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Displaying items by tag: Legally Brunette

Both Irish skippers who retired from the Rolex Middle Sea Race that finishes today at the Royal Malta Yacht Club have described the 'vicious' conditions encountered in the Mediterranean this week. The fleet suffered several knowdowns and at least one man overboard but the bulk of the fleet were safely secured in either Marsamxett Harbour this morning with just two racing. 15 had retired.

Last night Dun Laoghaire's Cathal Drohan, sailing his third Middle Sea Race on the X41 Legally Brunette, spoke of 40 knots squalls and visibility near shipping lanes being reduced to five or six boat lengths.

"The boat was well founded and we had a great crew but after five days racing we were looking at a further long stretch of sailing and a severe forecast". Drohan told Afloat.ie from Malta.

All skippers in the race were mindful of the safety of crews given one sailor had been seriously hurt in a knockdown in a heavy squall.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club has calculated the winners and these are set out below.

Barry Hurley sailing on the Maltese yacht Aziza sent the following back to Afloat.ie after the yacht retired: 

"We were sailing in sustained low 30knts all day Tuesday and encountered several vicious squalls, often adding up to 20 knots to the average windspeed. Such squalls are common in the area and always play a significant part in the Middle Sea Race. By Wednesday morning the seas had grown substantially and rounding Pantelleria we received an updated weather forecast for sustained mid 40's on Wednesday afternoon. We believe we were lying 4th overall at that stage so were keen to press on, but faced with the prospect of potential 60's in the squalls we made the decision to retire into Pantelleria in the interest of safety. A few hours later an Italian X Yacht came in alongside needing medivac for a crew member seriously hurt in a knockdown in just such a squall, so our decision was vindicated. A somewhat disappointing end to another fantastic Middle Sea Race, but for now it's back home to Dublin until the Sydney Hobart race in December".

Press Release from organisers:

ROLEX MIDDLE SEA RACE CLASS WINNERS CONFIRMED
October 28, 2010

If the early miles of the Rolex Middle Sea Race were a test of patience, the latter miles were a true test of endurance. A strong mistral of up to 40+ knots helped push the fleet homeward to the finish in Malta. The last two yachts, Zizanie and Amethyst Abroad, were around the island of Lampedusa and racing towards the finish line off the Royal Malta Yacht Club. The two boats showed heaps of perseverance for hanging in, even if the northwesterly breeze had subsided to a 'mere' 25+ knots.

Meanwhile the bulk of the fleet were safely secured in either Marsamxett Harbour or around the corner in Grand Harbour Marina, and the overall class standings were sorted as the last boats trickled in.

IRC Overall – Lucky (USA)

IRC 1 – Esimit Europa 2 (SLO)

IRC 2 – Lucky (USA)

IRC 3 – Jaru (MLT)

IRC 4 – Artie (MLT)

ORC Overall – Jaru (MLT)

ORC 1 – E1 (RUS)

ORC 2 – Varuna (GER)

ORC 3 – Jaru (MLT)

ORC 4 – Three Sisters (CZK)

Double Handed – BOV Plain Sailing (MLT)

Racing offshore double handed is not for the faint-hearted. It requires all-round seamanship, determination, stamina and above all courage. At the 606-nautical mile Rolex Middle Sea Race, the Double Handed Class is somewhat under the radar with only three entrants, but this year's competitors were a diverse and experienced group.

Taking line honours in the Double Handed Class was White Star, a custom 54-footer, which finished yesterday afternoon with an elapsed time of 4 days, 6 hours, 44 minutes, and 18 seconds. But the Italian boat would have to wait until today when BOV Plain Sailing finished, to see who would win on corrected time.

White Star's crew were experienced double handed sailors Diego Tisci and Daniele Chiamenti; Tisci is a veteran of eight Rolex Middle Sea Races, Chiamenti several as well, but this is the first double handed Middle Sea for either of them. An Italian owner built the yacht and is entering it in double handed races as a way to showcase its' potential.  As Tisci said, "This was the first race of a new program for the boat. It was like a test; so we see how the yacht goes, how we have to optimize that and the crew.

"We had a problem at the start and we broke the jib, this is why we stayed far to the east on the way to Messina. We could only use the staysail and code zero, which doesn't allow you to sail very close to the wind – that's why we had a very strange track! At the end that was the best we could do. Around Stromboli, we didn't have much wind and again it was difficult to go to weather without the proper headsail.

