catch the breeze that came and went. French entry, Jean Luc Hamon’s JPK 1010 Raging Bee, made the best of it at the Fort St Angelo (pin) end of the line. Her wily crew figuring a path to the harbour exit that avoided any potholes in the wind. The Maltese pair of J/109s – JYS Jan and JYS Jarhead featured in this group.

    Later in the day, JYS Jan reported in from the course: “Working our way slowly across the channel. We've got about 6 knots of very shifty wind, and we've gone from J1 to jib top to code zero. Keeping a fairly steady speed. Jarhead 100 metres away on our 8 o'clock.”

    The third grouping was led in inspiring fashion by Elusive 2, the Podestas then found great boat speed to pull out a significant lead on the leg to Capo Passero. The classic Swan 65 Kings Legend was making harder work of the situation, but showing the early intent required to finish the race for the first time in three attempts. The double-hander, Libertine from Italy, skippered by Marco Paolucci, has participated in the race on five occasions previously. This year’s assault looks to be a massive undertaking. Before leaving the dock, Paolucci remarked that: “It is not possible to predict how long it will take. We hope for six days, but we will see. Whatever, I love this race. It is the most beautiful race in the world.”

    The fourth start of the day was stolen for a while by the Polish entry Esentia, a grand Soleil 44 skippered by Marcin Sutkowski. The yellow spinnaker of Xavier Bellouard’s Pogo 12.5 Baradoz also cut a dash under the vivid blue sky and glare of the unfiltered sun as it sped towards open water.

    The next group contained some of the possible favourites. Previous form, displacement and waterline length combining to suggest this area of the fleet might be hiding the eventual winner. The less experienced Maltese entry, Luis Azzopardi and Sara Baldwin’s Xone Superyacht Corona took a few by surprise with a strong start, but the competitive juices were flowing throughout as displayed by James Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX powering in towards the Valletta seawall at the Lower Barrakka gardens before deftly gybing away to gain places and position.

    The penultimate start featuring more top guns was scorched by the Infinity 46R, Maverick from Australia. Her all-star crew has a huge number of hours on this racetrack, even if skipper Michael Firmin is on his initiation. Gordon Kay, the builder of Maverick, gleefully called in to emphasise that the smallest boat in this group had led it out of the harbour. Maverick is up against some tough opposition in class, with the likes of Red Bandit, the German TP52, Teasing Machine, the French NMYD 54, and Arobas2, the French IRC 52 breathing down her neck.

    For the Royal Malta Yacht Club race management, it is always a relief to see the fleet depart safely. The dedication and preparation of the competing crews is matched by that of the organisation, led this year by Race Director Chris Stone and Principal Race Officer Stefan Kunstman, who commented: “It was great team effort from all concerned. We were up against it at times, but we ‘threaded the needle’ provided by the wind and are looking forward to seeing how the race develops.”

    Tomorrow there will be a live update on Facebook at 0900 CEST and an afternoon press release around 1700 CEST with all the news from the course.


    Big picture observation: The entire fleet appears to have sailed east of the rhumb line, aiming to find more breeze. The first big tactical decision will be when to time the gybe north to maintain best progress to Capo Passero. The forecast suggested steady wind overnight up much of the eastern seaboard of Sicily.

    IRC 1 Andrea Recordati’s Bullitt held a slight advantage over Guidi Paolo Gammucci’s Italian Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X and the Dutch Marten 72 Aragon, entered by Arco Van Nieuwland and Andreas Verder.

    IRC 2 Hard to separate the front runners on the water, Polish entry Fast Forward was furthest west, while the Estonian Cookson 50 Furiosa of Rolf Relander has gybed north along with Fran?ois Bopp’s Swiss Farr 52 Chocolate 3 and Frederic Puzin’s French Ker 46, Daguet 3 Corum.

