Monday, October 24, 2011

At The Halfway Mark - Rolex Middle Sea Race

It's just forty-eight hours into the Rolex Middle Sea Race and already the fleet has encountered plenty of challenges. The 606-nautical mile course around Sicily is infamous for its flukey conditions and local anomalies in wind, current and weather conditions.
Alegre passing Favignana Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
While the first 24 hours was faster than expected, the frontrunners suffered on the stretch of the course along the north coast of Sicily where lighter air slowed them to a crawl. But once they stuck their bows around the northwest corner of Sicily, past San Vito lo Capo, they were back into the breeze and off and running again.
Rán Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
Esimit Europa 2 made their way around the corner, passing between the Egadi Islands of Favignana, to port, and Marettimo, to starboard, at 2300 last night. The southerly kicked in and after a few tacks they were able to lay Pantelleria, 70 nautical miles distant, to round the island at 0630 this morning.
Rán Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
At that same time Rán was rounding the northwest point at San Vito lo Capo where the breeze had increased.

“After experiencing very little wind during the night in our downwind sailing, we are now back upwind in 16.5 knots of wind and we are sailing at a speed of 13.5 knots. If you were driving a car, this would compare to about 25 km per hour approx. Slow you might think? Well, with a carbon floating machine like this one and her heel angle when going upwind, you better hold on and forget about your nice hair-do. Rocky and fast is the description of the experience; Hold on and strap yourself in. Still no rain instead a beautiful sunrise behind the hilly landscape of Sicily,” a Rán crew member reported.
Alegre Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
At approximately 1000 this morning Alegre and Med Spirit rounded the northwest corner. Behind them was Class 2 leader Nikata just south of Isola Ustica along with Dralion and Wild Joe.
Med Spirit passing Favignana Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
“Looking ahead we expect our world to change when we round the western tip of Sicily and enter the southerly winds. The strength will increase and be more on the nose. At the moment we are peeling between the code zero and headsails, but we will just be using headsails shortly. We’re happy with that; it gives us a chance to extend on Dralion, one of our major competitors. We made a good decision last night to stay north, away from the wind shadows of Sicily and the Aeolian Islands. Dralion did the same, and we owe them time unfortunately,” said navigator Mike Broughton from onboard Nikata
Nikata Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
“Further ahead we think that Lampedusa could be a problem and another park-up. There is a low tracking over Malta on Tuesday that could bring really light winds, changing the picture all over again and really changing the shape of the race,” Broughton said.
Wild Joe at sunset on Day 2 Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo 
The majority of the fleet, including all of Classes 3 and 4, is packed closely along the rhumbline off the northern coast of Sicily. Abeam of the island of Alicudi (one of the Aeolian Islands) this morning, skipper Arthur Podesta onboard the Class 3 Maltese boat Elusive St. Regis said they had a visual sighting of 34-35 boats around them.

“It was a tough night, we rounded Stromboli with good breeze at around 2300 with its usual eruptions and a very nice view. About an hour later, the breeze started to die, and then it was just a big swell with sails flapping, shock loading the boat. We are now sailing in six knots of wind, making 6.3 knots of boat speed, with the apparent wind just forward of the beam. We anticipate the wind to increase by midday, though forecasts have been mostly inaccurate. Anyway, that’s the name of game. Right now we have bright sunshine some cloud cover,” Podesta said.

Lulu Roseman

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