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#middlesearace – There were emotional scenes dockside in Malta this morning as Irish sailors Barry Hurley and Andrew Boyle sailed home in their 35-yacht Dinah to win the double handed class, they finished just 25 minutes inside the time limit after seven days of tense racing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Hurley has described the race as the 'most intense' race he has ever sailed due to the stop start nature of the winds. In an exclusive podcast (below) by Afloat correspondent Louay Habib, Hurley admits there was 'real pressure' over the last few hours. The overall achievement has yet to sink in for the Dun Laoghaire pairing but it has not stopped early celebrations this morning that has made sailing the boat 3000 miles from Dun Laoghaire to Malta a really worthwhile conclusion to the 2012 season.

Only last night the pair were judged as outsiders to finish the race at all such has been the fickle conditions for the 33rd race but a favourable wind overnight allowed Hurely and Boyle to pick up seeds of 17 knots at times to cover 120 miles in 12 hours.

The Mediterranean odyssey ended with an official welcome home from Irish Ambassador Jim Hennessy who was waiting to welcome the Royal Irish Yacht Club boat and celebrate yet another international victory for the offshore sailing champions.


The crew of Dinah and Atame share a beer and a few stories dockside after tying up at The Royal Malta Yacht Club. The two teams had been locked in combat for 7 days and nights. L-R Beppe Bisotto, Barry Hurley, Ian Knight and Andrew Boyle Photo: Royal Malta Yacht Club/Louay Habib

Hennessy who held a pre-race reception for the Irish crews in Malta was also first to congratulate the pair on stepping ashore. 'It's a really gutsy performance that has defied a lot of the experts here in Malta. We're really proud of them, it's a great win, he told as he held the tricolour aloft with the crew at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

There was other Irish involvement in the race from Dun Laoghaire yacht Gallileo skippered by Des Keliher. The Beneteau 44.7 yacht retired due to the light winds on Tuesday but there has been Irish interest in at least two other international entries in the 83-boat fleet.

Fireball dinghy champion Kenny Rumball also from Dun Laoghaire was aboard German entry Kohinoor, a Carter 55 Custom Sloop and Irish sea offshore campaigners Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive was racing on the Maltese J122 entry Otra Vez.

As well as Irish boats heading to the Med for racing Ambassador Hennessy says he is keen to create a 'two way movement of boats' and is hopeful that Maltese boats with Irish sailors aboard will head north next year for 'The Gathering'.





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#middelsearace – Dun Laoghaire's Dinah crewed by Barry Hurley and Andrew Boyle is leading the Two Handed Class after time correction but there estimated finish time is 1000 tomorrow; two hours after the time limit expires for this year's marathon Rolex Middle Sea Race.

The cut off time to is 0800 tomorrow and a group of determined sailors are desperately trying to keep that appointment.

Racing the Middle Sea Race Two-Handed is not for the faint hearted.

In reality each member of the team sails the boat alone, whilst the other one sleeps. But there is no rigid watch system, sail changes in this race have been frequent and both crew are required on deck, regardless of whose turn it is to sleep. In short, racing for seven days and nights with just two people is hard-core both mentally and physically.

The vast majority of the 83 yachts have either finished or will do today. However, none of the Two Handed teams is likely to finish tonight. To complete the Rolex Middle Sea Race, yachts must cross the finish line by 0800 tomorrow and four of the Two Handed entries are desperately trying to meet that deadline.

Dinah should speed up after they come off the wind after Lampedusa. If they can make the cut off, the Irish team may win a tremendous victory. Dinah is being pushed hard by Pierpaolo Ballerini & Andrea Caracci's Azuree, The Italian team is neck and neck with Dinah on the water but behind after time correction but the match race will be spurring both of the yachts on.

Leading the Two Handed Class on the water is Matchpoint, crewed by Damir Cargo and Miljenko Nikolic. The Croatian team. Matchpoint has passed Lampedusa and should make the finish in the early hours of Saturday morning, then they must wait to see if any of the other yachts can make it in time.

Second on the water is Atame with Beppe Bisotto & Ian Knight. Atame is 122 miles from the finish and at their current speed will not make the time limit. However, once Atame rounds Lampedusa, they will ease sheets and come off the wind dramatically increasing their boat speed, Atame need to average 7 knots to make the finish, which is possible.

The dark horse in the Two Handed Class is also the largest yacht. Swan 46, Foreign Affair has sailed a significant extra distance to get over to the left hand side of the race course 'banging the corner' in sailing slang. The elegant Swan is crewed by two brothers; Paul & James Basson from Monaco.