    IRC 3 The German Neo 430 Neo Mind of Sascha Schroeder was making good progress heading north with the French ICE 52 Mahana of Jean Yves Thomas on her hip. The Maltese HH42 Artie III co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard is furthest east along with Ino XXX.

    IRC 4 The Maltese First 45 Elusive 2 is leading on the water from Marcin Sutkowski’s Polish Grand Soleil 44 Esentia and Philippe Frantz’s French NMD43 Albator.

    IRC 5 Gianrocco Catalano’s Italian First 40 Tevere Remo Mon Ile leads by a mile on the water gybing north just before the 1600 CEST. The other leaders have sailed well east of the rhumb line including Jonathan Gambin’s Maltese Dufour 44 Ton Laferla, Ed Bell’s British JPK 1180 Dawn Treader and J/122 Noisy Oyster skippered by Wayne Zittle from California.

    IRC 6 Leading on the water is Massimo Juris’ Italian JPK 1080 Colombre. Francesco Cerina’s Giro 34 Lima Taurus Bond is the most southerly of the leading boats going well. Jean Luc Hamon’s French JPK 1010 Raging Bee continues to impress behind Colombre and with Andrew Agius Delicata & Matthew Gabriele’s Maltese Reflex 38 Vivace and Ludovic G?rard’s French JPK 1080 Solenn for Pure Ocean.

    Double Handers Solenn for Pure Ocean is already punching north while Jonathan McKee’s Red Ruby is still heading east just in front of Ondrej Vachel’s Czech JPK1030, Mary S – Vachelboat.
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    OCTOBER 24, 2022
    Multi Layers of Movement

    1600 CEST: The 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race came alive today, for some at least. It really is a race of two halves, as those crews to the west stretch their legs metaphorically in a stiff southerly, and those still to the east stretch their actual legs lying on deck waiting for the wind. The fleet is now spread between the Messina Strait and midway between Lampedusa and the finish. Mario Debono’s Sun Odyssey 45 Janissah, a Corinthian Maltese entry, has covered 65 nautical miles in the past 24 hours, and just exited the strait. Meanwhile, Riccardo Pavoncelli’s MOD70 Mana from Italy, skippered by Frenchwoman Alexis Barrier and with speed sailing record holder Paul Larsen on board, has banked 320nm and looks likely to finish tonight.

    For the majority of those still racing, last night was a tricky affair. Progress along the course set a staccato rhythm with short bursts of positive movement cut short abruptly as the wind disappeared. All the same, morale among the back markers appears to be good, with regular reports coming in from the boats, which clearly have time on their hands.

    At the front, a wholly different scenario is in play. When we left the story yesterday evening, the Maxi Multihulls and Maxi Monohulls were together to the north of Filicudi. During the hours of darkness, a low speed game of cat and mouse ensued, as the four of the fastest multis sailed in parallel pairs towards the westernmost turning point at Favignana. Mana, to the north, and Frank Slootman’s American entry Snowflake, to the south, doing their best to hold off the Italian Maserati Multi 70 and Erik Maris skippered Zoulou (FRA) respectively. Mana looked to hold the edge until just off San Vito lo Capo. The team must have been licking their lips at the prospect of entering the southerly when the boat hit the buffers. Maserati, Snowflake and, eventually, Zoulou, piled in behind and looked likely to cut in beneath Mana and overtake using the nearside line. Any adrenalin rush was quickly crushed, as they too ground to a halt. Mana promptly picked up both wind and speed, and cruised off to Favignana, with the others wallowing in her wake. Mana passed through the Egadi Islands without difficulty at 0250 CEST, with Zoulou and Snowflake about an hour later, and Maserati a further hour back.

    Beating into the southerly saw speeds rise, along with the tension as decisions on when to tack became critical. The three poursuivants were well into Tunisian territorial waters before tacking onto starboard, as they ‘banged the corner’ trying to narrow the gap to Mana. It worked for Zoulou. By Lampedusa, the French boat was only 15 minutes behind, and as the pair work east to Malta, they are 5nm apart, with Zoulou appearing to be slightly the faster. With 60nm to run the pair should be home on Monday night, but the wind needs to play along. Something it has not done up until now.

