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Middle Sea Race: Is Fastnet Race Winner JPK 1180 'Sunrise' on Cusp of Remarkable Double?

26th October 2021
The British yacht Sunrise, winner of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, sits atop the standings of the Middle Sea Race
The British yacht Sunrise, winner of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, sits atop the standings of the Middle Sea Race Credit: Kurt Arrigo

1700 CEST 26 October: Tuesday was yet another day of extraordinary tales and adventure. The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race continues to live up to its billing as a blockbuster thriller. Overnight the list of finishers had lifted from seven to 18 by 0900 CEST and is now up to 31 as more boats filed across the line. Some 40 or so crews are on the leg from Lampedusa to Malta and will be relieved to be on the last stretch home. The weather is predicted to throw another curveball in the next 12 hours. Winds are forecast to build substantially from the north-east thrashing the northern coast of Malta and the seas down to Lampedusa. The clubhouse leader has already changed. The British yacht Sunrise, winner of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, sits atop the standings.

After Rambler ended her sixth rounding of Sicily on Monday morning, it was another 14 hours before the Volvo 70 I Love Poland, skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski and winner of 2020 monohull line honours, reached the finish. The Polish boat has been adopted by the Royal Malta Yacht Club Sailing School. The crew generously spending time with the student sailors – some as young as six years old - before the race, taking them sailing on their ocean-going maxi and then joining in some dinghy racing in Marsamxett Harbour. Lithuanian entry Ambersail 2 and the Slovenian yacht Way of Life (formerly Morning Glory, overall winner of the race in 2006) were next to finish.

With just a few miles to go, according to a hard to read race tracker, Kinsale yacht Freya is the next boat to finish. After the XP50, it appears ISORA campaigner Andrew Hall's Pata Negra, a much lower-rated boat will be next home. And then Sailplane with Kenny Rumball aboard, so it looks like a lot of the Irish sailors will finish together tonight.

RamblerRambler

Repelled Attempts

The excitement really began with the arrival of Daguet 3 – Corum, which at one point looked a contender to topple Comanche. In the end, the localised weather system spinning its way from Lampedusa to Malta, on Monday, put paid to the effort. That same system is the one about to drive the ferocious winds. Its unexpected part in the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race overall result should not be underestimated. Frederic Puzin’s crew ended their assault at 0520 CEST and holds an unassailable lead in IRC Class Two, with Teasing Machine (FRA) in second.

James Neville and Ino XXX, second overall in the Rolex Fastnet Race, may have harboured thoughts of going one better. Like many others, the British yacht had a hair-raising ride from Stromboli to Trapani. She also squeezed through the transition zone south of the Egadi Islands in better shape than some, holding the lower-rated, near-sistership Artie III at bay. In the end, it was not to be. Ino XXX is secure in first place in IRC Class Three, but just off the podium overall. “It has been an incredible experience. A phenomenal race and a lot tougher than expected,” said Neville, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club. “A major part was the leg from Stromboli. We tried a big kite for about an hour, but we could not hold it, broaching a couple of times. We then had some bad luck at Favignana, where we got shut down losing quite a few hours. Winning our class and maybe fourth overall on our first visit is a top performance for us. We look forward to coming back”

Artie III co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian RipardArtie III co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard

The first Maltese boat home on the water is always an excuse for the local sailing community to celebrate. When co-skippers, Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, brought Artie III to the finish this morning the breakfast guests at the Royal Malta Yacht Club cheered their local heroes. A mere 11 minutes off top spot in IRC Class Three, after time correction, will be Artie III’s best result ever. It is someway short of the two overall victories secured by the Satariano/Ripard combo in 2011 and 2014, but this was still one to remember. “We prepped the boat really well this year,” advised Satariano. “The race was the one we were hoping for, one that pushed us to the limit all the time. The crew were exceptional, we kept the boat intact and really enjoyed it.”
Impressive Effort

With the six best boats in this year’s 695nm Rolex Fastnet Race on the start line, competition for the podium places was guaranteed to be fierce. It looks, however, that one boat may have comprehensively outwitted the other five Rolex Fastnet boats and the entire Middle Sea Race fleet. Sunrise had been sailing a race two classes above its own, pretty well since the Messina Strait. Despite a tricky final few miles to and through the South Comino Channel, the JPK 1180 has squeezed into the overall lead of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race and is on the cusp of a remarkable double. Needing to finish by 1338 CEST on Tuesday to beat Comanche, nearly three times her waterline length and rating almost twice as high, the British yacht passed Race Control at Tigné Point at 1323 CEST, to grab a 16-minute lead in the overall standings. Some 50 yachts are still competing for IRC Time Correction silverware, so it is a nervous wait for Tom Kneen and his crew.