Over one thousand sailors have taken part in the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the event has attracted a worldwide audience, hopefully all of the race fans will be willing the determined sailors still racing to make the cut off time by 0800 tomorrow morning.

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#middlesearace – Dun Laoghaire yacht Dinah sailed by Barry Hurley and Andrew Boyle are maintaining second overall in the double-handed class inspite of a massive thunderstorm and torrential rain engulfing Malta overnight in the latest update from the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

IRL3508, a modified JOD 35-foot yacht is 232 miles from the finish line and expected to be the 66th boat to cross the line in the 83 boat fleet. The experienced offshore pairing were making just over 4 knots in the still tricky conditions as the race enters its closing stages.

Late last night before the thunderstorm struck and engulfed Malta in heavy rain Hurley told 'We're doing ok in our class although our main competition is now in different weather systems, so we need to work extra hard to keep in contention. Fingers crossed we have what it takes! Hurley told

Meanwhile, Nick Lazos and Periklis Livas' Farr 52, Optimum 3 Aspida crossed the finish line to lead Class Two and the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall. However, the Greek team's tenure on this extra-ordinary race was very short lived. At 04:18 15 Eddie De Villiers, Welbourne 46, Hi Fidelity crossed the finish line to take the overall lead in the race.

In driving rain with thunderbolts lighting up the medieval bastions, the South African crew, soaked to the skin, looked astonished to find out that they are now the hot favourites to win the overall prize for the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

To put the amazing performance into perspective, Hi Fidelity's corrected time was nearly seven hours quicker than Niklas Zennstrom's JV72 Ran but the team had no idea until they finished.

"We didn't have a clue how well we were doing until we finished, it is unbelievable," exclaimed De Villiers. "The crew have been absolutely fantastic, I can not give them enough praise. This has been one hell of a race, we have had just about everything thrown at us. Coming through the Comino Strait there was a terrific amount of thunder and lightning it was all around us and the wind touched 37 knots. To come through the finish and find out that we have such a great result is truly amazing!"

Two yachts pose the biggest threat to HI Fidelity's overall lead Josef Schultheis' & Paolo Semeraro's Xp44, XP-ACT and the reigning Rolex Middle Sea Race champion, Lee Satariano & Christian Ripard's J/122, Artie RTF. Both yachts are expected to finish this afternoon.

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#middlesearace – Royal Irish Yacht Dinah from Dun Laoghaire is approaching the half way stage of the Rolex sponsored Middle Sea race this morning and is lying second in class in the 83-boat fleet. The yacht is heading west across the north coast of Sicily and making 5.6 knots.

As our exclusive onboard photo shows it's no longer just skipper Barry Hurley and crew mate Andrew Boyle on board, the Irish duo have been joined by a tired (but chirping) sparrow hitching a ride on the rail of the modified JOD 35 yacht.

'We're doing ok in our class although our main competition is now in different weather systems, so we need to work extra hard to keep in contention. Fingers crossed we have what it takes! Hurley told

The tried and tested Irish craft has already claimed the Round Rockall race this July and it won an Ostar Transatlantic race in 2009. Light air conditions are prevailing for this race which started on Saturday.

'The last few days have been the slowest yet most intense racing I can remember. We dread the thought of being timed out after all this effort, but still cling to the hope of finishing within the time limit' he said.

The stress is somewhat compensated by the amazing scenery though admitted Hurley. 'After a night watching molten lava flowing down the side of Stromboli into the sea, we were treated to an amazing sunrise'

The other Irish entry Gallileo skippered by Des Kelliher with various crew from this year's ISORA series onboard retired from the race yesterday.

Late last night, Esimit Europa 2's skipper Jochen Schümann showered the Maxi crew with champagne dockside at the Royal Malta Yacht Club to celebrate taking Line Honours for the third consecutive year in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Schümann has won Olympic Gold and The America's Cup but the ardour of the victory was etched on his face.


Dinah's latest position

"That was a tough one," explained Schümann. "We got caught up by Ran and Stig in the first parking lot at Stromboli but it was by no means the last. Our primary goal was line honours and it was impossible to relax during any part of the race. We are delighted to have taken line honours and finish of a great season in style."

It was nearly seven hours before Niklas Zennstrom's JV 72, Ran crossed the finish line, setting the bar for the rest of the fleet to achieve. Although this has been a slow race, Ran have put in a magnificent performance to lead a highly competitive Class 1 and lay claim to an overall win.