    For the leading monohulls, the Chris Sherlock-led Leopard 3 (NED) and Andrea Recordati’s Wally 93 Bullitt (ITA), the elastic to the multis started to stretch at around 2030 CEST. The pair were much closer to the rhumb line and travelling at half the speed of the multis. Presumably in a different pressure cell, they kept their course below the multis continually losing ground until the elastic snapped completely. Leopard 3 caught up with Bullitt just after Palermo. San Vito lo Capo then entered the game again, its high cliffs probably proving a barrier to the wind from the south. Leopard edged clear first, finally breaking into the solid breeze, and now holds a lead of 6nm as they approach Pantelleria. So far, only five monohulls have passed Favignana. Black Pearl and Cippa Lippa X should do so before sunset, with R?n close behind. According to the tracker, Marton Josza’s Wild Joe is using its DSS foils and battle-hardened crew to good effect and, as she heads down the western flank, has taken the lead in the overall standings under IRC Time Correction.

    For the smaller boats, it has been a night and day of little drama, indeed little anything. Sebastian Ripard called in this morning from the Maltese J/99 Calypso on the final approach to Stromboli to report that spirits were good: “We have worked hard, and sailed well to get to where we are. We have used every sail in the inventory, and now we are sitting absolutely still. It is probably time for a swim.” Calypso, racing in IRC 6, has just rounded Stromboli in company with yachts from other classes, theoretically faster but only if they can piece together the wind puzzles. In IRC 3, a real dingdong battle is underway at the front, with the two HH42s James Neville’s Ino XXX (GBR) and the Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard co-skippered Artie III (MLT) fighting out what appears to be a private duel. The two yachts have different configurations. In the current conditions, the greater sail area of Ino XXX is probably cancelled out by the drag from her twin rudders. Artie III has a shorter rig, but a single rudder, and is keeping pace with the slightly higher rated Ino XXX. As they pass Palermo at around 8 knots, the two are less than 5nm apart. According to James Neville: “All is well on board Ino, with our rivals just behind and we settle in for a long race chasing the larger boats ahead!”

    For the double handed yachts, racing with just two crew, the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race must feel like some form of ancient trial by ordeal. The first three on the water are only just approaching Stromboli, almost 12 hours after passing through Messina. Beppe Bisotto on Atame (ITA) has had the best of the day, reducing a 20nm deficit at the beginning of the strait to less than 4nm. American entry Red Ruby continues to lead the class on the water and time correction from Solenn for Pure Ocean. Ludovic G?rard on Solenn called in to advise: “We are very pleased with our performance so far, but also the competition with Red Ruby, Colombre and Calypso. It is very hot, and we are changing sails frequently, but morale is good. We have more than 400 miles to go, but are still hoping to finish.”

    DAY 3 IRC CLASS UPDATE 1600 CEST The vast majority of the boats racing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race are now through the Strait of Messina, forming a precise picture of the fleet’s ranking after IRC time correction at that point. At the front the leaders are in strong winds making good progress, while at the back light wind is being punctuated by short sharp moments of pressure, where boats have the potential to make gains.

    IRC 1: FAVIGNANA AND BEYOND Leopard 3 (NED) has just passed Pantelleria, with a small lead over Bullitt. At the Favignana transit, with seven boats through, the Reichel/Pugh 60 Wild Joe of Marton Jozsa (HUN) leads on corrected time from Jean-Pierre Barjon’s Botin 65 Spirit of Lorina (FRA) and Cippa Lippa X, the Italian Mylius 60 of Guido Paolo Gamucci.

    IRC 2: EN ROUTE TO FAVIGNANA None have yet reached Favignana. At Stromboli, Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3-Corum (FRA) led by 40 minutes from Red Bandit (GER) skippered by Carl-Peter Forster, with Chocolate 3 a further 20 minutes behind. According to the tracker, Eric de Turckheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine (FRA) is currently leading on time correction from Red Bandit.

