After a night when everyone competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race struggled to break into double-digit speeds, a potentially decisive break appears to have been made by Andres Soriano's Mills 68 Alegre (GBR) and Jim Swartz's STP 65 Moneypenny (USA) in the early hours of this morning.
At 08:00 CET, both are now south of Favignana firmly on the leg to Pantelleria. Meanwhile, archrival, the STP 65 Rosebud appears to have got stuck at Capo san Vito during the night and remains virtually in irons.
At 04:00 CET the Alegre and Moneypenny were doing just over a knot according to the tracker; a quarter of an hour later they were pushing over 10 knots and putting valuable sea between themselves and the fleet. The distance between the two leaders and the chasing pack, which includes the 78-foot Whisper (IRL) as the most northward of the group, the TP52 RAN (GBR), Arik -AB Fibre (ITA), the Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners (IRL), the 100-foot Rapture (MAR), the Volvo 60 AA (CRO) and the Open 50 Vento di Sardegna (ITA) closest to the shore, is already thirty nautical miles and building. The frustration on these yachts will be mounting by the minute.
For the remainder of the competing yachts, the picture is no less exasperating. They are spread out over 80 miles between Strait Dealer (MLT), first Maltese boat on the water, and Italian filmstar Claudio Amendola's Acaia Cube(ITA) at Punta Raisi, just past Palermo, all the way back to Monomatapa (ITA) and Oxygene (ITA), which have barely made any progress since rounding Stromboli 24-hours ago and still have the Aeolian Islands in sight. The good news is that Cordelia (AUS) has made it through the Strait.
As for the winds, the northern coast of Sicily looks likely to remain fairly patchy with light easterlies. The southern part of the course is expected to experience 5-10 knot easterlies early on, veering and increasing in strength and stability through the day. With 250 nautical miles left for the current leaders, the Royal Malta Yacht Club is not expecting anyone home soon, but if the forecast breeze holds the first boats should be home in the early hours of Wednesday. www.rolexmiddlesearace.com