Chiamenti explained, "After that the race was very strategic. But our strategy was based on the sails that we had, not on the wind!" When the forecast coincided with this strategy, White Star was in good shape. From Trapani on, the northwest breeze allowed them a favourable point of sail. To add to their woes, White Star lost instruments as well. The two sailors estimated maximum wind speed at approximately 35 knots; but off the wind, and with a staysail set, they were good to go.

Asked about the best part of sailing double handed, Tisci said with a smile "I think the team.

But really, I like sailing short-handed. It's nice to be at sea. You don't have to argue about what you think is right or wrong; it's your race, just yours. You aren't a wheel in a big mechanism; you are only the mechanism. And we take all decisions together."

The two concurred about the course, and Chiamenti said, "For sure it's the best race in the Mediterranean. It's very tactical, and the panorama is great. You've got a volcano, you've got the Messina Strait, and the time of year is great, it's not too cold, not too warm.

The 34-footer, BOV Plain Sailing, crossed the line midday on Thursday after five days, zero hours and 52 minutes at sea. Their corrected time was good enough to give the Maltese boat the Double Handed Class overall win.

Maltese sailing veteran, skipper/owner Anthony Camilleri is no stranger to the Rolex Middle Sea Race, sailing in his tenth race. But his crew, Gilbert Azzopardi has never raced two-handed before and neither has the boat. The Tango 34 is the smallest and lightest boat of the 76 yachts that started the race.

Camilleri spoke dockside after completing the race, "I am delighted that we have won, but first and foremost, I must give a mention to Bepe Bisotto, skipper of Atame. We had a great battle, often side-by-side, but when we developed a problem with the reefing lines of our mainsail, he offered to stop and help. That offer of assistance shows the spirit of our discipline, we look after each other.

"Probably the lowest moment in the race was the last night. We were tired and the weather was really bad, up to forty knots of wind on the beam, with six metre waves crashing into the cockpit. We took down the mainsail and continued under storm jib alone, it was the hardest part of the race. This race is one of contrasts and the previous day the sailing was spectacular. Downwind with the spinnaker up, we were surfing at a constant 12 knots, at times accelerating to 18 knots. It is an amazing feeling with just the two of us, a very special moment."

Last night, the Fast 42 Atame pulled into Trapani to get a respite from the relentless wind and sea.  Beppe Bisotto emailed, " 'Ad impossibilia' (it's impossible), as the Latins say. Ian (Knight) and I shared the same thinking. Outside, a Force 8 gale is blowing hard from the north. No way to pass Favignana island, as we had been stopped for ten hours with no wind. We missed the wind shift, blowing at SW Force 7 straight into the face, with forecast predicting force 8 on the back.  More than this, to Pantelleria Force 7 SW on the nose was forecast. So, surrounded by gales, we decided to stop and avoid any possible damage.  Do not forget that we were only two- handed instead of a full crew of eight to ten. By the way, we are happy to have raced faster than many bigger boats with full crew! Atame is definitely solid, fast, and reliable."

Only the x40 Pita Maha (ITA), retired today, bringing the total number of retired boats to 15, with 58 boats finished, and two still racing.

 

Published in Offshore

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.

legallybrunette

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 www.rolexmiddlesearace.com/tracker/#tracker

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

Published in Offshore

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

Whilst the major noise surrounding the 2010 Rolex Middle Sea Race will resonate around Esimit Europa 2's anticipated assault on the course record, there is much more to the race than the maxi component. Ireland is to have at least one entry in the form of repeat Dun Laoghaire contender Legally Brunette. 

Cathal Drohan and Paul Egan are the owners of  the Royal St George Yacht Club entry and the X41 will be skippered by Cathal Drohan for the race. The crew for the race are scheduled to be John Hall, Philip Doyle, Matt Patterson, Philip Allen, Susan McGrath, Susan Delany, Anna Egan, Niall O hEalaithe.

The Maltese participation is a crucial element in the success and popularity of the race. After watching foreign yachts secure overall victory in seven out of the eight races so far sponsored by Rolex, there is a feeling amongst the locals that it is time to redress the balance. When the 606-nautical mile race starts on 23 October, there will be a veritable posse of Maltese yachts chasing the seemingly elusive crown.