    IRC 3: FAVIGNANA BOUND At Stromboli, Ino XXX held a lead of only six minutes over Artie III after time correction. Artie III has seriously reduced the gap from Messina, but not enough to take the lead. Chenapan 4, the French Farr 40 of Gilles Caminade, held onto third. With these two some 75nm ahead of the chasing pack, the first two podium slots seem sealed but for the small matter of half the course still to race.

    IRC 4: CHANGE OF LEADER AFTER STROMBOLI The leading boats in IRC Four came to a grinding holt at Stromboli in the early hours of Monday. Philippe Frantz’s French NMD 43 Albator was the first to get going and has pulled out a lead on the water of 16nm over Conor Doyle’s Irish Xp 50 Freya and the Podesta family’s Maltese First 45 Elusive 2. Elusive 2 had been leading the class since the start on Saturday, but Albator is now estimated to be ahead as the class make their way to Favignana.

    IRC 5: SNAKES AND LADDERS AT STROMBOLI Gianrocco Catalano Italian First 40 Tevere Remo Mon Ile rounded Stromboli just before 0500 CEST. Ed Bell’s British JPK 1080 Dawn Treader virtually stopped ten miles before Stromboli, taking another eight hours to round the volcanic island. Jonathan Gambin’s Maltese Dufour 44 Ton Ton Laferla rounded third. The leaders on the water also lead after IRC time correction. Tevere Remo Mon Ile continues to dominate, while Dawn Treader has regained most of the ground lost during their frustrating park up.

    IRC 6: FLEET BATTLE NORTH OF SICILY At Messina, Massimo Juris’ Italian JPK 1080 Colombre was leading by less than three minutes. Second was Maltese J/99 Calypso skippered by Seb Ripard. American Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby, raced two-handed by Jonathan McKee and Alyosha Strum Palerm was third followed by another double hander Gerard Ludovic’s French JPK 1080 Solenn for Pure Ocean and the Maltese Reflex 38 Vivace, skippered by Andrew Agius Delicata & Matthew Gabriele.

    IRC DOUBLE HANDED: HEADING TO STROMBOLI Eight Double-Handed teams started the race, Pneuma and Infinity retired today due to the lack of wind. The remaining six have all passed through Messina and have formed into two packs of competing boats. Red Ruby leads from Solenn for Pure Ocean, with Beppe Bisotto’s Fast 42 Atame racing with Catherine Jordan, in third. Six boats have officially retired to date: Blue Horizon, Pneuma, Escapado, Ekita, Luce Guida, Kia Ora, Minemole , Infinity

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


    • #3

      OCTOBER 25, 2022 - NEWS

      Riccardo Pavoncelli's MOD70 Mana (ITA) crossed the finish line of the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race at 00:32:38 CEST on Tuesday 25 October to take Multihull Line Honours in an elapsed time of 61 hours 32 minutes 38 seconds.

      Mana crew: Riccardo Pavoncelli, Alexia Barrier, Paul Larsen, Jeff Mearing, Tom Dawson, Jonny Malbon, Kai Weeks, Evan Walker.

      In an electrifying finish Mana crossed the line less than one minute ahead of Zoulou (FRA), skippered by Erik Maris, after two and a half days of racing and 606 nautical miles. Giovanni Soldini's Maserati Multi 70 (ITA) finished third, ten minutes after Zoulou.
      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


      • #4

        Mana and Leopard 3: Forces of Nature

        Just after midnight this morning, Tuesday 25 October, the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race reached its first crescendo as Mana ghosted across the finish line to beat a charging Zoulou by a mere 56 seconds at the mouth of Marsamxett Harbour. The race had appeared in the bag for Mana from as far back as Favignana. A real twist at the death saw a two pronged attack from Zoulou and Maserati Multi 70 create a roulette wheel moment at the South Comino Channel, and then again which could have deprived the Italian trimaran of a deserved victory. At these moments, it would have been a brave gambler to chance everything on the black (and white) of a vulnerable looking Mana.

