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Sunday, October 25, 2015

2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race Wrap Up

The idea of circumnavigating Sicily appeals to many. The lure of dramatic scenery, active volcanoes, dolphins jumping across your bow and extended summer is intense. For the sailor, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is the last regatta on the Mediterranean racing calendar, a must do on their offshore bucket lists, thus a pilgrimage to Malta ensues every October.
Photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo
It is the challenge of a simple course, yet an incredibly complex race that appeals to professional and Corinthian sailors alike. The combination of myriad land features, with varied winds and sea states creates one of the most complex puzzles for navigators. Yet there will only be one winner. The team that has prepared extensively, studied the weather forecasts, scrutinised the nautical charts and convinced their team to execute their advice with precision. Preparation is fundamental, yet the ability to interpret the changing conditions while racing and adapt accordingly is what delivers success.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
With just one mark to keep to port when leaving Valletta’s Grand Harbour, the Rolex Middles Sea Race will take you through the Strait of Messina, around the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean – the bubbling volcano of Stromboli, through the Aeolian Islands and onto the Egadi Islands before you leave Pantelleria and Lampedusa to port and return to Malta for a dramatic finish in Marsamxett Harbour.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Covering more than 608 nautical miles, the fleet of 111 yachts, which competed in the 36th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race was no exception. Teams from 22 nations with yachts ranging from 9 to 25 metres in length set off under cannon fire and in very light air conditions on Saturday, 17 October.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
The first to return were the Americans. Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD 70 trimaran Phaedo3 christened the finish line just after midnight on Tuesday, 20 October. Closely followed by George David’s canting keel maxi Rambler 88 who claimed monohull line honours. An impressive feat for the course record holders, who had hoped for a weather forecast that would enable them to better their time with their new Juan Kouyoumidjian design.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
“We broke the course record in 2007 but that has not been broken this year. So it is nice to keep that one intact. This was a slow race, although we did have incredibly varied conditions, we saw zero to 23 knots of wind speed and everything in between and every cardinal point of the compass for wind direction and wind transitions of up to 90 degrees. In respect of the record, the first half of the race killed any chance and in the second half we had 160 miles dead up wind from Trapani to Lampedusa," said George David.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
“I would say we have had the short end of the weather in our races this year, definitely in the Rolex Fastnet, although we won our class and beat Comanche, it was a small boat race with good wind coming behind for the little boats.” With the Rolex Fastnet and Rolex Middle Sea Race complete, Rambler 88 is going for the Grand Slam. George David and his star crew now have their sights set on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which starts on 26 December in Sydney (AUS), the ultimate offshore race.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Experience gained from many previous editions came into play for the two Italian teams in one of the most competitive classes, IRC 2 where it was Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino battling with TP52 B2 owned by Michele Galli, overall winner of the 2013 Rolex Middle Sea Race.
B2 Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
B2 (ITA) crossed the finish line just before midnight, to take first position in the overall rankings but there was a nervous look about the crew. They scanned the darkness outside Marsamxett Harbour, looking for the masthead light of Vincenzo Onorato's, Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino(ITA). As their Italian rivals came into view, the tension was obvious onboard B2. Mascalzone Latino crossed the finish line minutes later and stopped the clock. After three and half days at sea, B2 corrected out to beat Mascalzone Latino by a mere nine seconds. An incredible feat, having sailed 649 nautical miles.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Thinking back on the race, Spanish navigator Nacho Postigo commented; “Crossing the finish line with an advantage of nine seconds in corrected time was a big surprise, but even if we had lost to Mascalzone Latino we would have been happy, because we know both teams raced a great race and we both would be fair winners.”
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
“For me this was a typical Middle Sea Race: you struggle to find the wind, and when you find it, it happens to be in excess. This time it was more about light than about strong winds. I think it is one of the most challenging races in the world. There is a strong association between land and sea, and this drives you to take many important decisions along the way; sometimes, mistakes are really expensive here.”
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
“We have a great team on B2. Francesco De Angelis is a very motivating person, always pushing. Michele is a fantastic owner, very competitive, and he really loves these offshore races. And then the rest of the crew: I don’t know the number of (spinannker) peels we’ve did in these three days and a half, but they were all simply perfect.”
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Over the course of six days, it was to become clear that this year’s edition was a race for the larger boats. Those who could keep up with the favourable wind conditions, while the smaller boats fell prey to the light airs only to be whisked up on late Wednesday when the mistral came through.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Setting the pace in the fleet from the outset was Deiter Schoen’s Maxi 72 MOMO (GER), who beat out rival Rambler 88 on corrected time to claim the victory in IRC 1. MOMO hardly let the American maxi out of their site during the three days and on corrected time would be the class winner, and finish third overall in the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Meanwhile in IRC 3 the young Turkish team onboard Arkas Flying Box, racing a Ker 40, maintained their lead throughout the race to come out on top.
Photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo
In IRC 4 it was Rockall IV a custom Corby 38 in first, with Elusive owned and sailed by the Podesta family in second place. The legacy of longstanding member of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, Arthur Podesta was felt throughout the race, with three of his children sailing onboard the family’s First 45. Podesta was only person to have competed in every edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race over the past 47 years.
Photo: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo
Racing in IRC 5, Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, overall winners of the 2014 edition were back to defend their title. The Maltese team sailed a close race to win their class with their J122 Artie. Then in IRC 6 it was the Beneteau 40.7 Three Sisters that beat out the other 18 boats in their class.

