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Displaying items by tag: Middle Sea Race

21st October 2010

Fleet Ready for Malta Race

The bulk of the Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet is situated in Grand Harbour, the waterfront area of Valletta, specifically in Galley Creek, the body of water that lies between Fort Saint Angelo and Fort Saint Michael. Towering above the fleet docked in the Grand Harbour Marina in Birgu, is the 19th-century clock tower, built of iron, steel, and Maltese rock, rising above the Malta Maritime Museum. The museum, formerly the Royal Naval Bakery was constructed in the mid-1900s and supplied the Royal Navy's Mediterranean fleet, but equally important was that the clock was used to set marine chronometers of the day.

Malta is rich in history, 7,000 years of it, particularly the seafaring kind. What with Malta being the site of St. Paul's – yes, the Apostle – shipwreck in A.D. 60, it doesn't get much richer than that. The island's location smack in the middle of the Mediterranean made it the natural locus of the traditional trading routes. Though these days it's a little off the beaten path for the regular yacht racing circuit, that seems to work to it's advantage as well – you have to want to do the Rolex Middle Sea Race to make the trek here. And once you've done it the first time, chances are you'll feel compelled to return again.

Piero Paniccia, skipper and owner of the canting-keeled Cookson 50, Calipso IV (ITA) is back for his 2nd Rolex Middle Sea Race. For Paniccia, it's worth the 600-nautical mile delivery from his homeport of Civitinova Marche, Italy, on the Adriatic, to get here. Tending to some last details onboard he said, "We are very happy to be here because this is the most important race in the Mediterranean.

"The forecast that we have for Saturday's start is for wind from the southeast – the sirocco – so the first leg should be a fast delivery to Messina. For us it's a good forecast because the boat will be fast in those conditions. I think the crew is okay and we have the opportunity to do a good result."

Paniccia has owned the boat since 2005 and has upgraded it from year to year. Of the 2009 race, he said, "we won our class, and for a few minutes we were in 2nd place in IRC!

"The race is important for us; it's a challenge for us – to say that we have participated and finished the Rolex Middle Sea Race, okay, you are really a sailor. Finally, it's a holiday for us and to have some days in Malta, it's pretty nice!"

Edward Broadway on the Farr 40, Hooligan VI (GBR) is another returnee. Broadway said, "It's a very special event, this one. Last year we were surprised with the speed changes. We understand weather in Northern Europe, which is understandable because of fronts coming, but here we were not very good in reading the weather signs. We will be better this year."

Hooligan IV spent the summer competing in the highly competitive Farr 40 Mediterranean circuit. He said, "we are the only amateur crew, and we came last in both regattas. But in Porto Rotondo, our last regatta, we weren't last in every race, so we're starting to be competitive with some of the best of the world. We are very happy about.

"We've got four of the same crew for this race, and I have some of my inshore crew from the Mediterranean events, as well as some of my youth crew. I would say we are getting better!"

As to what draws him back to the race? Broadway offered, "It's challenging. But it is everything more than that. But it was challenging for us last year. This year it will be enjoyable, I think; we are looking forward to it immensely. This is the fourth time I have been to Malta. Grand Harbour is stunning, just stunning – to sail into a crusader Fort, it's unbelievable!"

Tomorrow is another layday before the Rolex Middle Sea Race start at 11.00am on Saturday, 23 October 2010. Tonight is the Crew Party at the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and on Friday there will be a Skipper's Weather Briefing. The final prize giving is on Saturday, 30 October.

George David's Rambler (USA) established the current Course Record of 47 hours, 55 minutes, and 3 seconds in 2007.

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

Dark clouds scudded across the sky over Valletta, bringing with it wind pressure for the ten boats that took to the start line for a coastal race in advance of Saturday's start of the premier event, the Rolex Middle Sea Race. The fleet – just a part of the 84 yachts entered in the offshore race – used the approximately 24 mile course as a warm-up, a chance for the foreign boats to shake off the jet lag and get crews sailing together, for some the first time in these waters.

One Irish boat is entered in the race Legally Brunette from Dun Laoghaire but one of Ireland's top short handed sailors is on board a Maltese entry.

"Aziza", a Grand Soleil 40 owned by Sandro Musu, will be racing with a half Irish, half Maltese crew.