"Before the race we sat down as a crew and said this would be frustrating at times; at one stage we looked like we would finish on Friday and we only had food until Tuesday evening but we stayed together as a team and had plenty of time to tell a few more jokes over the last four days. Clearly we were racing Stig this race because we are very similar boats and we were very very close until the second half of the race when we managed to get away from them. But the fact that we had someone to race against made the race much more fun. We are in good shape for our class and in reality that is all that you can do and the rest is up to the conditions, so now we will have to see what will happen."

Whilst Esimit Europa are assured of Line honours and Ran look very likely to win Class 1, the overall winner is very much undecided. All of the yachts in contention are now past Favignana, which gives a good indication of the fleet's overall standings but only an indication. However, now that Ran has finished, we can state the exact time that others need to finish to beat their time.

In Class 4, Lee Satariano & Christian Ripard's J/122 Artie RTFX with an all Malta crew were leading their class and the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall at Favigana. To beat Ran's corrected time Artie RTFX need to finish on 26 October by 02:10:52.

The Class 3 leader, Josef Schultheis & Paolo Semeraro Xp44, XP-ACT was second overall at Favignana. On board are three Maltese crew; Sebastian Ripard, Timmy Camilleri and Zach Cassar Torregiani. To beat Ran's corrected time XP-ACT need to finish on 25th October by 20:32:22.

Third overall at Favignana and second in Class 3 was the Sicialian Mylius, Zenhea Takesha, skippered by Natale Lia. To beat Ran's corrected time Zenhea Takesha need to finish on 25th October by 14:04:25.

Fourth overall at Favignana and leading Class 2 was the South African entry, Hi Fidelity, skippered by Eddie De Villiers. To beat Ran's corrected time Hi Fidelity need to finish on 25th October by 11:14:39

Fifth overall and third in Class 3 was Jonas Diamantino's all Maltese crew on Comanche Raider II Gasanmamo. To beat Ran's corrected time Comanche Raider II Gasanmamo need to finish on 25th October by 19:58:29.

Other news from Maltese yachts on the race course; Arthur Podesta's Elusive 2 called into the media centre last night.

"We are approaching Favignana, managing just half a knot of boat speed. I recall that it took us seven days to complete the first race back in 1968 but in these modern boats, this is the slowest race I can remember. We are running low on luxury food, only one more egg and bacon fry up remaining and we have started to boil and bottle tank water just as a precaution. It is difficult to keep motivated when we are going so slowly and have few boats around us."

Jonas Diamantino, skipper of Comanche Raider II Gasanmamo called the media office at 0900 this morning; "Unfortunately we have an injury on board and also some sail damage. Ramon Sant Hill, my co-skipper has gashed his left hand, we have disinfected it and put 5 butterfly stitches in it, luckily it is not his drinking hand! Also we have damaged our Code Zero, a very useful sail at the moment that we did not have up for three hours."

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#middlesearace – Both Irish entries in the Middle Sea Race are, like the bulk of the fleet, negotiating the Strait of Messina this morning and making only two knots headway off the Sicilian coast. The National Yacht Club's Gallileo, a Beneteau First 47.7 and the double handed Dinah, a JOD 35 are now thirty hours into the contest, all 83 yachts are still racing with the bulk of the fleet dealing with variable winds in the infamous Strait

Des Kelliher from the RIYC is skippering Galileo co-owner Tony Tennyson of the NYC will also be on board along with various crew from this year's ISORA series.  Kelliher's club mate Barry Hurley is skippering Dinah.

What has develoed is a tactically challenging and meteorologically intriguing 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race. Leading the fleet, and midway between the Strait and Stromboli, are the 30.48m/100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), and two 21.94m/72-ft Mini Maxis Ran 2 (GBR) and Stig (ITA). Currently sailing at a meagre two knots, the three are separated by less than one mile.

Esimit Europa 2 has not broken away from the pack in the manner she has become accustomed to in previous editions. The first night proved frustrating for Igor Simcic's crew, caught in a fading breeze that allowed her rivals to close in. On the approach to the Strait this morning, Ran 2 took advantage of a positive current to close the gap on Esimit, and even take the lead. By midday the two boats were only 100m apart exiting the Strait together, destination Stromboli.

18 yachts have now passed the Strait of Messina. The current advantage on handicap belongs to defending champion - Lee Satariano's J/122 Artie (MLT). It is a precarious lead as the fleet heads into the second evening and a frustrating search for breeze.

Live race tracking from the 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is available here as a record-breaking 83 international entries contest this classic offshore race.

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#middlesearace – The winner of this Summer's inaugural Round Rockall offshore Race is in Malta tonight preparing for Saturday's Middle Sea Race, an event that is preceded for Barry Hurley's Dinah by tomorrow's warm up coastal race.