One of those yachts is even named Elusive II; the weapon of choice for Arthur Podesta, a thirty-time veteran of the race, which is now approaching its 31st edition. Podesta's record is enviable. No other major 600-nm offshore course – Rolex Fastnet, Rolex Sydney-Hobart or Newport-Bermuda – can boast a participant that has competed in every race since its inception. Immensely proud of his continuing achievement, which includes being a three-time winner as crew, Podesta takes nothing for granted and is happy enough to make the start-line each year. Do not confuse that with lack of ambition. Podesta and his crew, which usually has its backbone formed by his three children - Maya, Aaron and Christoph - push as hard as anyone for the win. In 2008, they finished third overall, a mere forty-minutes off the corrected time pace.

Another family affair involves the last Maltese winners and a family name synonymous with the colourful history of Malta's flagship sailing event. In 2002, John Ripard Jr and Andrew Calascione sailed Market Wizard to first overall. This year they are back again, with a neat twist as Ripard explains, "my brother-in-law Andrew Calascione and I will co-skipper Andrew's very recent acquisition Jaru, which is a J-133. We'll have with us a crew comprised almost entirely of direct family, being: my two sons, Sebastian and Thomas; Andrew's two sons, Daniel and Marc; plus, my sister Rachel's son, Luke Scicluna, and, my sister Erika's son, Sam Pizzuto. My father, John Ripard Sr [winner of the inaugural race in 1968], will have six grandchildren on the same boat!" The remaining three crew are Benji Borg, Sebastian Ripard's 49er Olympic campaign partner, John Santy from the UK and an Australian, Jordi Smith.

Another local with an eye on the main prize is Jonas Diamantino embarking on his tenth race and, once again, with Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo. Diamantino exudes optimism ahead of each race; firmly believing he has the crew and the boat should the conditions favour them. This should not be seen as making excuses ahead of game-time for a poor finish. However good the handicap system, there is always an element of chance that the weather conditions will suit one end of the fleet or the other. That is the accepted nature of long-distance yacht racing. In recent years the big boats have held the upper hand. 2008 provides the sole glimmer of hope since 2002 for the smaller yachts, when the First 40.7, Spirit of Ad Hoc, took the crown.

Also in the same camp as Diamantino is Jonathon Gambin, with Ton Ton Surfside. Gambin sees nothing wrong in aiming high; seeking to test himself and his crew each time they cross the start line. Sandro Musu and Aziza have also come close to the Holy Grail, finishing fifth overall in 2004. Musu is as excited as ever heading into his seventh straight race.

Kevin Dingli and Fekruna will be satisfied to make the start line after last year losing his rig just before his debut race as skipper. Caught by a truly destructive waterspout during the inshore warm-up race, Dingli thought his race was over until his friend Peter Vincenti offered up his yacht, Manana. Edward Gatt Floridia, who has tasted the glory of being onboard the first Maltese yacht to finish, is skippering Otra Vez Fexco, one of the smallest boats in the fleet, for the second time. Another member of the Ripard clan will be on Lee Satariano's J-122 Artie. Christian Ripard is a two-race winning skipper, once in 1996 and then again in 2001; coincidently, both times with J-Boats – maybe a good omen. Satariano, himself, came close to the ultimate prize in 2006, almost scooping the trophy from under the nose of the German maxi Morning Glory. Alfred Manduca and Allegra round out the Maltese roster.

Sonke Stein may be German, but he is as good as a local in the eyes of many. He and his exuberant crew, which includes seven Maltese, have been a feature of the race for a number of years. Stein loves the it, most of the time, and this year is entering a new boat, coincidently a J-133 just like Ripard and Calascione, "she's named Juno and though she is registered in Hamburg, she is based in Malta. We have raced the boat a couple of times and are very happy with her performance. The crew is still a majority of Maltese, comprising my old team mixed with some others from the J-125 Strait Dealer [winning boat in 2001] crew. With experience from my earlier J-105 Oh Jee and the experience from Strait Dealer added to it we are looking forward to the race."

Whatever the weather and whatever the eventual results, the Maltese crews may expect a crescendo of noise to match any surrounding their more celebrated foreign-counterparts. The crowds lining the Valletta bastions at the start and the Royal Malta Yacht Club deck at the finish will make sure of that.

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

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