The 30th Rolex Middle Sea Race is in its closingstages with only two yachts left at sea and the major prizes decided ahead ofthe final prizegiving on Saturday, 24 October. This has been an exceptionalrace for many reasons, one of which is the arrival before midnight on Wednesdayof all the Maltese yachts to finish the race. Ten out of the fourteen Malteseyachts completed the 606 nautical mile course and all have some tales to tell.Whilst none made a serious dent on the overall trophy outcome in a race thatfavoured the bigger, faster yachts in the 69 boat fleet, all may hold theirheads up high for having competed in a testing edition of this internationallyrespected race. To a man the Maltese participants have done Malta proud.


All the Maltese yachts finished in a 14-hour period thatbegan with the arrival of David Franks’ Strait Dealer at 09.42 on Wednesdaymorning. David Anastasi, the skipper, described a wet, difficult ride that sawhis team finish having eaten about 10 per cent of their provisions. The firstleg to Messina was fast and relatively easy, since it was downwind. Thereafter,the race became upwind and circumstances changed completely, “it was difficultto manage the boat in the conditions. The biggest issue was running out ofenergy. It was practically impossible to eat and sleep properly. We couldn’tcook even though all we are talking about is boiling water and adding it to abag! There was just too much going on below. We survived on chocolate, driedsausage and sweets.” Anastasi pointed to the teamwork within the crew ascritical in bringing the yacht home.


Next across the finish line in Marsamxett Harbour was JonasDiamantino’s Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo, some two hours later. ComancheRaider raced much of the course with a steadily disintegrating boom. A crashgybe during a 40-knot squall, which hit while passing Capo Passero on the firstnight, started a problem that worsened progressively through the race, “in thatinstance we crushed the gooseneck which fixes the boom to the mast. It waspitch black so it was impossible to properly assess the damage, so we continuedtill daybreak on reduced sail. That said, we still hit our top speed of therace! In the morning we managed to sort out a jury rig that lasted us toStromboli. Then we started to have more problems as the boom tried to twistfree of its remaining fixings.” Diamantino’s crew set about re-jigging thejury-rig again, a fix which stayed the course to Lampedusa. At Lampedusa thesea state put further pressure on the boom and tore it from its mountingcompletely. That Comanche Raider completed the course is testament to thetenacity of the crew and its unwillingness to give up no matter what.


Thirty minutes after Comanche Raider, Elusive II Medbankcrossed the line. Owner, Arthur Podesta, completing his thirtieth race in theprocess adding further lustre to an enviable record. Podesta spent theafternoon on tenterhooks waiting for confirmation of a Class 3 win, which waseventually confirmed. Elusive II was another where Maltese siege mentality andthe ability to just get on with it was present in abundance. On the first nighta broach led to them breaking their spinnaker pole, shortening it bytwo-metres.


David Pizzuto’s Geisha led an early afternoon charge thatincluded the Timmy Camilleri led Vikesha and Jost Merten’s Rebel. It was justafter teatime that things heated up. Lee Satariano’s Artie and Sandro Musu’sAziza had been match-racing each other all the way back from Pantelleria andentered Marsamxett Harbour separated by a few minutes after 606 nautical milesof tough sailing. Artie crossed the finish line first, delighting Satariano,“it was a race that the crew had to be up for at every moment. We put safetyfirst, but we pushed the boat the whole way. The crew worked tirelessly,especially the first two days when it was tough going. The squalls were theworst in the dark in nil visibility, particularly after Stromboli. It was partof the challenge and it worked out well. It was a great finish in front of thenew yacht club, the atmosphere was very special.”


Musu was another to describe the vicious gusts of the firsttwo nights, but encountered no serious damage that affected their performance.He put a lot down to preparation, but also considered the unflinching effort ofthe crew to be critical. Keeping morale high was a problem. Two crewmembers haddropped out shortly before the race and Musu felt they were short at times,adding pressure. On the plus side they had eaten well the whole way around.Coming into the finish cross-tacking with another boat added spice to the endof the race.


The last two Maltese yachts home were Edward Gatt Floridia’sOtra Vez Fexco and Michael Montanaro Gauci’s Whistler, finishing at 23.20. Thegap was less than the previous pairing and the excitement tangible, despite thelate hour. The Royal Malta Yacht Club terrace was packed with partisan supportfor the two yachts. Otra Vez took the hooter six seconds ahead of Whistler.About as tight as it could get after four and a half days of racing. Floridiawas clear that this was his best Rolex Middle Sea Race yet, “It was a verywindy race and rough, very hard, but excellent fun! We made Stromboli in recordtime. Our problem was that during a squall at Capo Passero we lost our windinstruments and so were sailing blind, particularly at night when we couldn’tsee the tell-tales. We definitely learnt a lot, sailing by boat speed alone.I’m proud we managed to carry on regardless. We had a really good reception atthe finish. It was a match-race into the line, a shifty beat, and the hooterseparated us by seconds.”


The four other Maltese yachts participating retired with noinjuries to crew.

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