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Displaying items by tag: Royal Malta Yacht Club

Following a uniquely beautiful and challenging course, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, is mentioned in the same breath as the top Rolex Fastnet, The Rolex Sydney - Hobart and Newport-Bermuda. It typically attracts a varied fleet of boats and many distinguished sailors many of whom keep returning. It remains on the bucket list of many a sailor.

As the start of the 37th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race approaches the fleet that is building up for this annual challenge is looking as impressive as ever. The usual mix of production boats optimised for the race by their Corinthian crews are set to sail alongside top racing boats manned by professionals. Following a global rise in interest the presence of high performance multihulls is growing too.

Twenty five countries will be represented at the start line on Saturday 22nd October, with neighbouring Italy, as in past years having the greatest presence. Strong growth has been registered by Russia, whilst third placed United Kingdom has seen a slight increase from the previous year. The Rolex Middle Sea Race will be welcoming back Denmark and Ukraine who have not made an appearance in the last five years whilst Sweden will be returning after an absence of two years. With boats from faraway countries like Australia and the United States also present the fleet has become truly global...

Looking through the crew list one can see a number of well-known sailors with an impressive CV to their names including Adrian Stead, Vincenzo Onorato, Flavio Favini, Branko Brcin, Ian Moore, Giovanni Soldini, Pierre Casiraghi and Mikey Muller. RORC Racing Manager Nick Elliot will be taking part in his first big offshore race on Gemervescence and old faithful Beppe Bisotto is back with Atame for the 11th consecutive year. Local sailors Timmy Camilleri, Aaron, Christoph and Maya Podesta, Lee Satariano and Christian and Sebastian Ripard will be at the start too while Royal Malta Yacht Club Committee Member Jamie Sammut will be taking part this time in the demanding double handed class.

Among top monohulls George David’s Rambler 88 will be back after having won monohull line honours in 2015. The current course record unbeaten since 2007 was set by George David himself with a previous Rambler. Winner of the 2015 Monohull Line Honours, George David will be returning and prepared to better the course record he still holds.

Also returning are Cippa Lippa and Mascalzone Latino are the two Cookson 50 boats who are no strangers to this race, with Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino narrowly missing out to B2 for the coveted IRC win in 2015. A good challenge is also expected from the two TP52s Audax Energia and Team Van Uden Performance from Spain and the United Kingdom. From the Open 70 class Green Dragon and Turkish Airlines Racing Team Black Betty are back have been on the starting line before too. The rest of the monohull fleet includes some competitive boats such as the Xp-44 while the popular and successful J boats are out in full force out to produce some good results. Worthy of mention is Maltese boat Artie, a J122 yacht who brought the Rolex Middle Sea Race trophy home in the 2011 and 2014 editions – definitely a force not to be underestimated

Multihulls have showed a marked increase in popularity. Following substantial development put into producing high level performance and increase in speed, this category has become a highly competitive one. In 2015 the category included Lloyd Thornburg’s Phaedo 3 which took multihull line honours and Peter Aschenbrenner’s MOD 70 Paradox winning on corrected time. This year the race will welcome four multihulls. MOD70 trimaran Phaedo 3 sailing under the now familiar colours of lime green and chrome will be making a welcome return to the course and hoping to retain their 2015 Multihull Line honours title. The trimaran Maserati Multi70 will make its first appearance in this race. This Maserati is a cutting-edge, very high performance trimaran capable of making extremely fast speeds and can rise up off the water on her rudders and foils, significantly reducing her wetted surface area to the benefit of performance. The Maserati Multi70 is skippered by Giovanni Soldini who has his sights firmly set on the Rolex Middle Sea Race and RORC Transatlantic Race. A Multi 50s – Ciela Village will be entering the fray for the first time in Malta. Ciela Village’s skipper Thierry Bouchard won the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2008 on Spirit of Ad Hoc a Beneteau 40.7. The R-Six is the fourth multihull to take part and is a 2016 built cruising catamaran.

