It takes quality to be a winner!

Thursday, November 17, 2011, 16:07

The RMSR 32nd Winner - Artie - marking a special edition where four of the top five placed yachts were locals – proudly flying the eight-pointed cross! (Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo)

by Wilfred Sultana

Every edition has its own story. A conspicuous characteristic this year was the success of the small boats where nine out of the top 10 placed boats overall were all less than 45 feet; Furthermore the top three boats – Artie (Malta/J122), AOC Rockall (Germany/Corby 36), and Otra Vez (Malta/J122) – were all under 40 feet. A real significant episode because since 2002, when the local 35-footer Market Wizard took top honours, half of the overall winners have been drawn from the most competitive maxi and mini-maxis around, the like of Rambler, Morning Glory, Nokia, Alegre, and Atalanta II, all ranging in size from 65 to 90 feet in length and suggesting the Race was a big boat partiality.

Yet, on this 32nd edition the wind of change has left its blotch!

Lee Satariano, the proud owner-skipper of 12.19m J122 yacht Artie, was on his 7th RMSR and prior to this year’s victory he experienced two frustrating near misses when both in 2006 and last year he won 2nd overall and 1st in class. For Lee “The RMSR is a spectacular race not only because of its course set-up but also as there may be so many diverse exciting stages throughout the race as this may restart at various stages to different winds, currents, etc”. That was a pre-event comment but now as the winner?

“On the first night we had some problems with one instrument which made us miss around 40 minutes and kept on troubling us throughout the race.

We thought we threw it all away, but our luck turned in due time and we were soon sailing again at full force. Later on that morning we reached the fleet in the strait of Messina and later at Stromboli caught up with the second lot of the fleet which even included the bigger boats. This boasted further our morale.

The wind predictions were not very accurate and our routing plans had to be planned out very carefully. A lot of our victory goes down to our tactics and quick thinking.

The finish was a truly memorable moment. We were told that we had secured second overall and that AOC Rockall were in Cirkewwa with another two hours of sailing to finish ahead of us! We were overwhelmed by this news. From then on it was a countdown to the last half an hour – and to a dream came true,” related a jovial Satariano who on Day 1 of the Race was so sick that he could not communicate with his crew.

Sailing nearly 14,000 nautical miles in 23 editions of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Christian Ripard, co-skipper of Artie, this year clinched his third RMSR success. The previous two were in 1996 on Bigfoot and in 2001 on Strait Dealer where on the occasion he even won Line Honours.  Three victories, a feat which in the 32-years history of the Race was only experienced by just one other skipper; Italian Nello Mazzaferro who won three consecutive editions in 1978, 1979 and 1980 on his boat Nita IV.   Christian, who raced his first Middle Sea in 1978 at the age of 17, was certainly a motivation to the winning crew, the youngest of who was 20-year-old John Cachia.

“I have been windsurfing since I was 7 years old and I started concentrating seriously on yacht racing just a couple of months before my first Middle Sea Race with Lee last year.  Honesty I feel privileged that after racing on yachts for only some eighteen months I have come a long way to be part of the winning team on Artie. It is not just the win but winning the race with such a special team of people. I could not think of winning this race the way we did with anybody else – they all made it an extra special win”, narrated an elated Cachia.

Besides Lee Satariano, Christian Ripard and John Cachia the rest of the “special team of people” on Artie were Kurt Casapinta, Matthew Gusman, Isaac Borg, Peter Valentino, and Jan Rossi.

So many meaningful comments were expressed by highly regarded foreign skippers and crew members. Comments like the one expressed in 2007 by prominent personality Ted Turner, CEO of Turner Communications (CNN) who said that the Rolex Middle Sea Race was “the most beautiful race course in the world”.

Slovenian Igor Simčič owner of 100-foot maxi yacht Esimit Europa 2, winner of Line Honours for the second consecutive year recalls;

“The Rolex Middle Sea Race proved once again to be a difficult race with lots of unpredictable situations. We were completely exhausted at the end, but very pleased with the second consecutive line honours victory. Nothing of this would be possible without a professional team, completely devoted to the same goal. Despite we are coming from six different European countries, there is always a great synergy among us and this leads us to the superb sailing results. I am happy that by winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race we crowned a superior sailing season with the fastest time at all attended regattas. At the same time I would like to thank the Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who recently expressed its strong support to the Esimit Europa project”.

In the 2007 RMSR a large part of the fleet were blown out of the race during heavy storms. In fact on the day only 15 from the 65 starters finished the race. Yet such conditions turned out to be favourable to George David’s maxi yacht Rambler 100 (USA) taking advantage of the strong winds to set the current course record of 47 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds – a feat that shattered the previous record by some 17 hours.

How determining is the weather on the final result in such high level races?

“The weather is a critical factor for any offshore race much more so than for one-design inshore races where the boats are likely to be doing the same speeds and to be always very close to each other. The nature of offshore handicap races is that the fleet is generally extremely varied in type and design of boat, from the out and out racers like Esimit to the 35′-45′ cruiser racers.  This means that the boats are doing radically different speeds and therefore the fleet will spread out from the beginning racing in different areas of the racecourse and inevitably experiencing differing weather conditions.

Another complication of an offshore race like the RMSR is related to the meteorological conditions prevalent in the Mediterranean basin at the time. If there is a stable system then the likelihood is for predictable conditions. If on the other hand there is a complex weather pattern, much like we had this year, then the conditions become extremely varied within small distances and this factor increases the element of luck. Also, unstable conditions mean that weather forecasting becomes quite much of a black art, with forecasts often contradicting each other depending on the models they employ”,  observed John Ripard Jr, co-owner-skipper of 4th placed J133 yacht Jaru Team EC. The owner-skipper partnership of John Ripard Jr and Andrew Calascione were the last Maltese RMSR winners, before this year’s Artie, when they won the 2002 edition on Market Wizard.

In a pre-event comment Commodore Bonello Du Puis remarked that “We can’t perform miracles, but we get pretty close on some occasions”.  Well, analysing miracles could become too mystical and controversial.  Yet assessing the Event one experience the result of a strong commitment by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, strengthened by the iconic support of Rolex and raced in a passion of fire by the ever growing number of both local and from around the globe sailors. This is not a miracle; this is a reality brought about by the fervent input of all concerned. The 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is less then twelve months away; wow, another opportunity indeed to challenge the ‘Sailing Everest of the Mediterranean’!

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