“My ambition when I enter any race is to win my class,” said a clearly impressed Kneen, as he stepped ashore. “There are some really competitive boats in that class, Juno for example, and Rossko Racer another JPK 1180, who are very, very good. So, mission accomplished from my perspective.” The result is even more remarkable since Kneen had not planned to enter until Edward Bell (the owner of another JPK 1180, Dawn Treader) had agreed to share the burden of entering a race of this calibre. “Four of the people on board are Dawn Treader crew,” explained Kneen. “We sailed together for the first time on Friday afternoon for an hour. It is testament to how people pull together and how much effort we put in.”

Arguably all nine Sunrise crew were key individuals, but one stands out. Dave Swete has twice raced around the world winning the Hans Horrevoets Award for young sailor of the race on his first lap and was a Rolex Middle Sea Race winner with Lucky in 2010. Kneen was quick to pick out the critical part Swete played in ensuring the team stayed focused and motivated: “He absolutely worked his butt off, kept the crew together, kept the boat going fast and without him we would have been nowhere.”

JPK1180 SunriseJPK 1180 Sunrise
Tom Cheney, the navigator, summarised the race: “From a navigational point of view, I think it was just chaos really.” Everything went as planned for the first part. A quick exit at Messina, on the last of the positive current, set Sunrise up for the leg to Stromboli where they stayed well clear to avoid any wind traps. The wild ride west started with apparent abandon before prudence and conservatism took hold just as the confusion took a grip. “South of Ustica, and completely unexpected to me, we had a complete 180 in the wind direction during the night,” said Cheney. “Then it was light and fickle around the Egadi Islands, and I had very little faith in our weather forecast. Even the last fetch from Lampedusa to Malta, we were left praying for a lift.” Whatever the final result, the young navigator leaves with some key takeaways. “It’s made me want to learn more about meteorology!” he quipped, before adding “I found it very stressful, and I did not sleep very much. I think it was fun, and I think it was worth it.”

On Wednesday we should know if the sun is shining on Sunrise.

DAY 4 IRC CLASS UPDATE 1700 CEST

IRC 1 FINISH
Comanche (CAY)
Rambler (USA)
Skorpios (ESP)

IRC 2 FINISH
Daguet 3 – Corum (FRA)
Teasing Machine (FRA)
Lisa R (ITA)

IRC 3 FINISH
Ino XXX (GBR)
Artie III (MLT)
Phosphorus II (GBR)

IRC 4 AT LAMPEDUSA TRANSIT (14/18 YACHTS AROUND)
Elusive 2 (MLT)
Sailplane (GBR)
Ton Ton Laferla (MLT)

IRC 5 AT FAVIGNANA TRANSIT (13/16 YACHTS AROUND)
Sunrise (GBR) (Finished)
Joy-Spartivento (ITA)
Noisy Oyster (USA)

IRC 6 AT FAVIGNANA TRANSIT (14/23 YACHTS AROUND)
Jangada (GBR) (Double Hander)
Foggy Dew (FRA)
Calypso (MLT)

Published in Middle Sea Race
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About The Middle Sea Race

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a highly rated offshore classic, often mentioned in the same breath as the Rolex Fastnet, The Rolex Sydney–Hobart and Newport-Bermuda as a 'must do' race. The Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club co-founded the race in 1968 and 2007 was the 28th Edition. Save for a break between 1984 and 1995 the event has been run annually attracting 25–30 yachts. In recent years, the number of entries has rissen sharply to 68 boats thanks to a new Organising Committee who managed to bring Rolex on board as title sponsor for the Middle Sea Race.

The race is a true challenge to skippers and crews who have to be at their very best to cope with the often changeable and demanding conditions. Equally, the race is blessed with unsurpassed scenery with its course, taking competitors close to a number of islands, which form marks of the course. Ted Turner described the MSR as "the most beautiful race course in the world".

