After racing over 600 miles, the J/122 Artie crossed the finish line at 15.22 CEST, eight minutes in front of Jaru Team EC, a J/133, and, in doing so, was the first Maltese boat home. That finish also put the local entry, co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, ahead of Rán (GBR) as overall handicap leader.
However, the crew of Artie will have to cool their heels on the Royal Malta Yacht Club terrace as they wait to see if any boat still racing might be able to beat them on handicap. A formal announcement of the overall winner will be made tomorrow at 1200 CEST at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.
Owner Lee Satariano was clearly relieved to beat his local rivals home and said, "It was very achievable because we worked very hard. The crew has been preparing the boat for the past several months, we even have a new sail wardrobe. Being the first Maltese boat gives us a big satisfaction because the local competition is very, very big." As for the possibility of an overall victory, he was more cautious and said, "The competition is growing every year. In the past we've had two second place finishes; we hope this third time is even better."
Christian Ripard, co-skipper said, "It's a great feeling. We ended up doing most of the race alongside or crossing tacks with Jaru; it's nearly a rerun of last year, though this time we managed to beat them.
"We were sailing the boat as well as we can. We knew if we had the same conditions as the rest of the competition, we'd do well. The boat is going exceptionally well, and it's a very good crew. Ripard has done the race many times before, but clearly rates this year's contest, "This was a very enjoyable one. When you race on a maxi you tend to be on your own, but when you're with the smaller boats, then you really have a race on, there are different dynamics — you're crossing tacks with foreign boats, with local boats — it was one of the most enjoyable ones for me.
As to whether Artie will claim the overall winner's title, Ripard cautioned, "Don't count your chickens too early, we'll wait and see. But I hope so, we did our best."
Close, but not close enough
Chris Opielok's AOC Rockall (GER) was one boat that seemed to have Artie in their sights. The Corby 36 was well sailed all the way around the course, but their chances seemed tenuous when Opielok called in this afternoon, "We're very close to the channel, about a half mile. At the moment we're in a sort of wind hole, and it could be that we're going to miss it. We think we will be beaten by Rán, Artie and Otra Vez (MLT). But we're really enjoying ourselves, it's the first time we've raced this race. It's a huge part of the experience. It was great fun, we're still battling it out, I can tell you, but I think we're battling for second."
Opielok's prediction would bear out as the German entry crossed the finish at 17.59 CEST, missing out on catching Artie by less than half an hour.
There are approximately 30 boats still racing, several just north of Lampedusa and the bulk of the fleet on the leg between Lampedusa and the finish. The breeze on the racecourse is currently variable in speed and direction, indicating another challenging night at sea.
The finish line for the Rolex Middle Sea Race is in Marsamxett Harbour, opposite the Royal Malta Yacht Club in Ta'Xbiex.
Marsamxett is the northern of Valletta's two main harbours (the other is Grand Harbour). This natural harbour is dedicated more for leisure use – with plenty of dockage for recreational and tourist boats.
The harbour is ringed by fortifications. As well as the walled citadel of Valletta to the south, in the middle of the harbour sits the 18 century Fort Manoel, built by the Knights of Malta, under the patronage of Portuguese Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena. The former home of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, the fort is undergoing major restoration work to repair damage sustained during the Second World War.
A total of 70 yachts started the 32nd Rolex Middle Sea Race on Saturday, 22 October; to date, only three boats have retired: Pogo 1 (GER), Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo (MLT), and Ali Raja Bluorange (ITA), and 39 boats have finished as of 18.30 CEST.
The course record set in 2007 by George David's 90-foot Rambler (USA) stands at 47 hours, 55 minutes, 3 seconds.
The final prize giving is at 12.00 CEST on Saturday, 29 October at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta.