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J/111's Rolex Middle Sea Race report

by Peter Gustafsson 3 Nov 2019 02:57 PST 19-26 October 2019
J/111 at Rolex Middle Sea Race ©

The 40th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, hosted by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, was a tale of two races.

After the calm conditions for the first half of the course, increasingly rough weather in the second half of the course posed enormous challenges for the fleet, with winds gusting to over 30 kts with steep, mountainous seas that looked more like walls to most sailors.

As described by one sailor, "the last 24 hours were hell. We were soaking wet, with water coming in everywhere. No matter how good a sailor you are, in those conditions you were miserable and cold."

Those extreme sailing conditions were not much of an issue for a bunch of Vikings! The J/111 BLUR.SE from Sweden sailed the race for the first time, to win ORC 5 Class, take fourth Overall ORC, and third in IRC 5 Class. Here is the amazing report from owner/ skipper, Peter Gustafsson. Enjoy...

"A race that surpassed my expectations in every way....

I've heard sailors claiming that this is the most beautiful offshore race in the world, and now I understand why. I also understand why people love Malta and the hospitality of people on the island.

And to top this, our team didn't disappoint on the race course. We showed that we can challenge the best offshore teams with many pros on board, "do our thing" under pressure and deliver results in races that are new to us.

We tried to use the week before the start as effective as possible. The crew was complete on Tuesday evening, and we went directly into the coastal race on Wednesday. It felt really good and we managed a class win. Thursday was set aside for MOB practice, hoisting the orange sails and some other small stuff that needed fixing. Friday was free to recharge for the start.

As in Fastnet, we used Aksel Magdahl, the Norwegian navigator as a sounding board pre-race. Back home, we worked through the course together, and Friday evening we looked at the big picture for the race as well as possible scenarios for the first 24-36 hours.

Race day

In our class, we had some serious competition. The big thing was the duel between the two JPK 11.80's. Courrier Recommandé won the race over-all last year (as well as Fastnet with 10.80 when we raced in 2015) and were clear favorites. Sunrise has a string of great results and the two boats top the RORC Season Championship in IRC2.

In general, many big boats that would have an advantage in the heavier breeze, so we knew we must race the boat as hard as possible for the first few days to get ahead.

The start in Great Harbour, Valetta

Amazing scenery inside the harbor. We even had crowds cheering "Heja Sverige" from ashore, which was a first for us.

A local, very light, "sea breeze" filled the harbor, and we figured a start at the starboard end was favored. Less wind, but shorter distance to the harbor entrance. So either 25% down in free wind, or in the bunch at the mark.

We ended up coming out right at the mark just a few seconds after the gun, and found a decent lane to pass the boats coming up on port. We had 2-3 boats ahead, but we could do our own thing.

We played the small puffs, first on the Valetta side and then over on the east side.

We exited the harbor in good shape. Only the First 44.7 Courier du Coeur was ahead by 50-60 meters.

Along the coast

At the 1st Rolex Mark, we set the A3 gennaker and started moving. Such a relief to get out to sea...

The wind seemed to fill in from behind, so we tried to stay high between Courrier Recommandé and the mark. The luffing duel was us passing Courier du Coeur:-)

After some final gybes, we rounded first in our class at the coastal Rolex Mark 2. Wow!!!

Courrier Recommandé was well behind us. This was supposed to be Gery Trentesaux last race with this crew, and they have been the offshore boat to beat for many years. Gery has done the Route du Rhum, Admirals' Cup, and won the Commodores' Cup 2006. With his different Courrier-boats, he has won the Fastnet Race (in 2015 in his 13th attempt, when we also led him halfway), Middle Sea Race (last year) and placed second overall in the famous Sydney-Hobart Race in 2015.

Read the full report here.

More information at

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