The 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race came alive today, for some at least. It really is a race of two halves, as those crews to the west stretch their legs metaphorically in a stiff southerly, and those still to the east stretch their actual legs lying on deck waiting for the wind.
The fleet is now spread between the Messina Strait and midway between Lampedusa and the finish. Mario Debono’s Sun Odyssey 45 Janissah, a Corinthian Maltese entry, has covered 65 nautical miles in the past 24 hours, and just exited the strait. Meanwhile, Riccardo Pavoncelli’s MOD70 Mana from Italy, skippered by Frenchwoman Alexis Barrier and with speed sailing record holder Paul Larsen on board, has banked 320nm and looks likely to finish tonight.
For the majority of those still racing, last night was a tricky affair. Progress along the course set a staccato rhythm with short bursts of positive movement cut short abruptly as the wind disappeared. All the same, morale among the back markers appears to be good, with regular reports coming in from the boats, which clearly have time on their hands.
At the front, a wholly different scenario is in play. When we left the story yesterday evening, the Maxi Multihulls and Maxi Monohulls were together to the north of Filicudi. During the hours of darkness, a low speed game of cat and mouse ensued, as the four of the fastest multis sailed in parallel pairs towards the westernmost turning point at Favignana. Mana, to the north, and Frank Slootman’s American entry Snowflake, to the south, doing their best to hold off the Italian Maserati Multi 70 and Erik Maris skippered Zoulou (FRA) respectively. Mana looked to hold the edge until just off San Vito lo Capo. The team must have been licking their lips at the prospect of entering the southerly when the boat hit the buffers. Maserati, Snowflake and, eventually, Zoulou, piled in behind and looked likely to cut in beneath Mana and overtake using the nearside line. Any adrenalin rush was quickly crushed, as they too ground to a halt. Mana promptly picked up both wind and speed, and cruised off to Favignana, with the others wallowing in her wake. Mana passed through the Egadi Islands without difficulty at 0250 CEST, with Zoulou and Snowflake about an hour later, and Maserati a further hour back.
Beating into the southerly saw speeds rise, along with the tension as decisions on when to tack became critical. The three poursuivants were well into Tunisian territorial waters before tacking onto starboard, as they ‘banged the corner’ trying to narrow the gap to Mana. It worked for Zoulou. By Lampedusa, the French boat was only 15 minutes behind, and as the pair work east to Malta, they are 5nm apart, with Zoulou appearing to be slightly the faster. With 60nm to run the pair should be home on Monday night, but the wind needs to play along. Something it has not done up until now.
For the leading monohulls, the Chris Sherlock-led Leopard 3 (NED) and Andrea Recordati’s Wally 93 Bullitt (ITA), the elastic to the multis started to stretch at around 2030 CEST. The pair were much closer to the rhumb line and travelling at half the speed of the multis. Presumably in a different pressure cell, they kept their course below the multis continually losing ground until the elastic snapped completely. Leopard 3 caught up with Bullitt just after Palermo. San Vito lo Capo then entered the game again, its high cliffs probably proving a barrier to the wind from the south. Leopard edged clear first, finally breaking into the solid breeze, and now holds a lead of 6nm as they approach Pantelleria. So far, only five monohulls have passed Favignana. Black Pearl and Cippa Lippa X should do so before sunset, with Rán close behind. According to the tracker, Marton Josza’s Wild Joe is using its DSS foils and battle-hardened crew to good effect and, as she heads down the western flank, has taken the lead in the overall standings under IRC Time Correction.
For the smaller boats, it has been a night and day of little drama, indeed little anything. Sebastian Ripard called in this morning from the Maltese J/99 Calypso on the final approach to Stromboli to report that spirits were good: “We have worked hard, and sailed well to get to where we are. We have used every sail in the inventory, and now we are sitting absolutely still. It is probably time for a swim.” Calypso, racing in IRC 6, has just rounded Stromboli in company with yachts from other classes, theoretically faster but only if they can piece together the wind puzzles.
In IRC 3, a real dingdong battle is underway at the front, with the two HH42s James Neville’s Ino XXX (GBR) and the Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard co-skippered Artie III (MLT) fighting out what appears to be a private duel. The two yachts have different configurations. In the current conditions, the greater sail area of Ino XXX is probably canceled out by the drag from her twin rudders. Artie III has a shorter rig, but a single rudder, and is keeping pace with the slightly higher-rated Ino XXX. As they pass Palermo at around 8 knots, the two are less than 5nm apart. According to James Neville: “All is well on board Ino, with our rivals just behind and we settle in for a long race chasing the larger boats ahead!”