        As it was, the crew of Riccardo Pavoncelli’s Mana (ITA) held their nerve and held off the unwelcome advances, crossing the finish line at 00.32.38 CEST, with Erik Maris’ Zoulou (FRA) breathing searingly hot at 00.33.32 and Maserati (ITA) finishing at 00.43.04, neither just able to deliver what likely would have been the second nautical miracle in Malta since the shipwreck of St Paul in 60AD.

        Then, almost 12 hours later, a second crescendo with the arrival of the first monohull. Leopard 3 rolling back the years to join an exclusive group of four other yachts to have secured line honours on three or more occasions. While Rambler 88 remains the most successful, with five successive wins, this result was special for skipper Chris Sherlock who first raced the course in 1997 and Joost Schultz, one of the crew, on his first ever Rolex Middle Sea Race.
        Multihull Line Honours

        With five MOD 70s, out of a total fleet of seven, gathering for the first time since 2012, Pavoncelli was understandably thrilled with the result: “We have been trying to get all these boats together for a long time. Mana is one of the only original ones, so it was particularly satisfying for me to win, because we have maintained the boat in its original state.”

        According to the French racing skipper Alexia Barrier, keeping Mana close to her original configuration was one of the secrets to the success: “Riccardo put together the best possible team and I am lucky to have been part of it. Paul Larsen is the fastest driver, and Johnny Malbon did super tactics. Mana is in perfect shape, a pure MOD 70, which means no modifications and it is kept light. In this kind of race, it makes a big difference even if we do not have the best sails. We kept the boat going, moving, all the time.”

        The race appears to have been exhilarating, stressful, nerve-wracking and worrying in equal measure. From the start Frank Slootman’s American entry Snowflake took off. “At first we were not so happy when we saw Snowflake going away with its big mast,” said Barrier. “But we found our settings, how to work together and, in the end, it went very well.”

        It was a tremendous race according to Pavoncelli. The crew kept on their toes right to the finish. “We had been hunted for 400nm and more, we were constantly looking behind our back,” he advised. “Just when we were really worried about Zoulou, Giovanni sneaked up and he was an additional threat. Frankly until the last few seconds we did not know if we were going to make it.”

        Zoulou is a similar boat to Mana, but with bigger sails, a different set up and more developed foils. Its crew included Loick Peyron, who had sailed with Mana last year. Giovanni Soldini and the heavily modified Maserati, sporting a full foiling package, were also a substantial threat, wily foxes, never to be discounted.

        “It was a beautiful race, said Pavoncelli, even if it was not always straight-forward. “It was particularly painful arriving at Strombolicchio, because it looked so listless,” he continued. “We stared at the island for hours, nothing was moving. Eventually we got some breeze and I will remember always going up wind in big waves and 25 knots inside a washing machine. It was a great race for the emotions, very stressful at times, but fantastic.”

        Larsen, Malbon and Barrier clearly gelled as an afterguard after Stromboli. “We managed to sneak away at one point and built quite a margin,” described Pavoncelli. “But as you know in this race it can evaporate in minutes, because you end up in a wind hole and everyone piles up. We had several restarts, but we managed to stay at the top.”

        The final few miles though were extraordinary, as the three leading trimarans closed in on the South Comino Channel. “We were aware of Zoulou coming up behind us,” said Pavoncelli. “There was no sign of Giovanni at all and then suddenly he appears on the lay line straight for the channel and we were worried.” Mana managed to squeak through first and seemingly in a safe pole position, but still it was not over.