Seven boats will be vying for the Swan Mediterranean Challenge Trophy – T’ala, Montrachet and Lunz Am Meer have all competed in this race various times and will be returning once again. Digital Alpha, skippered by Valentin Zubkov is a Club Swan 42, a fast growing one design racing class.

Maltese Boats
A distinct fleet of local boats will be proudly flying the Maltese flag. Seven of the eight boats are returning crews. Lee Satariano’s J/122 Artie, overall winners of the 2014 edition, will be returning once again with strong determination. Although in 2015 they sailed well to win their class, light wind conditions prevented them from making a repeat victory. Artie will be joined by another J/122 – Otra Vez skippered by the Gatt Floridia brothers. In 2015 although present for the race, the Gatt Floridias formed part of an American crew on the USA Ker 43 namesake. The Podesta siblings, Aaron, Christoph and Maya will keep the family legacy going with the participation of their Beneteau First 45 Elusive 2 BOV whilst Jamie Sammut will be crewing his Solaris One 42 Unica in the double handed class. Timmy Camilleri, veteran of many international races will join the XP-Act crew whilst David Pizzuto’s IMX40 Geisha and Jonathan Gambin’s Ton Ton Dufour 44P will also make a welcome return. Sean Borg’s XP44 Xpresso will be making its debut on this famed course and will be completing the Maltese fleet.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday 22nd October at 11:00hrs. Race starts will take place in the Grand Harbour. The best viewpoints for the start will be on the Valletta waterfronts, Lower and Upper Barakkas, and Senglea peninsula.

More information about the 37th Edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race can be found here 

Published in Offshore

Lloyd Thornburg's American MOD 70, Phaedo3, co-skippered by Brian Thompson, crossed the finish line of the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race at the Royal Malta Yacht Club to take Multihull Line Honours at 00.09.41 CET on Tuesday 20th October in an elapsed time of 2 days 11 hours 29 minutes and 41 seconds. Lloyd Thornburg, and his elated crew, were greeted at the Royal Malta Yacht Club by Commodore, Godwin Zammit.

After crossing the finish line, Lloyd Thornburg commented dockside at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

“We were repairing one of the beams the night before the start, we were repairing a bit of damage sustained from setting some of our records, so we didn't get to do our normal practice and preparation.

The start of the race went really well and we had a very nice sail up to Sicily, then in the Messina Strait, we found a wind hole, which was a bit of a battle to get out of. It was a wonderful race with Rambler for much of the way, they made a better call in Messina going inside and it took us a while to get back from that. The conditions were light with lumpy seas, which we don't do so well in but towards the end we finally got our legs and were able to show the speed we are capable of.

Taking multihull line honours in this race has been a dream come true, we have been talking about this race for about four years. It is one of the classic 600 mile races and now we have done them all except one. I had heard that this is a beautiful race and I have found it incredible, especially passing Stromboli and coming into the finish, the surrounding are just amazing. It is unusual to do a 600 mile race and always be in sight of land, even at night you can see the city lights, which is kind of cool. I am now looking forward to seeing some of Malta while I am here - This race has lived up to my expectations and beyond.”

George David's Maxi, Rambler 88, crossed the finish line of the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race at the Royal Malta Yacht Club to take Monohull Line Honours at 04.48.43 CET on Tuesday 20th October in an elapsed time of 2 days 16 hours 18 minutes and 43 seconds.

Published in Offshore

#middlesearace – A record-breaking 123 yachts from more than 20 countries will cross the starting line of the Rolex Middle Sea Race on 18 October, reflecting the international stature of this popular offshore race organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

The unprecedented number of entrants – a 24 percent increase over the 99 yachts competing in 2013 – includes boats from as far away as the United States and Australia along with thirteen yachts from Malta. More than 15 boats will compete for the first time.

The Line Honours favourite is Igor Simcic's Maxi, Esimit Europa 2, skippered by multiple Olympic and America's Cup winner Jochen Schumann. The 100ft canting keel maxi has taken line honour victories in the years from 2010 – 2012, becoming only the second yacht in the history of the RMSR to take it three times in a row.

