Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Maxi Victory in Rolex Middle Sea Race

Esimit Europa 2 has taken out line honours in the 2011 Rolex Middle Sea Race, crossing the finish line at 0054 CEST this morning in Marsamxett Harbour, Valetta, Malta. The Slovenian maxi completed the course in an elapsed time of 61 hours, 24 minutes and 35 seconds.
Photo: Rolex / René Rossignud
Previously known as Alfa Romeo II, the Reichel/Pugh 100 design built by McConaghy Yachts in Sydney was also the 2010 line honours winner, with an elapsed time of 54 hours, 52 minutes, 32 seconds. Since Igor Simcic took ownership of the boat in 2010 the100-footer has dominated the European circuit with her line honours wins including the Giraglia Rolex Cup.

Included in the crew of 20 is America's Cup sailors, Jochen Schümann, Skipper and Navigator Juan Vila, who both raced with Alinghi in 2007 and were competing in their first Rolex Middle Sea Race.

“The start was interesting, a squall came through, so there was more breeze than expected. It was good speed from the beginning. They (Rán) gybed away at the first mark so we had a big split. We had a different scenario planned. Even though they are smaller, they were the real competition for us, so we didn’t allow too much separation. We sailed towards them and gybed in front to windward. If we were to take a little more risk, we should have play more our side, because it proved later to be the best way. We played a little bit maybe too safe, but on a long race you have tactics and you look for your direct opponents,” Schümann said about the early part of the race where they got away from Rán,

“It’s one race I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a different kind of distance race. I was a bit nervous because everyone told me how difficult it was getting around Sicily. There are many high points where you have to be very careful,” Juan Vila said.

“We kept some land breeze longer and we stretched there. Everyone on the boat did a good job of keeping the boat going and we probably managed to keep going with the little bit of wind that was going north. To keep the boat moving in these light airs, we knew it would be tricky -- as the Rolex Middle Sea Race is -- especially the first night. We thought it would be a deciding point of the race, getting by the eastern coast of Sicily and through Messina. From Stromboli it was light, but we managed to find some clouds, so we were jumping from cloud to cloud,” Vila recapped on the early part of the race as they approached Sicily got a good jump on the fleet.

From Messina, Esimit Europa 2 had a spinnaker run from Stromboli, then a slow approach to the tip of Sicily where the wind died. 

“We struggled to keep the boat going and then we put our nose into the southeasterly and kept stretching slowly. There were three or four thunderstorms, very violent with rain and breeze. These huge clouds were changing the wind pattern dramatically, from no wind to really big puffs, and the direction shifting more than 90 degrees. It wasn’t easy to handle it, but I think we passed all those things quite nicely,” Schümann said.

From Trapani, they had a close reach to Pantelleria, rounding early Monday morning, then sailed upwind to Lampedusa, where they met a rough sea state. 

“There were lumpy seas, where the current was pushing from behind and making waves that were very short and very high, a little bit boat-breaking stuff. Actually we broke a runner there, which was difficult because we had to replace it with a halyard and sail with a Solent only, instead of a jib," Schümann said.
Line Honours Presentation, l-r: Georges Bonello DuPuis, Commodore RMYC, Igor Simcic, Owner Esimit, Jochen Schümann, Skipper Esimit; Malcolm Lowell Jr. (Edwards Lowell Co. Ltd) Photo: Rolex / René Rossignud
After Esimit Europa 2 crossed the finish line, just off the Royal Malta Yacht Club in the early hours of Tuesday, the boat was brought alongside the yacht club pontoon for a dockside presentation. Owner and project manager Igor Simcic was presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece by Malcolm Lowell Jr. from Edwards’ Lowell, as well as the R.L.R. Line Honours Trophy by Royal Malta Yacht Club Commodore, Georges Bonello DuPuis.
Rán   Photo By: Rolex / René Rossignud
Five hours later this morning, Niklas Zennstrom’s Rán, was the second boat to finish, crossing the line at 11:10 CEST, with an elapsed time of 2 days, 23 hours, 40 minutes.

Alegre is the next boat expected to cross the finish line this afternoon followed by Med Spirit. The majority of the fleet is now in a line between Pantelleria and Lampedusa, sailing in a 12-15 knot south-southeasterly and if the wind holds the should finish from this evening.

Lulu Roseman

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