        “These are best machines in the world that can move in two knots of wind, so you can continue to race all the time,” he continued. “You never park up completely.” Even so, when Zoulou spotted Mana slowing up about 5nm from the finish, the French went offshore in good breeze and managed to considerably reduce the gap. “Literally we saw them when they were 100 metres behind us,” exclaimed Pavoncelli. “Luckily all our manoeuvres came out right, Paul Larsen did a fantastic job and we managed to stay ahead. It would have been very frustrating if we had lost in the last mile.”

        Barrier agreed about the emotions: “I had a lot to learn during these two days, and I can tell you I was not really confident going in the Strait of Messina at 30 knots of speed for my first night on a MOD 70. Just at the end we were really scared with Zoulou coming back. Felicitations to them because they were about 7nm behind us some hours before and did very well.”

        Fortunate to have such a good crew, Barrier enjoyed her initiation into the world of MOD 70 racing. “We worked well together more like a family to make things happen,” she explained, adding: “The camaraderie shown by the other crews at the finish was also really important. We are all sailors with big values. Friendship is one of the values I like the most in this sport, and it was really evident around the boats here in Malta.”

        For Pavoncelli it was the perfect result. Bridesmaid to Maserati in 2020, winning under MOCRA but second on the water, and third on elapsed time last year can now be consigned to the back of the bookshelf. This year’s double success of line honours and overall will sit long in the memory.

        Monohull Line Honours

        Farr 100 Leopard 3 (NED), with Joost Schultz at the helm, crossed the finish line of the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race on Tuesday, 25 October to take Monohull Line Honours in an elapsed time of 70 hours 34 minutes 29 seconds. In blazing sunshine, the massive spinnaker bearing the unmistakable logo of the famous maxi was lowered at the Fairway Buoy and the international crew hit the rail for the short beat to finish.

        This is the third time Leopard 3, skippered by Chris Sherlock, has participated in the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the second time it has been first monohull home, winning the RLR Trophy. The crew on this occasion comprised Chris Sherlock, Joost Schultz, Laura de Vere, Matt Lester, Curtis Blewett, Tom McWilliam, Will Best, Stefano Nava, Gian Ahluwalia, Guy Filabozzi, Michael Pammenter, Samuel Wright, Murray Goodsell, Richard Bouzaid, , Tim Marsh, Dennis Frederikson, Giles de Jager, Ian Budgen, Steve Booth, Guilermo Altadill, Ronald Bunders, Mitch Booth, and Gerry Mitchell

        “It is emotional to take Line Honours after three days and nights of racing,” commented Joost Schultz taking part in his first Rolex Middle Sea Race. “There have been lots of ups and downs and surprises, and now I understand why the Leopard crew have been very careful about predicting anything. This race has a lot of twists and turns around every corner, including getting caught in fishing nets and ripping sails.”

        “On the first night it was really light winds, we could not see the dolphins around the boat, but we could hear them breathing through their blowholes. We were lucky enough to go around Stromboli in the daytime and we could see the lava rolling down the mountain. The sea was so blue and reflecting in Leopard’s hull. Many times, during the race, we felt like we were at one with nature.”

        Leopard 3 made a superb start in Grand Harbour and led the monohull fleet all the way to Capo Passero and through the Messina Strait, where it experienced strong winds over 20 knots. However, on the leg to Stromboli, a broken sail and an entanglement with a fishing net cost Leopard 3 the lead, as Andrea Recordati's Wally 93 Bullitt (ITA) raced past. It took Leopard 3 until just after Palermo to catch up with Bullitt, when San Vito lo Capo then entered the game with its high cliffs proving a barrier to the wind from the south. Bullitt came to a standstill, Leopard stayed out a little more and edged clear first, breaking into the solid southerly breeze to regain the lead. Leopard 3 had caught its prey and kept a vice-like grip to the finish. Bullitt was the second monohull to finish the race just under an hour behind Leopard 3 on elapsed time.