Unable to compete in last year's edition due to damage suffered on the mast on their way to the race, the crew is returning with the goal of taking line honours for an unprecedented fourth occasion.

Now in its 35th year, the Rolex Middle Sea Race (RMSR) is a fixture in the season, ranking alongside the Rolex Fastnet, Rolex Sydney–Hobart and Newport-Bermuda as a "must do" race.

"For yet another year, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has grown in the number of boats that have committed to compete in this ever popular offshore race," said Godwin Zammit, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. "There are a number of factors which contribute to the increase in participation. Naturally, the scenic yet challenging course plays a very important role, however one must mention the renowned hospitality that our Club offers its guests, which is spoken of highly by participants, often leading competitors to sign up simply through word of mouth recommendations.

Last, but not least, is our strong connection with other Clubs and our affiliation with the Royal Ocean Racing Club."

The event's fascination is largely drawn from its alluring, 608-nautical-mile racecourse – a rigorous anti-clockwise loop around Sicily which introduces numerous "corners" that present changing and complex meteorological shifts. The route includes the deep azure waters around Sicily including the Aeolian and Egadi Islands, as well as Pantelleria and Lampedusa. One of the most stunning vistas is Stromboli, the active volcano which is a course mark. Challenging, enchanting and historic, the Rolex Middle Sea Race starts in Malta's spectacular Grand Harbour at 11am on the 18 October.

"Security and safety of both racing teams and spectators has always been imperative for us and a number of procedures have been put in place. We have worked closely with the Armed Forces of Malta and Transport Malta to ensure that only authorised vessels authorised by the Race Committee will be allowed into the Grand Harbour.

Both entities will be present on the day to ensure that all procedures are strictly adhered to on the day", said Peter Dimech, Race Committee Chair and Principle Race Officer.

Supported by Rolex since 2002, the race commences and finishes in Malta. Winners will be announced throughout the week with an award ceremony wrapping up the week-long event on 25 October.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club thanks the general public for their co-operation in ensuring that all safety instructions issued by the relevant Authorities are adhered to, in order to ensure the safety of all concerned. Moreover, boats in the vicinity of the race courses are advised to navigate with caution and to keep a sharp lookout.

Published in Offshore

Today, in the ancient fortress city of Valletta, the former 16th century "Sacra Infermeria" of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, was host to the prize giving for the 31st edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.  Close to eight hundred guests – skippers, crews, family and friends – were on hand to collect trophies and awards for the Royal Malta Yacht Club's premier offshore race.

Ireland had a role in the win as the Navigator of the winning yacht was Northern Ireland's Ian Moore of Carrickfergus. More on this from WM Nixon in the Irish Independent HERE.

The former 16th century hospital, located adjacent to Fort St Elmo and overlooking an historically accurate restoration in the late 1970s, which earned it numerous design awards. In a city rich in history, the Sacra Infermeria is an impressive edifice, and was considered to be one of the best hospitals in Europe, one that could accommodate over 900 patients in an emergency.

The main hall, measuring 155 metres in length, was at that time, one of the largest in Europe and was described as "one of the grandest interiors in the world."  Surviving four direct hits during the bombardment of WWII, the building was repaired and later served all sorts of uses: as a command hall, an entertainment centre, a children's theatre, a school, and finally in the late 1970s, a modern conference center.

Seventy-six boats started the race, and 60 finished, one of the highest numbers of finishers in recent years. The fleet included boats from 17 nations, a veritable United Nations of competitors and certainly along the quay at Grand Harbour Marina, boats from Hungary, Italy, UK, US, Spain, and Slovenia, among others, bore this out.

At the prize giving, Royal Malta Yacht Club Commodore, George Bonello DuPuis thanked the competitors, event organizing committee, the international jury, yacht club staff and volunteers, and race sponsor Rolex. The Commodore was clearly pleased and he said, "I was asked how I would summarise this year's event and the first word that came to mind was "epic", as I'm sure many of you who competed would agree."