Results of the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race can be found here

Regatta News

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Yandoo Wins Alf Beashel Memorial Trophy - 18ft Skiffs - Sydney Harbour

18ft Skiffs
Alf Beashel Memorial Trophy
Sunday, 25 October 2015
Sydney Harbour
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
It was a family finish in today’s Alf Beashel Memorial Trophy 18ft Skiff race on Sydney Harbour when John Winning Jr. skippered Gotta Love It 7 to a 35 seconds victory over Yandoo, skippered by his father John Winning.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Gotta Love It 7 trailed the early leader Lumix for most of the course but once the team grabbed the lead approaching the final windward mark the result was not in doubt.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Lumix finished third, a further 31seconds behind Yandoo, followed home by Asko Appliances, Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel (Euan McNicol), Thurlow Fisher Lawyers (Micah Lane) and Noakes Youth (Ash Rooklyn).
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
The Lumix team of Brett Van Munster, Aron Everett and Greg Dixon clearly won the start at the pin end of the line and sailed beautifully up the first to hold the lead at the Beahel Buoy windward mark.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Gotta Love It 7’s John Winning Jr., Scott Babbage and Nick Catley were in a three way battle with Asko Appliances (Marcus Ashley-Jones, Fang Warren and Harry Bethwaite) and Yandoo (John Winning, Jim Beck and Cameron McDonald) for second place.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
The skiffs were ‘jumping’ down the first spinnaker run to Shark Island with the leading positions unchanged from the mark rounding. An early casualty was the brand new Smeg, which was launched for the first time only minutes before the start. The crew were concerned that a problem with the mast was too risky to continue in the 18 knot North East wind.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Gotta Love It 7 began to pressure Lumix on the second windward leg but Van Munster and his team were up for the challenge and maintained a 20s advantage over Gotta Love It 7 at the Beashel Buoy. Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel had sailed extremely well on that leg and shared third place with Asko Appliances, just ahead of Yandoo as spinnakers were set for the run down the centre of the harbour.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Again, Lumix was able to maintain the lead and had actually increased the margin by 5 seconds at the bottom mark. With positions changing regularly behind the first two teams, it was one of the closer North Easter races in several seasons.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Yandoo was in third place at Clarke Island, ahead of Asko Appliances and Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel. The conditions took a toll on several teams with De’Longhi (Simon Nearn), Mojo Wine (James Ward), Pure Blonde (Nick Daly) and Alcatel One Touch (Stephen Quigley) forced to retire.

Frank Quealey

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Light Start For 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race Fleet

Valletta's magnificent Grand Harbour on the fortified island of Malta is steeped in history and again today was the site of an important battle, this time among 111 teams from 22 different nations competing in the 36th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Organised by the historic Royal Malta Yacht Club, which was founded in 1835, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is the final event on the Mediterranean regatta calendar. It attracts the most experienced professional and Corinthian sailors, challenged by the varied conditions that the stunning 608 NM race course offers.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
The Royal Malta Yacht Club’s Race Committee precisely executed seven starts with the cannons firing from Saluting Battery and the fleet set off heading North towards the Strait of Messina. Light Northwesterly winds for the next 48 hours will test even the most experienced sailors as they search for the quickest way to get out ahead of the pack.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
“It’s going to be light. We will probably get to know the East coast of Sicily quite well as we will be trying to get some sea breeze or night breeze up there. After that, there is a big feature coming in about three days (Tuesday), which will bring in a bit of excitement – wind, rain and thunderstorms. But if we can get going fast, we will get around ahead of it. Or we will get involved in it. Or if we are really slow it will pick everyone up and make it a small boat race.” said Jules Salter (GBR), navigator onboard Maxi 72 Momo.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Momo’s closest competition for line honours is expected to be George David’s new Juan Kouyoumdjian designed Rambler 88. The American team holds the course record, having completed the race in 47 hours and 55 minutes and three seconds in 2007. They return to Malta as part of their grand slam, which includes the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race and 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
“On time it could be anyone. Rambler 88 is a machine – a really good boat – can’t wait to get going again. We need to sail it as hard as we can, we have a really good crew and anywhere suits Rambler. It’s just a matter of us getting the right breeze. It’s apt to be a pretty slow first night and morning, that is going to make it hard for us to win on handicap – but anything can happen,” said navigator Andrew Cape (AUS), America's Cup winner and a veteran of six Volvo Ocean Races
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
The truly diverse fleet of yachts range from 9.5 to 27 M in length and includes three Volvo Open 70s, Green Dragon (AUT), Black Betty (TUR) and SFS (FRA), as well as the impressively fast multihulls Phaedo3 (USA) and Paradox (USA), which have already pulled out in front of the fleet.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Meanwhile, there is also the stunning 52 foot wooden yawl Dorade, designed by Sparkman & Stephens and meticulously restored by owner Matt Brooks (USA). Dorade also competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race as part of her quest to compete in all the ocean races the boat won in 1930s, which includes the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race where she placed seventh overall among 354 entries.
Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
It promises to be a long night for navigators, with all sights set on Capo Passero, the most Southerly point of Sicily, followed by the wind shadow of Mount Etna.

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