This year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race was tough, especially for the smaller boats. At times, during the 606 nautical mile expedition, gale force winds and tumultuous seas battered the fleet. Eleven teams were racing in the Double-Handed Class, adding an exponential level of difficulty to an already challenging race. Five of the pairs completed one of the most demanding races for many years.
Richard Palmer racing the JPK 1010 Jangada with Jeremy Waitt won the Double-Handed Class under IRC time correction. The British duo have raced thousands of miles together, including winning the 2019 RORC Transatlantic Race overall. The 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race was very much unfinished business for Richard and Jeremy, having retired from the 2018 race. “That year, the race was the end of the RORC season for Jangada. We only had to cross the finish line to win the series,” explained Richard. “However, part of our rig failed west of Stromboli. Not only did we not complete the race, we also failed to win our entire season.”
Fast forward to 2021 and, according to Jeremy, the decisive moment in this year’s race, came at the same point on the course as their disastrous rig failure in 2018.
“We worked very hard to get the right sail combination before Stromboli in preparation for the ensuing gale,” commented Jeremy. “After Stromboli we were flying in 40 knots of wind with the A5 spinnaker up. We were hammering down the waves, it was very exciting, and it was there that we passed a number of boats.”
Richard added. “With low pressure centred over the racetrack, we had heavy downwind conditions for much of the race. For us it was about keeping the boat in one piece, conserving when we had to, and going hard when conditions eased off a bit. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is an amazing race and a fantastic start to Jangada’s latest campaign.”
Second in the Double-Handed Class was Ludovic Gerard’s French JPK 1080 Solenn for Pure Ocean. Racing with Nicolas Brossay, this was first time racing the course two-handed for Ludovic, who has raced the Rolex Middle Sea Race twice before, including a class win with a full crew in 2019. “It was a tough race due to the weather conditions, harder than I expected,” commented Ludovic. “I now understand why there are so few double-handed teams in this race. In very strong wind with a full crew, you can have one sailor for every sheet, but when there are only two, you have very limited resources and have to multi-task. Concentration is very important, if you want to keep under control. We are very happy to be the first double-handed team to finish the race and place second after time correction. It was also especially satisfying to finish the race close to the best fully-crewed teams in our class.”
Andrew Agius Delicata’s Maltese Reflex 38 Vivace finished third in the Double-Handed Class. Racing with his close friend Matthew Gabriele, the duo eclipsed their best result of fourth in 2019.
“In any conditions, Matthew and I have complete trust in each other,” commented Andrew. “It was like being in a washing machine most of the time, and we joked that we had booked a spa during the race! Our goal was to finish in the top half of the class, so to come third is above our expectation.”
“The first 48 hours were very challenging, and we were quite exhausted,” added Matthew. “We have been sailing together for most of our lives and our support for each other kept us pushing through. Even when we had a few breakages, we had prepared well enough to fix the boat, and just keep going.”
The two-handers that take the stage at the final prize giving being held tomorrow, on Saturday 30 October, will rightly receive a tremendous reception. Congratulations should also go to the two other double-handed teams that finished the brutal race. Peter Luyckx and Yan Trouwen racing the Belgian JV39 Blackfish and Beppe Bisotto racing with Matthew Beecher on the Italian Fast 42 Atame.