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

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

42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race start

Class Starts

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

42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race start

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

Congested Starts

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

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

42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race start

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

Expectant Starts

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

Race tracker here

Published in Middle Sea Race
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In a warm-up for October's Middle Sea Race, in which Cork yacht Freya is the only Irish entry, the Kinsale Yacht Club XP50 skippered by Conor Doyle took fifth overall on IRC and ninth in line honours in this week's Palermo to Montecarlo Race.

Following line honours and second overall in June's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, Doyle has shifted his campaign to the Mediterranean with a top-rated crew, as Afloat reported earlier here.

The Palermo to Montecarlo Race is organised by Circolo Della Vela Sicilia, in partnership with Yacht Club de Monaco and Yacht Club Costa Smeralda; it’s become a major event on the calendar since its launch in 2005. 

This year it again attracted some of the Med's leading Maxis in an international fleet of 56 boats.

Last Monday night, after 59 hours 3 minutes 8 seconds that Guido Miani from the Yacht Club de Monaco associated with Furio Benussi crossed the finish first in elapsed time to take line honours of the 16th Palermo-Montecarlo on Arca SGR. It is his fourth title on this Mediterranean classic, having won it twice in corrected time (2007 and 2008) and elapsed time (2013).

Behind Benussi, it was a nail-biting battle for 2nd place between Pendragon VI and Aragon, won by Laurie Davidson 69 Pendragon VI over the last few metres.

Published in Middle Sea Race
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Conor Doyle’s XP50 ‘Freya’ from Kinsale Yacht Club starts in Saturday's 450-mile Palermo to Montecarlo Race as the sole Irish entry in the Italian classic.

An international fleet of 56 boats will race in the fixture organised by the Circolo Della Vela Sicilia, in collaboration with the Yacht Club de Monaco and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.

Doyle, who was the line honours winner of June's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and finished second overall on IRC after a sensational kitesurfer rescue, has assembled a top-class crew for the Italian offshore fixture.

Sailing on the Kinsale yacht is Cork Harbour's Nin O'Leary as Navigator and Dun Laoghaire's Will Byrne as part of the ten-man crew. See full crew list and positions below. 

Also on board is Dublin Professional sailor James Carroll who overcame the disappointment of a dismasting in 2018 to win class two of October's Middle Sea Offshore Race in 2019 on Stefan Jentzsch's Black Pearl. 

The 16th edition of the offshore race is under both IRC and ORC ratings and starts at noon from Mondello’s Gulf and finishes in the Principality of Monaco.

Download the IRC entry list below.

 The 450 mile Palermo to Monte Carlo Race courseThe 450 mile Palermo to Monte Carlo Race course

Conor Doyle’s XP50 ‘Freya’ crew from Kinsale Yacht Club for the Italian raceConor Doyle’s XP50 ‘Freya’ crew from Kinsale Yacht Club for the Italian race

 Palermo to Monte Carlo Race Yacht Tracker Here

Published in Offshore
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With the leading Fastnet Race multihulls well round the Fastnet Rock this morning (fleet leader Gitana 17, the Ultime 32 aka Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, was first at the turn at 0633 BST) the bulk of the fleet are still struggling with calms and flukey headwinds in that tricky area off the southwest of England between the Lizard and Start Point writes W M Nixon

As the faster big boats have found - for not all the big boats have been fast - once you get past the Lizard, you begin to feel the benefit of an Atlantic southwest breeze, and though Gitana (as we apparently now have to call her) faced a few minutes of stoppage with her closest rival Macif in a freak calm calm patch northwest of the Isles of Scilly in the small hours, generally for the passage across the Celtic Sea they were looking at speeds at the top end of the 20-30 knot mark, and the Fastnet was ticked off more or less on schedule.

They are already well on their way to Plymouth, with Macif grabbing the lead around 0800 hrs. However, for the smaller multi-hulls and the enormous fleet of mono-hulls, only their leaders have got through the invisible barrier south of the Lizard.

But now some well-known names are beginning to come clearly to the fore past the Isle of Scilly as they strike out across the Celtic Sea on track for The Rock, with George David’s Rambler 88 looking set to take over the line honours lead from Seng Huang Lee’s 100ft Scallywag from Hong Kong, a boat with a storied past – apparently at least some bits of her were once in one of legendary Australian Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffins.

However, at the moment the real story in the big mono-hull line honours battle is the excellent showing of David & Peter Askew’s Volvo Open 70 Wizard from America. She’s noted as a star performer on the west side of the Atlantic skippered by Charlie Enright, she won the Transatlantic Race in July, and now she has come as cleanly as possible through the slough of despond which is the current state of the sea areas south of Falmouth and Plymouth, and she’s right there on Rambler 88’s tail, third for line honours and currently leading IRC Overall.

Meanwhile back in the crowd which is still moving slowly while often turning to windward off the south coasts of Cornwall and Devon, with 390 boats under IRC rating and all placings up-dated by YellowBrick ever quarter of an hour, the continually-changing placings inevitably mean that many boats are going to have their Andy Warhol 15 Minutes of Fame.

One such was Conor Doyle’s handsome Xp 50 Freya from Kinsale (her crew including Olympic campaigner James Espey) which was in the limelight as overall leader at one stage of Class IRC 1A. She has currently slipped back to 11th OA in Class 1A but is in contention.

