After yesterday's farewell in Grand Harbour, the 122 participating yachts in the Middle Sea Race have enjoyed a beam reach for the first day of the race, as they raced north east, leaving Malta in their wake, heading for the south east corner of Sicily.

Ian Moore, navigator on Cookson 50, Mascalzone Latino, is no stranger to the Rolex Middle Sea Race, this is his fourth and Ian was part of the winning crew on Bryon Ehrhart's TP52, Lucky in 2010. Ian describes the tactical nuances of the first night at sea.

“The Rolex Middle Sea Race is unlike other well-known offshore yacht races, as one of the biggest tactical decisions comes on the first night.” Explained Ian. “Usually you go straight for the corner of Sicily but as soon as you have got there you are thinking – How do I enter the Straits of Messina? Even when the wind is blowing onshore to Mount Etna, the wind seems to lift up and over it and if there is a land breeze effect, wind blowing out to sea from Mount Etna, it tends to counter-act the true wind, so it is a tricky area. Even when the wind forecast is saying there is breeze in there, you are thinking – Do you risk it - because historically, boats have gone in there and run into trouble but occasionally boats go into the shadow of Etna and do alright! After entering the Strait of Messina, ocean current really comes into the equation, especially about ten miles out. The first night of this race is a very tricky and tactical affair.”


Igor Simcic's Maxi, Esimit Europa 2 was the first to pass Capo Passero on the Sicilian coast, at approximately1600 CET yesterday. Closely followed by the two Maxi 72s, Niklas Zennstrom's Ran V and George Sakellaris' Shockwave.

The wind was still from the west and was accelerating off the tip of Sicily, propelling the leaders towards the Straits of Messina. At around sunset on Day One, the gradient wind inverted through 180 degrees to the east and the three leading yachts headed offshore, presumably to avoid the effects of Mount Etna.

Andy Budgen's British VO70, Monster Project and Marton Jozsa Hungarian RP60, Wild Joe decided to stay near the Sicilian coast and looked to make some big gains on the leaders.

Wild Joe was leading IRC 1 after time correction this morning, and the wind direction had changed yet again. The new northerly breeze was funnelling through the Strait of Messina and this effect was producing a significant enhancement of about ten knots of wind. This extra breeze meant that the high performance yachts were fully powered up and Esimit Europa 2 passed through the Straits just after dawn this morning.


Giorgio Benussi's Italian TP52, B2 was leading the fleet past Capo Passero at approximately 1700 CET yesterday. A pack of three boats were just behind; Jens Kellinghusen's German Ker 51, Varuna, Stefan Jentzsch, German Carkeek 47, Black Pearl and Vincenzo Onorato's Italian Cookson 50, Mascalzone Latino.

Passing Syracuse, B2 made a move offshore, whilst the chasing pack hugged the Sicilian coast. Paolo Semeraro's Neo 400, Neo Bank Sails also chose to go offshore and made a big gain, as the new westerly breeze lifted the Italian team towards the mainland of Italy.

Neo Bank Sails was leading IRC 2 after time correction and enjoying lifting pressure along the Calabrian coast. B2 was leading on the water with 14 miles to go to clear through the Strait of Messina.


Eric De Turckheim's French A13, Teasing Machine enjoyed an intense battle at the front of the fleet with Bastiaan de Voogd's Dutch Sydney 43, Coin Coin. The two yachts made Capo Passero, virtually side by side, at approximately 1900 CET yesterday.

However, three yachts chose to go offshore after Syracuse to great effect and passed the leaders; Riccardo Pavoncelli’s, Italian Swan 651, Gaetana, Jonty Layfield's British Azuree 46, Sleeper and Alberto Nunziante's Italian Adria 49, Ars Una. The breakaway back stayed offshore during the night and this morning Ars Una was approaching the Italian coast, five miles ahead of the class and leading after time correction.


The competition in the class is fierce with all 32 yachts in sight of each other as they made Capo Passero at around sunset on the first day. Aaron Gatt Floridia's Maltese J/122, Otra Vez was the first to pass the point of Sicily but stayed offshore, allowing a big group of yachts to take the inside line.

It would have been tense on board Otra Vez, as nearly half the fleet chose to go inshore. However by Syracuse, Otra Vez had pulled out a substantial lead of 4 miles on their nearest rival, Roy Caramagno's Italian J/122, Damacle. Currently Otra Vez has about a two hour lead on the class, after time correction and is in the lead on the water.


At approximately 21:30 yesterday evening, three yachts reached Capo Passero; Maurizio D'Amico's Italian Oceanis 430, Amapola, Paul Basson's British Swan 46, Foreign Affair and Bernard Cordeau's French Elan 40, Freyja. Once passed Capo Passero, the fleet compressed in the light winds.

Once again a group of yachts headed offshore, looking for more wind. Notably, Freyja, Peppe Fornich's Italian Grand Soleil 37, Sagola Biotrading and the classic yawl, Stormy Weather, owned by British vintage yacht enthusiast, Christopher Spray. All three yachts made big gains but Enrico Calvi's Italian Dufour 34, Duffy still leads the class.

Double Handed

Giacomo Gonzi's Italian Comet 41, Prospettica and Miha Dolinar's Slovenian xP-44, Muca Maca Tamar Racing reached Capo Passero virtually together to lead the class on the water at approximately 2100 CET last night. However during the night, Peter Ellul Vincenti's Maltese Oceanis 523, Manana sailed well to pass the leaders on the water to lead the class after time correction and for line honours in the double handed class.

First 40.7, Maltese Falcon II is skippered by Matthew Scicluna and crewed by Lee Gauci, which is the youngest double handed crew in the race. Matthew has taken part in the Rolex Middle Sea Race before, with his father, and knows all too well that although the race is currently a light wind affair, the conditions on the course can change dramatically.

“In 2007, it was probably the windiest race of all.” commented Matthew. “My late father had asked me before the squall kicked in if I was scared and if we should retire - it would be my call. I said retire - no way!!! The smile he had was incredible... sometimes I think I was young and foolish because in reality it was a crazy decision and a few hours later we were hit by a 70 knot squall!”

At 0900 CET on Day Two of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Maltese Falcon II was 45 miles from the Straits of Messina.

The vast majority of the fleet should be through the narrow passage between Sicily and the Italian mainland before sunset tonight.

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Friday, November 16, 2018
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