        “Even this year with light winds it is physically and mentally tiring, but for me to do this race with a very good professional crew is a real honour,” explained Schultz. “I have a technical background, so I am very interested in all of the technical aspects of sailing. What I also learnt is how the crew set up the boat, how to look at the sails. We were not always leading the race and it is never over until you cross the finish line.”

        From a tactical and navigational perspective, the race played out as expected by Will Best and Mitch Booth, who confirmed that the forecasts at the start of the race came to pass. There were localised moments of strong conditions, such as during the Messina Strait and at the Egadi Islands but, overall, it was a light wind race. The conditions from Lampedusa to the finish were better than expected and made life a little easier on the run to the finish. Leopard 3 was able to maintain a loose cover on Bullitt offering no passing opportunities and not over stretching crew or equipment.

        Day 4 IRC Class Update 1700 CEST

        With Leopard 3 (NED) taking monohull line honours in the Rolex Middle Sea Race the focus has very much sharpened onto who will win the race overall after IRC time correction. As first to finish, Leopard 3 set the bar, but that has already been raised by Bullitt (ITA).

        A flurry of finishers is expected tomorrow, Wednesday 26 October, but the overall winner is unlikely to be decided until the boats still racing have ended the many battles still raging out on the course.

        The Botin 65 Spirit of Lorina (FRA) is 25nm from the finish and ranked first in the big boat class after IRC time correction. Ranked second, 5nm astern is Wild Joe (HUN). The CF 520 R?n (SWE) is third, 50nm from the finish. Spirit of Lorina and Wild Joe are not only the front runners, but are also two of the top ranked boats in the entire fleet.

        The NMYD Teasing Machine (FRA) is making a strong finish to the race and is ranked first in class with just 52nm to go. Some 20nm astern of Teasing Machine is the TP52 Red Bandit (GER). The Ker 46 Daguet 3- Corum (FRA) is approaching Lampedusa after the long beat south. The French team will soon accelerate onto a reach, potentially reducing the advantage held by the leaders. In the meantime, Teasing Machine is estimated to be leading the race overall according to the tracker.

        Two HH42s, Ino XXX (GBR) and Artie III (MLT), have a substantial lead on the water over the rest of the class, ranking them as the top two after IRC time correction. Over 80nm behind is the Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen (FRA), ranked third. Ino XXX and Artie III have enjoyed a terrific battle, but the latest skirmish was soundly won by the British boat. At Pantelleria, the lead was just five minutes. However, Ino XXX managed to keep moving through an area of light wind on the way to Lampedusa, while Artie III stalled. The gap is now 20nm.

        The NMD 43 Albator (FRA) has made significant gains over the class on the leg from Stromboli to Favignana. Albator has since sped away south towards Pantelleria. Second in class, 26nm behind is Elusive 2 (MLT). Christoph Podesta reported in from Favignana: “The wind is very light, and it is very difficult to round Favignana because of a strong adverse current. The forecast tonight is not looking good, but we are making the most of the wind that we have.” Ranked third is the Grand Soleil 44 Essentia (POL). The Xp50 Freya (IRL) has also rounded Favignana and is heading south for Pantelleria.

        The First 40 Tevere Remo Mon Ile (ITA) has a 35 mile lead over the class having rounded Favignana just before the 1700 CEST update. Second on the water and after IRC time correction is the JPK 1180 Dawn Treader (GBR) which chose to go wind-seeking further offshore at the cost of sailing more miles. The double handed Atame lies in third.

        The JPK 1080 Colombre rounded Stromboli around 1400 CEST, yesterday, and leads both on the water and on IRC corrected time. At the 1700 CEST update Colombre is just past San Vito lo Capo, 23nm ahead of the J/99 Calypso (MLT) which rates second with the double-handed Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby (USA) in third. Another double hander, the JPK 1080 Solenn for Pure Ocean is also in the chasing pack and ranked fourth.

        IRC Double Handed
        Red Ruby leads IRC Double Handed from Solenn Pure Ocean, while the Fast 42 Atame (ITA) is ranked third.
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