The race started last Saturday, in Grand Harbour, Valletta, on a day full of bright sunshine and blue skies. With the start signals from the Saluting Battery cannon at the Upper Barrakka Garden, Principal Race Officer Peter Dimech got the five classes away in an easterly breeze of eight knots – enough to get the race fleet out of the harbour, and on their way towards Sicily.

The fleet experienced light wind and a rhumb line filled with wind holes, so there was a lot of starting and stopping, with the back markers compressing at times to level up again. The trick was to get through the Messina Strait with a fair tide, one of a couple of tidal gates on the course, that would come into play. The 100-foot maxi Esimit Europa 2(SLO) led from the start and was able to keep their distance on their chief rival, the 100 foot ICAP Leopard (GBR). In fact, once around Stromboli, Esimit legged out and never looked back from there. When the two maxis reached the northwest corner off Trapani, the northwesterly mistral came in on schedule, though never built to the higher ranges that had been forecasted by some weather models.

Meanwhile the 50-70 footers, including Alegre (GBR), the Volvo 70 E1 (RUS), and particularly the TP52s Pace (GBR) and Lucky (USA), the R/P60 Wild Joe (HUN) and the Cookson 50, Cantankerous (ITA) were seemingly bound together pretty much all along the course. At the finish, these last four would finish within 30 minutes of each other.

Lucky's crew did a fine job strategically and physically – racing a TP52 around a 600+ mile course requires lots of fitness and stamina – of getting through the light spots and holding on through the bigger breeze, essentially sailing a nearly flawless race.

Once Lucky finished and assumed the overall lead on corrected time, the only real threats to her title were from what some might consider unlikely boats for an offshore race with a reputation for physically challenging conditions that are often the norm. The two boats in question might be unlikely, unless you know something about the depth of the local Maltese fleet. The J/122 Artie co-skippered by Lee Satariano and John Ripard has a great racing record, as well as having a crack crew of mostly family and friends. Likewise the J/133 Jaru, co-skippered by Andrew Calascione and Christian Ripard, is a top competitor in the local racing fleet.

So, with the clock ticking over the next 18 hours, the two J boats put the pedal down – photos taken onboard Artie during the race confirm that the boat was unleashed in a bid to get to the finish line pronto. In the end, despite a mistral that was producing 30+ knots in that area of the race course, and with average boat speeds on Artie of 9+ knots, and maximum speed in the high teens, between Pantelleria and Lampedusa, and then through the Comino channel, it was not to be. First Jaru fell off the pace nearing Malta, and then entering Marsamxett Harbour, the wind went light and Artie struggled to reach the finish line off the Royal Malta Yacht Club, missing the overall win by only 26 minutes. Still, a phenomenal effort for boat and crew and Artie finished 2nd overall in IRC and 1st in Class 4, while Jaru finished 1st in IRC Class 3, 1st in ORC Class 3 and 1stoverall in ORC.

Commodore Bonello DuPuis, said, "I must say that I feel extremely proud of our achievements as a Club, but even more so of the results of the Maltese fleet, especially those of Artie, Jaru, and Commanche Raider who gave it their best and literally put Malta on the map. Well done, boys! You made us proud."

The main event at the prize giving was the overall winner in IRC, and for this the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy and a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece were presented by Georges Bonello DuPuis and Mr. Malcolm Lowell, of Edward Lowell's to Bryon Ehrhart, and the TP52, Lucky (USA).

Ehrhart, from Chicago, Illinois, USA, is a member of the New York Yacht Club and Chicago Yacht Clubs, and this past year he's actively campaigned his boat on this side of 'the pond'. Although this was Ehrhart and Lucky's first time at the Rolex Middle Sea Race, it was clearly not beginner's luck, as a lot of prior planning and race practice – last year's Rolex Fastnet Race for one – ensured Lucky would get to Malta battle ready. The majority of Lucky's 13 crew members have been sailing on the boat since 2006, a mix of Americans, Brits, Welsh, Irish, Kiwis, and Aussies – more than a few of them fellow Etchells competitors.

