Sailing: Will they, Won’t they

Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 21:52

Tension at the 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race was heightened yesterday as the door opened by Rambler 88’s finish in the early hours was widened further by more arrivals. It was a trickle of finishers rather than a flood, but there was drama all the same, where the battle to secure class wins and post a claim to the overall title raged throughout the day. With the forecast suggesting a period of fading breeze on the course area, the race pendulum was swinging in favour of the bigger, faster yachts. The incentive to keep pushing to the finish was evident.

Despite sailing in the rapidly disappearing wake of Rambler 88 in the second half of the race, the remainder of IRC Class 1 yachts could scent an opportunity for a class win having kept pace with the mighty American maxi at least until Trapani. Trifork were sitting on top of the pile until Marton Jozsa’s Hungarian RP60 Wild Joe and Clarke Murphy’s Carbon Ocean 82 Aegir crossed the line ten minutes apart in the early afternoon. While Wild Joe would be delighted at their success in beating Aegir, their elation in terms of the class would be short lived. Their hopes for the overall win would be even shorter.

First the smaller Italian Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino crossed the finish line at the mouth of Marsamxett Harbour half an hour later to post an unassailable claim for the IRC 2 class trophy and more importantly a robust statement concerning the overall standings. The arrival of the Swiss Mini Maxi Caro completed the dampening. Outside the time required to beat Mascalzone Latino, Maximilian Klink’s Botin 65 had done enough to correct out 4 minutes ahead of Wild Joe.

The arrivals of Green Dragon and Laetitia added to the general atmosphere, but did nothing to alter the standings. Instead all eyes were fixed on the free spirits on-board Quentin Stewart’s Infiniti 46 Maverick. Making its debut in the Rolex Middle Sea Race, the smallest boat in IRC Class 1 has turned a few heads with its performance in this its first classic 600 mile offshore.

After enduring a painful final few miles as the wind faded, Maverick crossed the line at sunset to snatch the IRC 1 Class victory by just 19 seconds from Caro. The British yacht currently lies in third overall behind Mascalzone Latino and Cippa Lippa, who had finished a couple of hours later.

As things stand this morning with twelve yachts in the harbour, Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino has provisionally won IRC 2 and is the overall leader in the race for the 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race. Mascalzone Latino’s tactician Adrian Stead spoke about the race: “It was a tricky Rolex Middle Sea Race but we’re really pleased with how the team worked on board Mascalzone Latino. We were very focused on keeping the boat fast and ‘wriggling’ when it got tricky. The guys did a great job of always trying to squeeze as much speed out of the boat, changing sails and going through the gears as the wind changed and shifted.”

The Mascalzone crew is made up of a number of supremely experienced sailors. They will have a good grasp on how secure their lead is, but as true professionals are making no predictions as the race enters it fifth day. “Now we are sitting and watching the screen to see where the small boats are,” remarked Stead. According to the seasoned tactician, their elevated standing is down to a combination of effort and luck: “We were very conscious of building as much of a lead as possible – the team know that you can lose this race by only seconds. We were very lucky to have bigger boats alongside us for the last 400 miles of the race. Wild Joe is 4 metres longer and quick, but trying to keep up with her pushed us hard around the track. Ian Moore made some great calls and kept us honest in our performance and track.”

Maverick, owned by Quentin Stewart and skippered by Oliver Cotterell, is a recent launch and sports an innovative design which include DSS foils. Akin to short airplane wings, the foils protrude horizontally from the side of the hull to produce both righting moment and lift. Maverick also has a canting keel. The combination of these features enables the boat to sail with a handful of crew and go faster than the wind speed, in certain conditions.

“We are just delighted to win our class, in what is our first long offshore race.” commented Maverick’s skipper, Oliver Cotterell. “There have been some successes with yachts using DSS but this is the biggest win so far. I think that after this you will see a lot more boats of this design in the future.” Maverick did not just rely upon technology to propel them to the top of their class, as Cotterell explained: “We are a young team with a revolutionary boat but having Stu Bannatyne on board has been a revelation. Stu has so much experience and he has really added to our performance.” Bannatyne is three-time winner of the Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race.

At 10:00 CET on day five of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, 11 yachts have officially retired. 47 yachts have rounded Lampedusa and competition with the race as a whole and the individual classes continues. In IRC 3, at Lampedusa, Zenhea Takeska, skippered by Aldo Quadarella, was leading about 40 minutes ahead on corrected time from David Collins’ T’Ala. In IRC 4 an epic battle has developed between five yachts, three of which are from Malta.

Aaron, Christoph & Maya Podesta’s Maltese First 45 Elusive 2 hold a narrow lead over Eric De Turckheim’s French A13 Teasing Machine and Astrid de Vin’s Dutch Grand Soleil 43 Il Corvo. Two Maltese Xp-44s remain very much in the hunt: Timmy Camilleri & Josef Schultheis’ XP-ACT and Sean Borg’s Xpresso.

At Lampedusa, Lee Satariano’s Maltese J/122 Artie and Noel Racine’s JPK 10.10 Foggy Due were leading their respective IRC Classes and have emerged two of the few yachts still racing that could possibly overhaul Mascalzone Latino for the overall win.

For all the latest news, pictures, videos and competitors’ blogs please visit the official race website: www.rolexmiddlesearace.com





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