For the double handed yachts, racing with just two crew, the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race must feel like some form of ancient trial by ordeal. The first three on the water are only just approaching Stromboli, almost 12 hours after passing through Messina. Beppe Bisotto on Atame (ITA) has had the best of the day, reducing a 20nm deficit at the beginning of the strait to less than 4nm. American entry Red Ruby continues to lead the class on the water and time correction from Solenn for Pure Ocean. Ludovic Gérard on Solenn called in to advise: “We are very pleased with our performance so far, but also the competition with Red Ruby, Colombre and Calypso. It is very hot, and we are changing sails frequently, but morale is good. We have more than 400 miles to go, but are still hoping to finish.”
DAY 3 IRC CLASS UPDATE 1600 CEST
The vast majority of the boats racing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race are now through the Strait of Messina, forming a precise picture of the fleet’s ranking after IRC time correction at that point. At the front the leaders are in strong winds making good progress, while at the back light wind is being punctuated by short sharp moments of pressure, where boats have the potential to make gains.
IRC 1: FAVIGNANA AND BEYOND
Leopard 3 (NED) has just passed Pantelleria, with a small lead over Bullitt. At the Favignana transit, with seven boats through, the Reichel/Pugh 60 Wild Joe of Marton Jozsa (HUN) leads on corrected time from Jean-Pierre Barjon’s Botin 65 Spirit of Lorina (FRA) and Cippa Lippa X, the Italian Mylius 60 of Guido Paolo Gamucci.
IRC 2: EN ROUTE TO FAVIGNANA
None have yet reached Favignana. At Stromboli, Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3-Corum (FRA) led by 40 minutes from Red Bandit (GER) skippered by Carl-Peter Forster, with Chocolate 3 a further 20 minutes behind. According to the tracker, Eric de Turckheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine (FRA) is currently leading on time correction from Red Bandit.
IRC 3: FAVIGNANA BOUND
At Stromboli, Ino XXX held a lead of only six minutes over Artie III after time correction. Artie III has seriously reduced the gap from Messina, but not enough to take the lead. Chenapan 4, the French Farr 40 of Gilles Caminade, held onto third. With these two some 75nm ahead of the chasing pack, the first two podium slots seem sealed but for the small matter of half the course still to race.
IRC 4: CHANGE OF LEADER AFTER STROMBOLI
The leading boats in IRC Four came to a grinding holt at Stromboli in the early hours of Monday. Philippe Frantz’s French NMD 43 Albator was the first to get going and has pulled out a lead on the water of 16nm over Conor Doyle’s Irish Xp 50 Freya and the Podesta family’s Maltese First 45 Elusive 2. Elusive 2 had been leading the class since the start on Saturday, but Albator is now estimated to be ahead as the class make their way to Favignana.
IRC 5: SNAKES AND LADDERS AT STROMBOLI
Gianrocco Catalano Italian First 40 Tevere Remo Mon Ile rounded Stromboli just before 0500 CEST. Ed Bell’s British JPK 1080 Dawn Treader virtually stopped ten miles before Stromboli, taking another eight hours to round the volcanic island. Jonathan Gambin’s Maltese Dufour 44 Ton Ton Laferla rounded third. The leaders on the water also lead after IRC time correction. Tevere Remo Mon Ile continues to dominate, while Dawn Treader has regained most of the ground lost during their frustrating park up.
IRC 6: FLEET BATTLE NORTH OF SICILY
At Messina, Massimo Juris’ Italian JPK 1080 Colombre was leading by less than three minutes. Second was Maltese J/99 Calypso skippered by Seb Ripard. American Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby, raced two-handed by Jonathan McKee and Alyosha Strum Palerm was third followed by another double hander Gerard Ludovic’s French JPK 1080 Solenn for Pure Ocean and the Maltese Reflex 38 Vivace, skippered by Andrew Agius Delicata & Matthew Gabriele.
IRC DOUBLE HANDED: HEADING TO STROMBOLI
Eight Double-Handed teams started the race, Pneuma and Infinity retired today due to the lack of wind. The remaining six have all passed through Messina and have formed into two packs of competing boats. Red Ruby leads from Solenn for Pure Ocean, with Beppe Bisotto’s Fast 42 Atame racing with Catherine Jordan, in third.
Six boats have officially retired to date: Blue Horizon, Pneuma, Escapado, Ekita, Luce Guida, Kia Ora, Minemole , Infinity