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Great spirit, great competition at Rolex Middle Sea Race

Maltese syndicate Artie III on their way home at the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

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 at just after 2041 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 ends, 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 and 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 I Love Poland and Wild Joe.

On the 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.

Ultimemotion on his way to cross the finish line. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

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 ok, 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.

Twelve of those boats are also past Pantelleria, where Freccia Ross 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, Elusive 2 appears to have made a decisive break from her nearest competitors, Artie III and Ton Ton Laferla. Lee Satariano called in from Favignana.

“Finally, we have made it past Favignana after another tough night,” advised Lee.

“We are now back in the breeze finally. 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 20.36 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)

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 Transit)

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 debutatnte, is having a private battle with Francesco Cerina’s Giro 34 Lima (ITA).

IRC 6

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

IRC Double Handed

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

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