In the Rolex Middle Sea Race, the pontoons have rapidly filled at the Royal Malta Yacht Club throughout the past two days. With the line honours winner of the 2012 edition, Esimit Europa 2, arriving on Wednesday and the overall race winner, Hi Fidelity, confirmed yesterday evening, the focus shifted to welcoming home the first Maltese boat along with the remainder of the fleet following a slow and punishing 606-nm race.
Early this morning (Friday), the first Maltese finisher and last year’s overall champion Artie, crossed the line. 'This is a difficult race. The first night makes or breaks it,' explained co-skipper Christian Ripard, a veteran of the race. 'We worked very hard that first night and got it right. Unfortunately we then got stuck in some big holes, which was very frustrating.' At Capo San Vito (the halfway mark) Artie failed to make the slight wind shift in time while her closest rivals took advantage and pulled clear. 'The boats slightly larger than us were always a little bit ahead with the weather,' admitted Ripard.
Times recorded at waypoints along the course suggested Artie was leading on handicap for much of the race. Ripard insists that this did not affect the crew’s approach. 'The race is over when it’s over, and we weren’t really aware of that. We did our best, it was a great race and everybody did a great job working really hard but we just kept on getting stuck.'
British boat Trustmarque Quokka crossed the finish line at midday today. Skipper Philippe Falle was brimming with enthusiasm despite the long week: 'Retiring never really crossed the mind. It was an intriguing race, a bit off the wall with the conditions and parking. The overall performance of team and scenery made up for everything. This is my favourite of the four (Rolex Middle Sea Races) I have done even though it was so slow.'
The nine boats still sailing have until 08:00 CEST on Saturday 27 October to complete the course ahead of tomorrow’s final prizegiving, to be held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta at 12:00 CEST.
Slovenian entry Esimit Europa 2 claimed line honours finishing the course in 85 hours, 33 minutes and 15 seconds.
South African entry Hi Fidelity is the overall race winner.
A full review of the 2012 Rolex Middle Sea Race will be published on Monday 29 October.