Apart from Turner, famous competitors have included Eric Tabarly, Cino Ricci, Herbert von Karajan, Jim Dolan, Sir Chay Blyth and Sir Francis Chichester (fresh from his round the world adventure). High profile boats from the world's top designers take part, most in pursuit of line honours and the record – competing yachts include the extreme Open 60s, Riviera di Rimini and Shining; the maxis, Mistress Quickly, Zephyrus IV and Sagamore; and the pocket rockets such as the 41-foot J-125 Strait Dealer and the DK46, Fidessa Fastwave.

In 2006, Mike Sanderson and Seb Josse on board ABN Amro, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, the super Maxis; Alfa Romeo and Maximus and the 2006 Rolex Middle Sea Race overall winner, Hasso Platner on board his MaxZ86, Morning Glory.

George David on board Rambler (ex-Alfa Romeo) managed a new course record in 2007 and in 2008, Thierry Bouchard on Spirit of Ad Hoc won the Rolex Middle Sea Race on board a Beneteau 40.7

The largest number of entries was 78 established in 2008.

Middle Sea Race History

IN THE BEGINNING

The Middle Sea Race was conceived as the result of sporting rivalry between great friends, Paul and John Ripard and an Englishman residing in Malta called Jimmy White, all members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. In the early fifties, it was mainly British servicemen stationed in Malta who competitively raced. Even the boats had a military connection, since they were old German training boats captured by the British during the war. At the time, the RMYC only had a few Maltese members, amongst who were Paul and John Ripard.

So it was in the early sixties that Paul and Jimmy, together with a mutual friend, Alan Green (later to become the Race Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), set out to map a course designed to offer an exciting race in different conditions to those prevailing in Maltese coastal waters. They also decided the course would be slightly longer than the RORC's longest race, the Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as used today.

Ted Turner, CEO of Turner Communications (CNN) has written that the Middle Sea Race "must be the most beautiful race course in the world. What other event has an active volcano as a mark of the course?"

In all of its editions since it was first run in 1968 – won by Paul Ripard's brother John, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has attracted many prestigious names in yachting. Some of these have gone on to greater things in life and have actually left their imprint on the world at large. Amongst these one finds the late Raul Gardini who won line honours in 1979 on Rumegal, and who spearheaded the 1992 Italian Challenge for the America's Cup with Moro di Venezia.

Another former line honours winner (1971) who has passed away since was Frenchman Eric Tabarly winner of round the world and transatlantic races on Penduik. Before his death, he was in Malta again for the novel Around Europe Open UAP Race involving monohulls, catamarans and trimarans. The guest list for the Middle Sea Race has included VIP's of the likes of Sir Francis Chichester, who in 1966 was the first man to sail around the world single-handedly, making only one stop.

The list of top yachting names includes many Italians. It is, after all a premier race around their largest island. These include Navy Admiral Tino Straulino, Olympic gold medallist in the star class and Cino Ricci, well known yachting TV commentator. And it is also an Italian who in 1999 finally beat the course record set by Mistress Quickly in 1978. Top racing skipper Andrea Scarabelli beat it so resoundingly, he knocked off over six hours from the time that had stood unbeaten for 20 years.

World famous round the world race winners with a Middle Sea Race connection include yachting journalist Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Les Williams, both from the UK.

The Maxi Class has long had a long and loving relationship with the Middle Sea Race. Right from the early days personalities such as Germany's Herbert Von Karajan, famous orchestra conductor and artistic director of the Berliner Philarmoniker, competing with his maxi Helisara IV. Later came Marvin Greene Jr, CEO of Reeves Communications Corporation and owner of the well known Nirvana (line honours in 1982) and Jim Dolan, CEO of Cablevision, whose Sagamore was back in 1999 to try and emulate the line honours she won in 1997.

THE COURSE RECORD

The course record was held by the San Francisco based, Robert McNeil on board his Maxi Turbo Sled Zephyrus IV when in 2000, he smashed the Course record which now stands at 64 hrs 49 mins 57 secs. Zephyrus IV is a Rechiel-Pugh design. In recent years, various maxis such as Alfa Romeo, Nokia, Maximus and Morning Glory have all tried to break this course record, but the wind Gods have never played along. Even the VOR winner, ABN AMro tried, but all failed in 2006.

However, George David came along on board Rambler in 2007 and demolished the course record established by Zephyrus IV in 2000. This now stands at 1 day, 23 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds.

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