It is Hurley's fifth Middle Sea Race in a row, and this year "I'm proud to be able to introduce three other Irish offshore sailors to one of the best middle-distance offshore races in the world" he told Afloat.ie. Hurley, Andrew Boyle, Fireball champion Brian Flahive, and Liam Coyne will sail Aziza under the burgee of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. The rest of the crew is local.

The coastal course also gave a chance to sort out the local conditions, which were fresh today, as well as this archipelago's fascinating geography. The fleet started in Marsamxett Harbour, in the shadow of the towering spire of St Paul's Cathedral and the landmark dome of the Carmelite Church. There was no shadow from the breeze however, which shortly before the start piped up to 15 to 18 knots. The northwesterly wind angle put the fleet on a broad reach and shortly after the start, many boats put up spinnakers or big genoas; the TP52 Lucky hoisted an asymmetrical spinnaker and shot to weather of the fleet and led out of the harbour. At the opposite end of the line was the 38-footer, Seawolf of Southampton (GIB) flying a symmetrical kite, that enabled them to sail more of a rhumbline course down the coast. Offshore the 3 - 4 metre sea was slightly bigger than the accompanying 18 to 20 knots of breeze; once on the opposite gybe the bigger boats made use of the following seas to surf at speeds of 18+ knots in the gusts.

The course took the boats a mile out to a fairway buoy, and then on the opposite gybe, around and down the eastern end of Malta to round the outer island of Filfla, leaving it to starboard, and a long beat back to the finish in Marsamxett Harbour.

Today's fleet was a good cross section of the breadth of the full list of competitors with boats from Russia, Italy, Switzerland, Gibraltar, United States, and United Kingdom. The lone Maltese boat was Elusive Medbank (MLT), Arthur Podesta's  Beneteau 45. This will be Podesta's 31st Rolex Middle Sea Race, and the lifetime sailor has the distinction of having done every race since the inaugural start in 1968. His track record is good with wins in 1970 and 1983, and a 2nd and 3rd place as skipper. Arthur's core crew is made up of his daughter Maya (who's done 9 races), and his two sons Aaron (9 races) and Christoph (8 races).

Following today's coastal race, Podesta reflected on the day, "It was a fantastic pre- Rolex Middle Sea warm-up. We're going to start off next Saturday in less wind; it might build up but it's good that we had today's wind that topped 27 knots. We managed spinnakers, we managed to top 15 knots of boat speed, and we also managed not to break anything, so that's a good hooray."

The conditions down the coast got lumpier and several competitors – Lucky and Bonita – retired rather than risk breakdowns that would keep them from the main event. Bryon Ehrhart, Lucky's owner/skipper said "We came here to do the offshore race, everything was fine, though with 24+knots we probably should have tucked a reef in. But we got the boat going, we checked out all the safety equipment, and we're ready to go on Saturday."

The first boat to finish was the Valentine Zubkov' Shipman 63, Coral (RUS), at 14:29:12 (an elapsed time of 4 hrs, 29 mins); but, it was David Latham's Seawolf that won the coastal race on corrected time, followed in 2nd place by Elusive Medbank, Peter Hopps' Nisida (GBR) in 3rd, and Coral in 4th (the balance of results were pending at press time).

Valentin Zubkov, owner/skipper of line honours winner, Coral, said, "It was really a good wind. They (RMYC Race Committee) gave us a long course around Malta, the wind was 25-30 knots; it was fantastic. To be honest, we didn't hoist all of our sails, keeping safe, but we hoisted a large 330 sq m gennaker and our maximum speed was 22 knots."

This will be Zubkov's third Rolex Middle Sea Race on Coral; in 2008 they were 11th on elapsed time, but corrected out to 56th place as the boats' handicap reflects the carbon boom and rigging.  In the strong winds of the 2009 race, they ripped the main and jib and broke the furling system and had to retire. This year, with some improvements to deck hardware and new sails, Zubkov said, "Now we have three professionals from Synergy, the Russian team...we grew up together. It's a little better, now we have 50/50 pros and amateurs (six + six).

"This is one of the top regattas for me, I can't go to Rolex Sydney Hobart, and no chance to go to Rolex Fastnet, so this is the most high-rated regatta and it's the end of the season. We try very hard to be here, and we put a lot of effort into it. I like this race, it's very interesting: there's no wind, and then there's strong wind."