The Dun Laoghaire two-handed entry, a JOD 35, is ready for the weekend challenge and is one of at least two Irish entries involved.

"I have sailed nearly 3000 miles to get here but this is not my first race, I have competed six times before, often with Maltese boats and I have very fond memories of those races. This year, I had the chance to come here and sail in my own boat and I am really looking forward to a great race.

Hurley is an experienced campaigner. Sailing Dinah, he finished the 2009 OSTAR (singlehanded transatlantic race) in Newport, Rhode Island, USA as a class winner after 21 days at sea.

With less than 5 days to go to the start of the 33rd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, a steady stream of boat captains have been making their way to the Royal Malta Yacht Club making their final registrations for the race. Yachts from 18 different nations are taking up their berths at The Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Grand Harbour Marina. The extensive facilities at the club will be put to good use, as Thursday night's Crew Party, will cater for 1500 invited guests. Racing starts tomorrow (Wednesday 17th October) with a coastal race in preparation for the main event, which starts on Saturday 20th October.

At a packed press conference held on the terrace of The Royal Malta Yacht Club, the Commodore, Godwin Zammit introduced Principle Race Officer, Peter Dimech who explained the planning that has been put in place to start The Rolex Middle Sea Race from the historic Grand Harbour.

"It is too early to establish exactly what the weather will be like on Saturday but there is no doubt that the Grand Harbour will be extremely busy with competing boats. Transport Malta has closed the harbour to other shipping from 0830 until 1300 and we would specifically ask that any vessels that are in Grand Harbour keep well clear of the competing yachts. We are especially grateful to Transport Malta and the Armed Forces of Malta, who have been extremely co-operative, with a record number of yachts expected on the start line, we would anticipate that there will be four or five different starts, probably the best view will be from the Upper Barrakka Garden, I am sure it will be an amazing spectacle."

The press conference was attended by a number of Maltese and overseas skippers taking part in the race.

Lee Satariano, the co-skipper of last year's overall winner, Artie-RTFX:

"I think if anything we are actually better prepared than last year and we have been working hard on our performance and hope we can do ourselves justice but above all we are looking forward to enjoying the race, once again the entire crew is from Malta."

Arthur Podesta, skipper of Elusive 2 has done them all, competing in every race since 1968:

"This race was always designed to be a classic Mediterranean race and that is what it has become, the first race had only 8 boats and it has just got bigger every year. It is a fascinating race, maybe you could say it is six races rather than just one, as the course is so changeable, it always keeps one interested."

Volvo Ocean Race skipper and Olympic sailor, Andreas Hanakamp will be racing on the Austrian Class 40, Vaquita:

"I am not surprised that this race has become so popular, there are six Austrian yachts racing, which is great to see. The race has fantastic scenery and it is a very challenging course, which makes it really attractive and has established it as a classic not to be missed."

Tomorrow, Wednesday 16th October. The Royal Malta Yacht Club is organising a coastal race. Scheduled to start at 1000, the coastal race offers the teams an opportunity to practice before the big send off on Saturday. The course is likely to be approximately 16 miles, starting from Marsamxett Harbour then up the northwest coast of Malta around Comino and finishing in front of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Spectators will be able to watch the race from along the Sliema seafront at the start and the finish. During the coastal race, the Gozo Ferry terminal at Ċirkewwa will offer views of all the boats as they round Comino.

It is also highly likely that the Slovenian Supermaxi, Esimit Europa 2 will arrive in Malta during the course of tomorrow's coastal race. Esimit Europa 2 is aiming to establish the benchmark time for the 700 nautical mile passage record Trieste to Valletta, recognized by the World Sailing Speed Record Council.

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Although there are no Irish boats at least two Irish crew are participating in Saturday's record breaking Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta.

Dun Laoghaire navigator Brian Mathews, who narrowly misseed out on an international victory in the Dragon fleet with Martin Byrne in Cannes last month is sailing with Crosshaven's David Kenefick on board the Ex-'Rosie' 36 footer, now the German Registered AOC Rockall racing in IRC class four.

A record has been broken even before the start of the Race say the organisers. Days before final registration for this year's event, entries have risen to a record breaking 81 and there are still a few days to go before the last entry can be accepted.

New entries from Italy, Serbia, Slovenia and the UK have pushed the numbers up to 80, three more than the previous record of 77 in 2008.

"We can accept late entries up until 17th October and we do expect one or two more, said Georges Bonello Dupuis, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. As it is, entries for this year are incredible and we are really looking forward to seeing them all berthed outside the Club; the place will be buzzing," he added.