Crew member Rodney Hagebols from Australia and several crew members, accepted the award on behalf of Ehrhart, who had to return to the US. Hagebols said, "This was our first time here in Malta and it was above and beyond everything we could have hoped for. Thanks to Bryon, he's an inspiration to us all; to the other competitors, who made the race very interesting. I mean the race was three days and we couldn't relax for a second. We pushed probably harder than we ever did before, and it was gratifying to have a great result...and thanks to Malta, for making us feel welcome – it's been a fabulous experience."

On Wednesday, when the overall win had been secured, Ehrhart said, "Certainly, we didn't come expecting to win anything like this. We came expecting to work hard and put our best in. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a classic and, in my mind, it will remain a classic. I would encourage everyone to come here to Malta to challenge."

The Malta Tourism Authority Trophy for first foreign boat home, the RLR Line Honours Trophy for first boat home, and a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece was presented to Igor Simcic, and his Slovenian maxi, Esimit Europa 2.

Anna Rossi, president of the Malta Sailing Federation and Godwin Zammit, Rolex Middle Sea Race Committee Chairman presented the IRC and ORC handicap class prizes:   IRC class winners were Class 1, Igor Simcic, Esimit Europa 2; Class 2, Bryon Ehrhart, Lucky; Class 3, Andrew Calascione, Jaru; Class 4, Lee Satariano, Artie.

ORC class winners were Class 1, Vladimir Prosikhin, E1; Class 2, Jens Kellinghusa, Varuna; Class 3, Andrew Calascione, Jaru; Class 4, Tomas Dolezal, Three Sisters

The youngest participating crewmember, Maltese Thomas Zammit Tabona, 16 years old, who sailed on Elusive 2 Medbank, was presented with the Youth Cup. His Excellency Efisio Luigi Marras presented owner/skipper Gerado Sigler with the Italian Ambassador's Trophy for performing an outstanding act of seamanship onboard his 75-foot yacht Buccaneer.

The John Illingworth Trophy for first boat on corrected time in Double Handed Class went to the Maltese double handers, Anthony Camilleri and Gilbert Azzopardi, on the 34-foot BOV Plain Sailing. Given the severe conditions that developed for the last boats home, it was a feat to even have finished.

The Transport Malta Trophy for first boat across the line having a Maltese Skipper and a majority of Maltese crew members, went to Andrew Calascione, Jaru. Onboard Jaru, almost all of the crew were related in some way to co-skippers Andrew Calascione and his brother-in-law, John Ripard. Calascione said, "Everybody jelled, we all had different skills, different roles, we got on very well together and I think it was one of the greatest races I have done."

Starboard Trophy for first Maltese boat overall on handicap under IRC and ORC went to Lee Satariano, on Artie (IRC), and to Andrew Calascione, on Jaru (ORC). The Nations Cup for best-combined score on corrected time under IRC by three boats from the same nation went to Artie, Jaru, Comanche Raider, all from Malta.

Full race results and awards can be found on the Rolex Middle Sea Race event site HERE

Published in Offshore

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

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

Flying into Malta it's hard not to be struck by the landscape: the buildings all a blinding beige in the hot sun, the landscape fairly arid and dry. It's more reminiscent of the Northern African coast, which is only 155 nautical miles west. The island archipelago is at the crossroads of the Mediterranean situated, as it is, midway between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia. This year's fleet reflects that more than any year past, with numerous entries from throughout Europe, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

One Irish boat, Legally Brunette, from Dun Laoghaire is entered in to the race.

This 31st edition of the 606-nautical mile Rolex Middle Sea Race begins this Saturday, 23 October from Grand Harbour. Registration closes on Friday, but by press time there were 83 boats entered from 18 countries. Included in this number and back to defend, are 2009 Overall Winner, Andres Soriano on the 21-metre mini-maxi Alegre (GBR), and Line Honours winner, Mike Slade on the 30.5-metre ICAP Leopard (GBR).