Quite a few boats and competitors are still enroute to Malta, while many of those already here spent the day dockside running through a punch list of tasks to complete over the next three days.  The 606-nautical mile offshore race begins on Saturday from Grand Harbour, with a start at 11.00am.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is a Crew Party at the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and on Friday there will be a skipper's race and weather briefing. The Rolex Middle Sea Race commences on Saturday, 23 October 2010. The final prize giving is on Saturday, 30 October. George David's Rambler (USA) established the current Course Record of 47 hours, 55 minutes, and 3 seconds in 2007.

Published in Offshore

The summer sailing season is halfway through in the northern hemisphere. For some yachts their autumn schedule is coming to the fore. The Rolex Middle Sea Race has long been the season closing offshore race. Last year  73 yachts have entered so far, only five short of 2008s record number but there was only one entry from Ireland, Legally Brunette from Dun Laoghaire. Will there be any takers this year. We'll have to wait and see.

At 606-nautical-miles it is a major test in anyone's programme and once again, the 31st edition is attracting the usual mix of professional and Corinthian adventurers willing to pit their skills and reputations against one of the most technically demanding races in the calendar. The nature of the course and its location make predicting the weather and the winner a lottery, but when 2010 Rolex Middle Sea Race starts from Grand Harbour on 23 October, a raft of uncertainties will be answered.

At present 25 yachts have committed themselves to the challenge, which according to Commodore Georges Bonello Dupuis is a good showing at this stage in proceedings, "of course, we'd be happier with more, we are always greedy! We have grown used to a surge in September as those that have planned the race for some months finally submit their entry form. We always hope to beat the previous year's fleet, but seventy yachts may prove too much." On 23 October, we'll know the answer.

The largest and fastest yacht entered is 30.5-metre (100-foot) racing maxi Esimit Europa 2 (EUR) (formerly Alfa Romeo II). The yacht itself has graced the four-cornered race once before in 2006. She was unable to show her true pedigree as light winds plagued the second half of the course, which takes the fleet from Malta, through the Strait of Messina, past Stromboli across the northern coast of Sicily, through the Egadi Islands and south to Lampedusa and Pantelleria, before heading eastwards back to Malta. Under new ownership, Slovenian Igor Simcic, and new management, Italian Flavio Favini, Esimit proved herself still to be the fastest yacht in Europe by winning line honours at the Giraglia Rolex Cup in June. On 23 October we will know if Esimit has a shot at the course record of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds set in 2008 by the American yacht Rambler.

At the moment, the newest yacht expected on the start line is the 24.5-metre (80-foot) Singularity. Designed by Adrian Konynendyk and built by McConaghy in Australia, Singularity was launched earlier this year. According to racing skipper, Bouwe Bekking, who won the race overall on his last visit in 2006 with Morning Glory, Singularity looks and performs like a racing yacht, but conceals a full interior designed by Mark Tucker and Design Unlimited. "She defies logic," says Bekking. "With her performance polars you'd imagine she must be like a Volvo 70 down below. She's not at all. She has a lightweight interior, but of the highest quality and luxury. We're looking forward to the race; it is a true tactical challenge. Hopefully, we'll get breeze all the way around the course." On 23 October we will get to see what Singularity is truly made of.

Looking at other parts of the fleet: the oldest yacht entered to date is the forty-year old Andrea (NED), a Camper & Nicholson 55 skippered by Jacobus Labeij. The smallest yacht is Claudio Barzan's X-362 Spinone Offshore (ITA) with a length overall of 10.72-metres (35 feet). The furthest travelled category is likely to be taken by American Bryon Erhart's modified TP52 Lucky, although the Ukrainian entry Moryanka of Yaroslav Isakov claims its homeport is in The Seychelles. Jonas Diamantino, Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo Insurance (MLT) holds pole position as most experienced skipper with nine races under his belt, closely followed by Filippo Lancelotti, Sciara (ITA), who is aiming for his ninth Rolex Middle Sea Race.

With substantially more entries expected, between now and October, a number of these claims may well be supplanted. What is certain though is that all competitors, young and old, professional or Corinthian, contender or adventurer, fast or slow, that are on the start line on 23 October will be shaping more of the history of this remarkable race.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race commences on Saturday, 23 October 2010.
Entries close on 15 October.

Published in Offshore
Page 9 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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