A handful of boats are here, including previous RMSR line honours and overall winner, Alegre together with the back to back winner of the Rolex Fastnet, Ran 2.

Other arrivals include the UK Swan 57 Yellowdrama who'll be fighting for the new Nautor Swan Cup, Echo, Doppelbock (Germany & UK) and Filando and Tyke from Italy. Filando's 14-man crew come to Malta for the first time to take part in a race that they consider "the best offshore regatta in the Mediterranean."

Many of the entries will arrive this weekend, including the brand new 85 foot Nautor Swan ,Berenice from Italy. While good weather over the weekend will ease the passage of arriving yachts, Mr Bonello Dupuis cautioned, "I expect one or two might have problems making their way down to Malta, but fingers crossed that everyone arrives safely; they will certainly receive a warm welcome."

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.

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The 32nd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is just under three months away. Entries for the 606-nautical mile classic are beginning to stack up, and the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) is contemplating another bumper crop of international yachts and crews. Preparations for the event are well underway, and competitors can look forward to the usual level welcome that is rarely matched in the yacht-racing world. The start is scheduled for Saturday, 22 October, and once again will be in the unparalleled setting of Grand Harbour.

With 31 yachts entered, the event is well on the way to matching last year’s fleet of 76 and the record fleet of 78 set in 2008. The first boat to register its interest was the German Rogers 46 Varuna, owned by Jens Kellinghusen. Varuna finished 13th overall in IRC and won her ORC class in 2010, and is an enthusiastic returnee. Varuna’s interests extend beyond just this race, since she is actively participating in the 2011 Atlantic Ocean Racing Series (AORS) has having just completed the Transatlantic Race, and being about to embark on the Rolex Fastnet Race. With the prospect of a considerable number of season’s sea miles under her belt before October it would be fair to suppose that her crew will be supremely well-drilled come the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Next up were Jason and Judy Payne-James with their Dufour 45, Heartbeat IV (GBR), closely followed by the current headline act: Niklas Zennstrom’s 72-foot Judel/Vrolijk designed Rán 2, the 2009 winner of the Rolex Fastnet. This will be the third visit of the Rán crew, the second on the world champion mini-maxi. Their best result to date was fourth overall in 2009, something they will be looking to improve upon.

The spread of international entries currently includes boats from most seafaring nations in Europe, plus Russia and South Africa. Chris Frost’s 54-foot Prodigy (RSA) is another yacht competing on the AORS. She finished the Transatlantic Race half an hour behind Varuna, and will be looking to turn that table in the Rolex Fastnet ahead of the deciding match in Malta in October.

This year, foreign crews will be offered a substantial upgrade on the already excellent facilities available at this race. The RMYC is in the process of installing some 60 pontoon berths on Marsamxett Harbour, right off the clubhouse at Ta’Xbiex. This will be the first time in the 43 year history of the event that the RMYC has been able to accommodate the main bulk of the competing fleet so close to the centre of operations.

“It is a great achievement for the club, and great news for the event and for the competitors,” says Commodore Georges Bonello DuPuis. “It was a substantial investment, but is part of our vision for the general expansion of the yacht club’s activities, plus we have long wanted to moor participating yachts adjacent to our facility so we can host them in the best possible way. We have a well-earned reputation for really looking after the visiting international crews, but this year will raise the bar still further.”

And, whilst the local Maltese participants might not benefit directly from the improved moorings, they will certainly enjoy the increased party atmosphere anticipated at the club ahead and after the race. Jonas Diamantino’s ILC 40 Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo was one of the first hometown boats to enter, with Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia’s J/122 Otra Vez and Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44 Ton Ton Surfside hot on his heels. More are sure to follow.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race commences on Saturday, 22 October 2011.

Entries close on 14 October.

The final prize giving is on Saturday, 29 October 2011.

George David's Rambler established the current Course Record of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds in 2007.
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In the closing stages of the Rolex Middle Sea Race today Ireland's only boat in the race, Legally Brunette from Dun Laoghaire is reported as 'retired'. 32 boats have finished the race and 32 are still racing. Retired boats reported by the race office include Libera, Legally Brunette, Allegra Garmin, and Aziza bringing the total number of retired boats to 12.

