Monday, October 24, 2011

Bring On The Breeze - Rolex Middle Sea Race

The weather has so far served up two completely different scenarios for the Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet. By Monday afternoon the leaders who earlier rounded the western tip of Sicily were powering along in 20 plus knots of southeasterly breeze while the rest of the fleet lingered the lee along the north coast of Sicily in just five to ten knots of wind.
Esimit Europa 2....running their own race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
By 1730 several squalls swept through and a few boats were caught out and forced to quickly douse spinnakers and run through sail changes, as the wind swung around from southeast to northwest.

Esimit Europa 2 hooked into the solid southeasterly breeze on Sunday night and was ahead of the 72-foot mini maxi, Rán. By 1800 today, Esimit was clocking 11 knots of easterly breeze on the leg from Lampedusa towards the finish in Malta and had increased their lead ahead of of Rán to 95 nautical miles. Esimit is expecting to cross the finish line off the Royal Malta Yacht Club in Marsamxett Harbour by midnight tonight.
Rán Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
At 1400 this afternoon Rán's navigator Steve Hayles reported a lumpy sea state down past Trapani.

“We’ve been cracked sheets reaching today in up to 25 knots and it’s down to 15 knots now, and I think that trend will continue. We’re going to be upwind in 10-13 knots on the way to Lampedusa, and beyond that it’s looking potentially quite a bit lighter on the leg back to Malta," Hayles said.
Alegre Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
“It’s frustrating to have watched Esimit sail away to a bigger lead than we would have liked, but the conditions have suited her – it’s been a bit of a leader’s race. Our aim, leaving the dock, was to focus on what was controllable, and to that end we’ve got to be reasonably happy. We’ve managed to hold or extend on the group behind us and obviously we’re pretty focused on boats like Alegre, who we’ve put back probably 35 miles or so behind us.”
Berenice Bis Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
Behind Rán, the 90-footer Med Spirit and Mills 68 Alegre were approaching Pantelleria, about 15 nautical miles out. The rest of the fleet was stretched out from the Egadi Islands and north around to Palermo. Class 1 competitors E1, Nikata , Wild Joe, and Berenice Bis were the next boats to reach the corner at the Egadis. At 1700, the Swan 80 Berenice Bis, with all crew on the rail, was approaching Favignana in a 14-knot easterly breeze as a rain squall came though, gusting up to 20 knots, before clocking southeast without any loss of speed.
Dralion Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
Class 2 leaders Nikata, Dralion, and Cantankerous followed. On the Swan 66, Lot 66, skipper Andrew Duff reported that the crew were in good spirits, pushing the boat as hard as they could.  

“We seem to be catching a few boats up, but then they get away from us. We’re 40 miles from Favignana, and hoping to get around before midnight,” Duff said.
E1 Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
Vikesha II, co-skippered by Russian Oleg Evdokimenko and Maltese Timmy Camilleri, (who has won the race overall three times), with Jochem Visser as tactician, is currently leading Class 3. Evdokimenko is a Dragon sailor and his crew includes other Russian Dragon, TP52, and Olympic sailors.

Leading Class 4 are two J/122s from the Maltese fleet: the Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard co-skippered Artie and Otra Vez, co-skippered by brothers Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia. 
 Moonshine Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
“It’s not a long passage race, you have a lot of corners, a lot of changing winds when you go around a corner. You get becalmed, you run away; you get becalmed, they catch you up, it really keeps you on your toes, the whole way around. That’s why it’s so much fun, but it’s so hard doing it,” Ripard said before the start of the race.
Speedy  Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
Ian Knight and Beppe Bisotto, are double-handers racing on the Fast 42 Atame. 

“Ian is sleeping; he deserves a full night after a fast leg to Stromboli. I am back again admiring Stromboli by night, it has become a regular habit. Every year sailing, keeping it port side, puffs of incandescent ashes and smokes. Lou Reed on the player and streams of thinking, not only about sailing. This you can do if racing double-handed, with a crew there is little time for yourself,” said Bisotto in an email while enjoying his solitary watch.

Lulu Roseman

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