The race is organized and hosted by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, which moved into stylish brand new quarters overlooking Marsamxett Harbour, just prior to last year's race. The yacht club, with as rich and varied a history as this island republic, is one of the most hospitable anywhere and provides all sailors who make the effort to trek here, a warm welcome.

Yesterday, a low pressure system that swept through south of Sicily, with winds of 50 knots and 3 to 4 metre seas, which has delayed the arrival of some of the foreign fleet. Though some like Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) and Wild Joe (HUN) were already committed to crossing and so endured the conditions encountered enroute. The 30-metre Esimit had a lightening strike that took out the wind instruments at the top of its 44-metre mast. Meanwhile, Marton Jozsa's Wild Joe, a R/P Custom 60, which set out from Croatia on Friday, and then from Sicily yesterday morning, had a tough crossing, ripping both their mainsail and jib.

Many of the fleet is moored in Camper & Nicholson's Grand Harbour Marina and dockside there today there was a flurry of activity with crews effecting repairs or otherwise prepping for Saturday's offshore race. Tomorrow, Wednesday, there will be Coastal Race most likely around neighboring Comino Island. Some boats, though not all, use this race as a tune-up for the offshore.

Along the quay, there were country flags on the back of boats from Spain, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, the UK and United States, as well as a local fleet of competitors from Malta. One would think the Maltese might have an edge – local knowledge of the area, perhaps – and in that group one of the ringers may well be Jaru (MLT), a J/133 co-skippered by John Ripard Jr. and his brother-in-law, Andrew Calascione. The close relations don't stop there, as half the crew are composed of their children, with a few close friends from the UK there to round out the crew.

Sailing onboard, as helmsman and watch leader, is 23-year old, Sebastian Ripard. This youngest of the Ripard generation is taking time out from his, and team mate Benji Borg's, campaign in the 49er class for the 2012/2016 Olympics. This 600+ mile race requires switching gears from 'around the cans'. Asked what he likes about this, his eighth, race, Sebastian said, "It's a beautiful race. I mean one of the marks is a volcano, which is often erupting! There's always a bit of everything in this race, tactically there are a lot of different points where the race compresses, so there's a lot of tricky areas: the Straits (of Messina), Stromboli, by Favignana, which make it challenging throughout. There are a lot of variables that keep on changing. And I quite enjoy the mental demands of an offshore race; it's more of an adventure. In his first go round in 2002, he racked up an overall win on the J/109 Jammin' (MLT) with – same as this year – his father and uncle. He followed that with a 2nd place in the J/109 Artie (MLT) with Lee Sartariano.

The J-Boat has a good track record for the race: a J/133 won its' class and placed 2nd overall in the 2008 Rolex Middle Sea Race. The 43-footer was Sailing World magazines' "Boat of the Year" award when it was launched in 2003 and the design has proven itself for performance cruising and offshore racing.

Almost all foreign competitors seem drawn to this unique race: a long offshore, anti-clockwise around Sicily, a few volcanoes, and some neighboring islands. Bryon Ehrhart owner and skipper of Lucky (USA), is one of those. Ehrhart, from Chicago, first raced the boat in the 2006 Newport Bermuda Race. Since then they have competed in the 2007 Transpac Race, the 2008 Chicago Mackinac, and the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.

His crew are a group of strong amateurs, with a few professionals that have sailed together for years. For the most part, they are Etchells (one-design) sailors, and plan to bring that level of intensity and competitiveness from the small boat fleet to a big boat offshore program.

Ehrhart said, "We have an interest in doing the truly great ocean races and certainly the Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of them. It's a race that I have read about over the years and have thought that – because of the course – would be strategically and tactically challenging, maybe even the most challenging we have done or will ever do.

"A fantastic amount of preparation has gone into getting the boat ready for this race and we hope we are up to all that we may encounter. We have converted this TP52 to an IRC offshore boat. We do a couple of big events a year and this race is the only offshore event we are doing in 2010: it is a race of the quality that is worth organizing our year around. "

Thursday is a Crew Party at the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and on Friday there will be 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

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