Rolex Middle Sea Race Fleet head towards notorious Messina Strait

by KPMS 
ESIMIT EUROPA 2 rounding Stromboli - Rolex Middle Sea Race 2011
Rolex Middle Sea Race 2011, organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, is currently underway. Overnight, the fleet parked up off the coast of Sicily near Catania – in the shadows of Mount Etna.

So far, Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) and Rán (GBR) were the lone boats to have slipped through the Messina Strait, Esimit around 0330 Sunday morning, followed by Rán at 0830. Esimit, which rounded Stromboli four hours later, has since slowed down, and leads Rán by about 50 miles.

The bulk of the fleet is nearing the Strait, including the 90-foot maxi, Med Spirit (FRA) which is reporting 16 knots of boat speed, no doubt in a favourable current. The Mills 68, Alegre (GBR) is further east, hugging the Italian mainland coast. Current Class 2 leaders on the water are Dralion (MLT) and Cantankerous (ITA), while front of Class 3 are the Grand Soleil 50, One (ITA) and the Xp44 Vikesha II (MLT) co-skippered by Oleg Evdokimenko and local Maltese sailor Timmy Camilleri. This is Camilleri’s 17th Rolex Middle Sea Race, which he has won overall three times. Aziza (MLT), Pita Maha (ITA), Aurora (ITA), Three Sisters (CZE) are close together leading Class 4, approximately 40 nautical miles south of Messina.

Atame (GBR), is a 42-footer being sailed double-handed for the second year in a row by Beppe Bisotto and Ian Knight. The duo on the Fast 42 chose a course through the night just off the Sicilian coast. Bisotto from Venice, Italy, emailed a report, 'What a night! Tacking against other boats, alone helming! This afternoon we expected the gusts and did not hoist the large spinnaker; nonetheless we changed eight times the sails and exploded one spinnaker. Our race is against all the fleet and we do not hesitate to keep our performance up.'

He may have been rethinking his choice to sail shorthanded, as he added, 'My kid Attilio, nine years old, called me tonight asking ‘what are we doing just two on board?’ It is like playing soccer against a team of eleven, with just one goalkeeper and one midfielder!'

Nearby Beppe Fornich, skipper of the Dufour 34, Nigno (ITA) called in to verify a slow night with the breeze at only four to five knots. But Nigno was within sight of the formidable Mount Etna and the crew was enjoying their tea and brioche, and looking forward to the next meal prepared by their onboard ‘chef’ Mario Cudio.

The crew of the J/133, Oiltanking Juno (MLT), is clearly enjoying itself despite one or two issues yesterday, reporting in with a recap the early adventures, 'Once out of the harbour, some local storm clouds brought with them squalls. We saw some boats tear their code zeros and spinnakers. On Juno, we were not free of problems either. Even though we made the correct sail calls at the right times, at one point we lost both our spinnaker sheets and tack lines, giving us major problems with one of our spinnakers. Due to great teamwork, we managed to make a good recovery and now find ourselves sailing up the east coast of Sicily towards the infamous straits of Messina.'

A further report will be issued this afternoon, by which time the Royal Malta Yacht Club expects many more of the fleet to have passed through the notorious Messina Strait.

Cultural Notes
Part of the Aeolian island chain, Stromboli is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily. The active volcano is approximately 900 m (3,000 ft) high, and its most recent eruption was in August 2009. There are two villages on the island with several hundred inhabitants.

Stromboli gained acclaim in 1950 when Italian director, Roberto Rossellini set the classic movie 'Stromboli' starring Ingrid Bergman, on the island. The island, and nearby Strombolicchio, are marks of the Rolex Middle Sea Race course, left to port by the race fleet.

70 yachts started the 32nd Rolex Middle Sea Race on Saturday, 22 October.

In 2007, George David's Rambler (USA) established the current Course Record of 47 hours, 55 minutes, 3 seconds. In order to beat this record the first boat must finish by approximately 11.30 CEST Monday, 24 October.

The final prize giving is at 12.00 CEST on Saturday, 29 October at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta.

ESIMIT EUROPA 2, SLO - Rolex Middle Sea Race 2011

RÁN passing through the Strait of Messina with Capo Peloro lighthouse in the background - Rolex Middle Sea Race 2011

RÁN, GBR - Rolex Middle Sea Race 2011

Rolex Middle Sea Race website