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50th Rolex Middle Sea Race update: Smaller yachts begin to dominate

by Rolex Middle Sea Race 24 Oct 2018 10:21 PDT 20-23 October 2018

The 2018 Rolex Middle Sea Race has seen further changes to the leaderboard as the steady stream of finishers continued overnight and during the fifth day of the anniversary event. With 47 boats having completed the course, the podium places in certain classes are beginning to take shape.

The overall standings reflect the view that the building conditions have favoured the smaller boats. Currently, seven out of the top ten positions are filled with yachts from IRC Classes Four, Five and Six. French yacht, Courrier Recommandé holds pole, but with around half the fleet still at sea it is too early to be popping the champagne corks.

Today has been a day of celebration for all those to have finished, but particularly in the local fleet. The first Maltese yachts arrived in the early hours and early morning of Wednesday and the Royal Malta Yacht Club has given the crews their traditional rousing reception. It was Ramon Sant Hill & Jonas Diamantino's Comanche Raider III that led the way for the island nation. Taking the lead from the race start the team worked hard to secure bragging rights. “I am proud of the crew and proud of what we did, and so very happy. We never gave up, we just kept going,” commented Sant Hill. “I will always remember the top speed of this race, 23.3 knots. It was a memorable moment. The sensation of going at that speed makes you very happy. We have to clean the boat, and after we will have a big celebration at the Royal Malta Yacht Club!” Comanche Raider III crossed the line at around 0303 CEST.

Just under four hours later, the second Maltese boat passed in front of Fort Manoel, as Josef Schultheis & Timmy Camilleri’s XP-ACT, completed their race after an intense struggle with Elusive 2. “We have been doing this race for the last seven years; it is a really solid team and we are all good friends. That is where our energy comes from,” commented Schultheis. “We were with Elusive for most of the race, it was a great battle with a very good team. They are friends of ours, so it was a friendly battle, as it has been for years. The friendship on board and with Elusive is why we do this race, and pushes us to perform.”

Elusive 2 was co-skippered by the Podesta siblings - Aaron, Cristoph and Maya, who caught the Rolex Middle Sea Race bug from their father Arthur, who competed in every race from 1968 until 2014. Less than half an hour separated Elusive from XP-ACT after nearly four days of racing, evidence of the intense struggle. “You need competition to push yourself, and we have pushed each other,” commented Maya Podesta, referring to the local rivalry. “It was a really good race; we swapped places a few times. All of the Elusive crew put their heart and soul into the boat, and that is the reason why we can do what we do. We all have our own things to offer, and together we make a great team.” In the overall standings under IRC time correction, Elusive is the best placed Maltese entry and currently holds third place in IRC Class 4.

With the majority of yachts still racing from the smaller boat classes, it is possible to give a provisional overview of the podium positions in IRC Classes One, Two and Three. The big boat class, IRC One, looks to have been won by German Maxi 72 Momo, owned by Dieter Schön, the powerful Maxi 72 has had a memorable season: winning the Rolex Giraglia offshore race and successfully retaining its Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship title. Next in line, is another German entry, Caro. This will be the third consecutive year the Botin 65 has finished second in class. The 115ft Supermaxi Nikata, the largest yacht ever to take part and on her Rolex Middle Sea Race debut holds third.

In IRC Two, Optimum 3, co-skippered by Periklis Livas and Nikolaos Lazos, put in a great performance. Overall winners in 2004, the Greek Farr 52 looks secure at the top of the class standing. Pietro Moschini's Italian Cookson 50, Endlessgame, looks to have lost out by a just under five minutes after three days and nights of racing. Gérard Logel's French TP52, Arobas², was third slipping in ahead of Freccia Rossa by less than two minutes, confirming the close nature of the competition among the frontrunners.

Dominque Tian's French Ker 46, Tonnerre de Glen, held pole in the overall standings for a few hours. She eventually gave way to faster opposition, but her commendable performance means she should have won IRC Class Three by nearly three hours from Vittorio Biscarini's Mylius 50 Ars Una with Comanche Raider III in third.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is not all about trophies and prizes. There remains a place for the Corinthian sailors and adventurers who simply wish to challenge themselves over a racecourse that demands determination and perseverance to endure the wide range of conditions and rewards with spectacular vistas of volcanos, islands and islets, and, a variety of sealife.

Built in 1976 by Palmer Johnson, the Frers 53, Encounter, is a classic of the IOR era of yachting. Now owned by two Dutchman, Bart Weduwer and Ed Spaargaren, Encounter was restored after a number of years of neglect and until this race had been used for cruising and inshore racing near her homeport of Cap d’Ail, France.

Speaking to Weduwer and Spaargaren shortly after finishing their first ever 600nm offshore race, both were evidently proud of the achievement. First and foremost, to have got around safely, but also the performance of their crew and Encounter herself. “It was a beautiful, incredible race. A great experience,” they agreed. “It absolutely lived up to its reputation. The playing with the current through Messina, passing Stromboli at night, the beat to Favignana in 25 to 30 knots on the nose, the roller coaster ride to Lampedusa surfing at 20.4 knots and a tough reach back.”

“It was tough at times. The boat is like a tank. She goes and goes and there is no stopping her. We had a little bit of damage, a stanchion is bent, one of the genoa tracks is lifting and it’s very, very wet inside.” they continued. “Our crew is great bunch of guys; we’re all well over 50, all great friends. This was a goal for us, and has helped us bring the boat and crew up to a high standard. We know what it takes to do a race like this and what we are capable of. You need a good boat and a good crew. Anything less is not enough,”

Weduwer and Spaargaren’s final words were reserved for the Royal Malta Yacht Club, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its famous race: “They are such nice people and it is really to the credit of the club that they hold this event and continue to persevere with it each year. It is a lot of work to put it on and a great tribute to their efforts that they have a record fleet this year.”

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is supported by the Ministry for Tourism, the Malta Tourism Authority, Transport Malta, Yachting Malta, Marina di Valletta, Grand Hotel Excelsior Marina and the Grand Harbour Marina.

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