More from the race organisers below but no news yet why the Dun Laoghaire yacht is out.: 

If you have any interest in peering at a yacht tracker incessantly, you would have surely been following the track of the J/122 Artie in the Rolex Middle Sea Race last night. Since the race start four days ago, the Maltese boat had been seemingly guided by keen local knowledge, as well as sharp sailing talent. In a race which, this year, has been called ‘tricky’, or ‘challenging’, co-skippers Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard have worked their way around numerous wind holes, keeping the boat moving in light air, as well as hunkered down on the rail, full-metal jacket sailing down the proverbial bomb alley along the west coast of Sicily, and around Pantelleria, and Lampedusa.

After the R/P 100 Esimit Europa 2 claimed line honours on Monday, the Slovenian maxi held the corrected lead, but only until the TP52 Lucky (USA) completed a fantastic lap around Sicily to take the overall handicap lead. Then it was down to Artie, and for a while, fellow Maltese boat Jaru, a J/133, to see if they could beat the clock. Artie had to finish at 08.18 this morning, and at the various checkpoints of the course that meant averaging around mid-9 knots. They had shown flashes of this speed, so it was all possible. It was pretty impressive sailing in a J/122, a 40-foot performance racer-cruiser class that has had great success at several offshore events, including the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Artie had a fast passage last night hitting boat speeds in the high teens, from Lampedusa through the South Comino Channel. Between Gozo and Comino the breeze held out, but around 08.00, as Artie sailed into Marsamxett Harbour, the breeze dropped away along with any chance of making the cutoff. Crossing the line at 08:44, Artie missed the overall win by a mere 26 minutes.

Owner and co-skipper Lee Satariano could be expected to be disappointed, though he said, “Last night we had a good hour where the boat was just surfing down the waves. I really enjoyed that moment, it was really moving.”

“There was really nothing I would change, we raced the boat to full optimization, but we have only had this boat for a short time and we are very happy with our achievement. We knew on the last day that we were close to having first overall, but from the beginning to the end we were always pushing it to the limit. At no point did we take it easy. The entries for the Rolex Middle Sea Race have been increasing every year and the competition is reaching a very high level.  Maltese boats have shown well in recent races, we are up there; we can compete with the international competition.”

Artie’s co-skipper, Christian Ripard was also full of wonder about the blast home on the last night. “The last night was just wonderful sailing and the crew had become fully in tune with each other. We were sailing on the edge and that requires precision, something that can only be achieved by perfect harmony which comes with time together on the boat.” Ripard was the skipper of Straight Dealer, the J/125 that won the 2001 Rolex Middle Sea Race overall. Christian Ripard is also one of a legion of sailing Ripards here in Malta. He is the son of late Paul Ripard, one of the founders of this iconic race, along with his uncle John Ripard, Sr., a well-known and respected international judge.

So with that finish missed, it would put American Bryon Ehrhart’s boat, Lucky as provisional leader overall on corrected time in IRC. Ehrhart was at the Royal Malta Yacht Club with his crew earlier today, and spoke about the race and Lucky’s provisional overall win. “It’s beyond my expectations. We came wanting to do a very interesting race, and we had that, and a good performance to match.

“The Rolex Middle Sea Race has a great reputation, which is why we came all the way down here. We thought it would be an interesting race, it turned out to be much more interesting – every sail on the boat was used, from the lightest flapper to the strongest spinnaker was put up. A very, very challenging race…technically and strategically, and thankfully, we had great navigation from Ian (Moore).  Those crucial calls saved us hours and hours, and I think the corrected time difference was 25 minutes, so it’s those kinds of calls that were important. To make the calls how Ian made the calls was pure genius.

“Then, there were all the boys working the boat. This is a very challenging, physical race, and the boys worked the boat really hard all time, and kept us really focused. We had great people sailing against us that were almost always in sight, so the boat Pace, the Cookson 50 (Cantankerous), and Wild Joe, really kept us on our toes.

Ehrhart an active member of both the New York Yacht Club and Chicago Yacht Club said, “To come and do well against the European fleets, and we’ve raced against them now, they are tough. We’ve raced elsewhere around the world and these guys are very, very challenging to sail against.  All the time you have to be on your game to come here. I’d encourage everyone to come here and challenge.

It’s unbelievable when you see the true, spewing volcano of Stromboli, it’s phenomenal. You get to encounter different colored smoke and red lava – you don’t see that in Chicago. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a classic, and in my mind it will certainly remain a classic. I would encourage everyone to come here. This is the most interesting race I’ve ever done and I’ve done a lot.