However, in Class 1 and 1A and indeed the fleet generally, the best Irish hope lies with Kenneth Rumball and Barry Hurley on the Swedish-owned Ker 40 Keronimo – they currently lie 19th overall in IRC, fifth in IRC1 and fourth in IRC1A, and while still to the southeast of the Lizard, they’re well placed and making steady progress in the spreading sou’west breeze.

Astern, however, the fleet is so tight-packed and struggling to make headway that scrolling back on the tracker is a bit like looking into a can of worms, but hopefully, by this afternoon they’ll all feeling a firmer workable breeze, and a leading wind from Land’s End to the Fastnet.

Yet it’s beginning to look like a big boat race. The sou’wester will freshen out in the Celtic Sea this afternoon to speed the leaders to the rock and back again, but then after the freshening has gone through, the expectation is of veering which may even provide some of the tailenders with a beat to the Fastnet.

Race Tracker & Leaderboard here

Published in Fastnet
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Kinsale Yacht Club's 'Mary P' Race and Cruise organised by Neil Prendeville from Kinsale to Monkstown on Saturday morning took just two hours for Conor Doyle's new Freya XP50 to complete. 

The six KYC boats in the 'All In' Echo, IRC and White Sails fleet then joined the Cork Harbour Cobh to Blackrock Race later that day. See our Cobh to Blackrock Race photo gallery by Bob Bateman here.

Kinsale to Monkstown yacht race1(Above and below) Conor Doyle's Freya in the race from Kinsale to Monkstown Photo: Bob BatemanKinsale to Monkstown yacht race1Kinsale to Monkstown yacht race1The Elan 40 Chancer (Carroll Bros)Kinsale to Monkstown yacht race1The Elan 333 Artful Dodger skippered by Finbarr O'Regan Photo: Bob BatemanKinsale to Monkstown yacht race1KYC's Chameleon (Padraic O'Donovan) Photo: Bob Bateman

Published in Kinsale
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What a day this Sunday's racing turned out to be. From the moment one turned the corner on to the Crosshaven road at Carrigaline there was magic in the air writes Claire Bateman. The sun was shining, the trees were resplendent in their multi colour seasonal changes and the line of cars making their way to the Royal Cork Yacht Club was non-stop. The forecast said Sunday was going to be a very nice day with lots of sunshine but nowhere did I hear anyone say anything other than winds would be light and, so it seemed, until a flag outside one of the supermarkets on the road to Carrigaline seemed to be moving pretty nicely and was a taste of things to come.


Tight racing in the penultimate race of Royal Cork's October League. Photo: Bob Bateman. Scroll down for more photos from yesterday

Classes Zero, One and 1720s got the nicest wind on the laid course to day. Race Officer Richard Leonard and his race committee in Capta Ventum, kindly provided by Pascal Healy, certainly made the best of the day. Today Richard decided on a change of format and started the 1720s first followed by Classes Zero and One together and then Class Two. He gave the fleets short courses providing very tight racing ensuring the crews had plenty of hard work and also providing very exciting viewing with a few heart-stopping moments. The 1720s, Zero and One did three rounds and Class Two did two rounds. With a northerly breeze of some 10 knots gusting to 12 and occasionally 14, it was to provide a tantalising taste of what was to come and there was no disappointment. Voices that hadn't needed to be raised at marks on previous Sundays found the necessity to make themselves heard today and the action was fascinating with hard work on the boats but a sense of great sailing exhilaration emanating from them.

Coming into race two of the day the skippers and crews had got the bit well between their teeth and were all like bucking broncos at the start line. In Class Zero there was an individual recall sounded. Jump Juice and Freya answered the call immediately and returned to restart and after some little while Gloves Off returned and while not knowing the reason why, one can only assume the helmsman perhaps was not quite convinced he had been over but then decided to return having considered it. Again the wind duly obliged and as in the first race, there were boats to the left, boats to the right and boats pretty well everywhere one looked. In Class Zero Tom Roche's Meridian from Kinsale had been performing extremely well but was slightly under
crewed today and was unlucky enough to have an incident at the weather mark in this race and after that things just did not go their way and they retired. This must have been disappointing as they had been doing so well. With Jump Juice winning the first race today and Gloves Off taking the second race and first overall to date in the series, the last day of racing next Saturday will be crucial as these races will be non discardable.

Race Officer Anthony O'Leary stood in to day for David O'Brien and the committee boat Sabrone was again kindly provided by Admiral Paddy McGlade. It was not such a lucky day wind wise inside the harbour for Classes Three and Four and White Sail 1 and 2. There was also extremely low water to day
and some of the skippers mentioned they had in fact touched rocks. Nonetheless they enjoyed good racing if at a somewhat lower pace than the competitors on the laid course.

At this point in time Class Three IRC looks like a two horse race with Tiger on 9pts followed by Bandit on 11pts. Class Four has a very similar situation with Sundancer on 9pts followed by Granny knot on 11pts. In White Sail 1 IRC Minx 111 had a good day to day with a first and second and currently has 7pts overall and the two big boats in the fleet Chancer from Kinsale and Aisha from RCYC are on 14pts each. In White Sail 2 IRC Plumbat is on 6pts overall with Phaeton on 9pts and Silk Breeze on 12pts.

And so we are coming to the final race of this exciting series. All competitors should note carefully that racing will take place on SATURDAY NEXT OCTOBER 30TH. The prize giving dinner will take place that evening at the Club House .


















Published in Royal Cork YC
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