The 40th Rolex Middle Sea Race is almost done and dusted. Just two boats remain on the course that are still racing, including the only surviving multihull. Both should finish by the race cut-off time of 08:00 CEST, Saturday, 26 October. Perfect timing for heading to the final prize giving, scheduled for Saturday lunchtime at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, the former hospital of the Knights of St John, which promises to be a rousing affair.
The result of one more class was determined this morning, as yachts continued to complete the course overnight. The Double-Handed Class has been won both on the water and under IRC by Daniel Martín & Didac Costa racing the Figaro II Inteman (ESP). In other major news, JYS Jan (MLT), the first all-female crew to participate in the 606nm offshore classic, have also arrived back in Malta.
This was Daniel Martín’s first Rolex Middle Sea Race. His Inteman team-mate Didac Costa is highly-regarded in Spain having competed in the Barcelona Round the World Race, sailing double-handed, and the 2016 Vendée Globe, racing solo around the world in just under 109 days. Both sailors are from Barcelona, and spoke about their win in the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race. “I have done races of 500 miles or so, but this was a bigger challenge, and to see all these islands was new for me,” commented Martín. “During the race, I did more of the sailing and left the tactics to Didac.”
In the first few days of light wind racing, the pair made what turned out to be a good tactical choice. “In general, we concentrated on making good speed to the next waypoint rather than trying to compensate for the forecast,” continued Martín. “This was the right decision because many times the forecast did not turn out to be correct.” Once around Favignana, the race became more physical in the difficult upwind conditions. The double-handers were resolute in their perseverance. “The last three days we had to be strong mentally because it was very, very hard,” admitted Martín.
“This is my third Rolex Middle Sea Race, but my first double-handed,” advised Costa. “It is a race where the conditions are always changing, which makes it very interesting. We did not use the auto-pilot a lot, especially the last part upwind from Favignana to Lampedusa when the sea was chaotic. We were changing the helm every two hours, which was very tiring.”
Rob Craigie & Deb Fish racing Sun Fast 3600 Bellino (GBR) finished second in the Double-Handed Class, while last year’s class winner and 2017 overall race winner, Igor Rytov, finished in third on time correction racing his JPK 10.80 Bogatyr (RUS) with Anna Basalkina.
After 5 days, 16 hours, 18 minutes and 40 seconds, the J/109 JYS Jan (MLT) completed the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race. In doing so they entered the history books. JYS Jan received a hero’s welcome from friends, family and well-wishers as they crossed the finish line outside the Royal Malta Yacht Club at 03:47 CEST, on Friday morning.
The team represent the Jarhead Young Sailors Foundation, a not-for-profit voluntary organisation with the principal purpose of educating children, youths and young adults in the sport of sailing. JYS Jan was skippered by 19-year-old Gabriella Misfud, one of Malta’s top dinghy sailors. The crew included five women all under 22 years of age: Lacey Aquilina, Emilie Gregory, Milly Jinks, Coco Molly Barrett, Alina Swets. The crew benefitted from two highly-experienced sailors: the youngest-ever Clipper Round the World skipper Nikki Henderson and RYA Yachtmaster Chief Instructor Katy Campbell.
“The Rolex Middle Sea Race was an experience, three days of drifting and two days of brutal sailing,” commented Nikki Henderson, who was full of admiration for her young crew. “I wish I could have put their families and future employers in that boat to see how they reacted. I saw the best part of every one of these girls. They dug so deep, even when they were feeling terrible, they were supporting each other, they were amazing. I am sure they will look back on this as a life-changing experience.”
“We had extreme weather: calm seas, gale force winds, lightning and thunder,” commented Gabriella Mifsud. “Most of us had never been in those conditions, but we just had to pull up our socks and get on with it.” Looking to the future, Mifsud believes the race will stand them in good stead. “The race was a bit stressful, but we have survived,” she added. “Now we have faced those conditions, our limits have been extended, we know we can push further. This was the first time I have finished the race, but I hope it will not be the last.”
As the Royal Malta Yacht Club awaits the final finishers in the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race, only one class remains undecided. Marcello Patrizi’s Outremer 55 Asia (ITA) is less than 50 miles from the finish, and is expected to complete the race this evening. Assuming she does, Asia will take both Multihull Line Honours and the win in the MOCRA Class. If successful, it will be an extraordinary tale of determination and resolve.