Lucky’s plans for next season include the Giraglia Rolex Cup next June, and then the Rolex Fastnet Race. Following those races, the boat will sail transatlantic, compete in the Jamaica Race, then to the west coast of the U.S. for the Transpac Race, to Hawaii, enroute to Hong Kong for the Rolex China Sea Race. This is a boat, and a man, on the move. But then this is the same man who on a layday before the start, along with crew member Alastair Speare-Cole, spent 4-1/2 hours scaling the 3,500 metre Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, “because you don’t get much exercise for your legs when you’re sailing.”

The TransPac 52 is more of an obvious choice for around the buoys racing, but the boats are quite competitive – though not necessarily comfortable – for fast offshore passages. Ehrhart said, “The boats are quite solid. We have one of the older TransPac 52s, when they were still making them really for this ‘at sea’ performance. We have very good confidence that that boat’s not going to fall apart. But the human toll is real, we have a 73-year old crew person – he’s an Etchells sailor from Florida – he’s very, very fit and did a great job. But, it’s the kind of boat you want to bring a lot of aspirin, to relieve some of that pain. This boat is very physical and any race where you have breeze over 20 knots, for any sustained period, there’s a human toll involved, but we don’t come to sit on a sofa, we came to do the Rolex Middle Sea Race.”

First Maltese boat home was Andrew Calascione’s J/133 Jaru, after 3 days, 20 hours, 2 minutes. Calascione said, “Sailing last night was one of those really special nights. First of all the moon came up at a certain time where we were actually heading into it. We probably had a steady 17 knots of wind – chute up – and squalls to 25 knots, with just fantastic speeds because the wind was off the port quarter. Big seas, just a fantastic night of sailing, one of those things you dream of, twelve hours of it! The crew is in great shape, so it was good.”

Other Maltese boats still racing reported in this morning. At 0821, double-hander Anthony Camilleri on BOV Plain Sailing Tango, reported in, “Tired and exhausted, but happy to still be racing. Just had our third stormy night crossing to Pantelleria. We had a lot more wind than forecast, with gusts of 40 knots plus. Sailed all night with just a number three jib, surfing at 9 knots.”

From Elusive 2 Medbank, Maya Podesta emailed in at 0930 this morning, “Finally on the last leg home, after two washing machine nights! Squalls always seem to wait for nighttime to hit, but also add on lunchtime now too! Yesterday’s sailing took us sailing up and down through squalls, so we had some lovely full rainbow sights. The night sky should have been lit up with a full moon, but instead it was dark and alive with lightning – a massive storm in full brew! Déjà vu saw the main going down and up to 1st or 2nd reef a number of times. But we’ve got through, safe and sound and looking forward to getting home and some sleep!”

Published in Offshore

The group of boats that arrived at the finish line in Marsamxett Harbour this afternoon spent most of the 600 miles within reach of each other, and how they made some key tactical decisions along the way would make or break their results.

Dun Laoghaire's Legally Brunette is over the top of the Sicily and heading for home. Tonight at 2000 hours she was heading 122 degrees and doing seven knots. The screen shot  below from the race tracker shows the sole Irish boat (marked by a red box) in the top left hand corner.


Vladimir Proshikin's chartered Volvo 70 E1 (RUS) crossed the finish line at 12.35 today, in fourth place on elapsed time. The Russian sailor, from St Petersburg competed last year on his Shipman 72, a performance cruiser/racer, quite the polar opposite of this five-year old round-the-world ocean racer. While the conditions were lighter this year, the crew had a workout with numerous sail changes, a net wrapped around the keel and a canting keel stuck off center for the last ten miles. Still, on the quay after the finish, Proshikin was clearly elated and quite animated in relating the trip. "This race was a bit slower, but in light air it's even more demanding. It was fun and it's quite intriguing, but took a bit longer so we are a bit tired. It's a vey impressive race, difficult conditions, with many islands -- it's not like running 600 miles from start to finish in a straight line, it's tricky.

"We had some bad luck a couple of times, catching the net around the keel for several hours (which required a neat trick where they sheeted in the main and canted the keel the wrong way, so a crew member could 'walk' out and then get in the water to dive and cut it away). We're on the boat for the first time as a crew, with only a week of training, and it's a very complex boat. Sometimes you are lucky, and sometimes not...but overall, I'm happy!"

But it was Bryon Ehrhart's TP52 Lucky, that crossed the finish line after 3 days, 3 hours, 16 minutes, which put the US boat on top of the leader board on corrected time, for now.

The Chicago-based skipper/owner has had the Rolex Middle Sea Race on his 'to do' list for awhile and has methodically planned a race schedule – that included last year's Rolex Fastnet Race – that would give them some good practice and put them in the Med this year. Ehrhart said, "What a great race and probably the best offshore race we've done in terms of the style of race. Getting up through Messina was a challenge on it's own – it's like multiple regattas within one large long race, it's very scenic, but there are opportunities to screw up all over the place!

"But thankfully, Ian Moore is a fantastic navigator. We were very happy with the calls we made all the way around. Times where we thought we'd have a lifts, we generally had lifts; times we'd thought we'd get knocks coming into important marks, we got knocks. So a lot of worry and decision about whether 25-50 miles out you're going to make the right decision about sailing this course to get to a knock or lift, and I put it up to his genius in getting us there.

"We spent a lot of time next to Wild Joe, she was actually an additional motivator. Several times we were in and out with her. The Cookson 50 (Cantankerous), Wild Joe, and Pace – we were on each others' mind all the time."

Ian Moore who, as a last-minute addition to the crew, seemed to have earned his keep with their impressive performance. The Irish Volvo Ocean Race veteran and BMW Oracle America's Cup crew member said, "It was good race, pretty exciting, lots of lead changes. We were pleased every time we managed to pass (the TP52) Pace, and then their boat speed got up again, and then we got another opportunity. Lots of moments the race would restart and give us the option to use our abilities.

Of the difference between the two TP52s, Moore said, "They are very different vintages. Pace was built for the TP52 Worlds in Miami and is an ultra-light racing machine. Lucky was designed to race across the Pacific Ocean and be able to keep the crew on board on that 3000 nm passage. Pace is an inshore racing boat, and Lucky is an ocean-going boat, a lot heavier, stronger. But, it's nice for me to sail on this boat, to know this is a good, strong and safe boat. Every time you take a normal TP52 on a race track, you are always crossing your fingers and hoping it's going to stand the test of time."

Moore enjoyed the course and said, "It is a spectacular course; it's a circular course, start and finishing in Malta. Going up to the Strait of Messina and just running into that five knots of current, apparently from nowhere, and going around the smoking volcano of Stromboli and all the islands, including Pantelleria, Lampedusa. They're like an island in the middle of nowhere, but there are always people living on there, no bigger than a view football pitches. It's really a pretty amazing race track; it's lovely to come and do it again."

This was Wild Joe's skipper/owner, Marton Jozsa third Rolex Middle Sea Race, though for most of his Hungarian crew it was their first-ever offshore race. Jozsa said, "I think this is the first good offshore racing result in Hungarian sailing, so I think we can be satisfied with this result – and we are! We have one guy from Australia with experience in offshore racing and it is very good to have this guy on board.

"We very much like sailing here in Malta and also in this race, so I hope we will be here again. Besides some races in Croatia, next year we are planning to take part in Rolex Capri Sailing Week in May – for us, the Rolex Volcano Race – and after, we will see."

Bret Perry, strategist and the lone Australian onboard Wild Joe, said, "The team is a bunch of dinghy sailors, and it's their first offshore experience. It's a new boat to Hungary, and not many people have seen a Hungarian sailing team. I didn't know quite what to expect myself, but once we got sailing on the boat, the crew was really fantastic, sailing 100%, and gave us every opportunity to finish where we finished.

"You have to be realistic and get out there and do your best, but to get what we achieved they should be really, really proud. They're all so talented, they're Olympic-level sailors, they know what's going on, they just need to understand the bigger picture and get out of windward-leeward type of sailing – and this is their first experience in an offshore boat.

Jonas Diamantino's Comanche Raider II, from the Royal Malta Yacht Club, has been taking a pasting but spirits are high, as he explained as they passed Pantelleria earlier today. "Pretty hectic, pretty scary. We got hit by a 45-knot squall, with very confused seas, and it was all on. But everybody is fine and so is the boat, but it was a tough few hours. We are now doing ten knots and heading for home.  Tell the bar at the club to get the beer on ice!"

Lucky are currently leading overall on corrected time in IRC, but they have to withstand challenges from at least two boats that are in contention for the overall win. Sort of like history repeating itself, the two boats are the Lee Satariano & Christian Ripard's J/122 Artie, and John Ripard & Andrew Calascione's J/133 Jaru. The last time a Maltese boat won the Rolex Middle Sea race overall was Market Wizard in 2002 with Ripard & Calascione, and in 2001 it was Christian Ripard's Straight Dealer.

The Maltese Beneteau 411, Fekruna, retired just west of Stromboli, bringing the total number of retired boats to eight, with eight boats finished and 60 still racing.

The race fleet can be tracked online at

The final prize giving is at 12.00pm on Saturday, 30 October at the Mediterranean Conference Center in Valletta.

Published in Offshore
Page 8 of 9

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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