The 2018 Rolex Middle Sea Race has seen further changes to the leaderboard as the steady stream of finishers continued overnight and during the fifth day of the anniversary event. With 47 boats having completed the course, the podium places in certain classes are beginning to take shape. The overall standings reflect the view that the building conditions have favoured the smaller boats. French yacht, Courrier Recommandé holds pole, but with around half the fleet still at sea it is too early to be popping the champagne corks.
Today has been a day of celebration for all those to have finished, but particularly in the local fleet. The first Maltese yachts arrived in the early hours and early morning of Wednesday and the Royal Malta Yacht Club has given the crews their traditional rousing reception. It was Ramon Sant Hill & Jonas Diamantino’s Comanche Raider III that led the way. Taking the lead from the race start the team worked hard to secure bragging rights. “I am proud of the crew and proud of what we did, and so very happy. We never gave up, we just kept going,” commented Sant Hill. “Now we have to clean the boat, and after we will have a big celebration!” Comanche Raider III crossed the line at around 0303 CEST.
Just under four hours later, the second Maltese boat passed in front of Fort Manoel, as Josef Schultheis & Timmy Camilleri’s XP-ACT, completed their race after an intense struggle with Elusive 2. “We have been doing this race for the last seven years; it is a really solid team and we are all good friends. That is where our energy comes from,” commented Schultheis. “We were with Elusive for most of the race; it was a great battle with a very good team.”
Elusive 2 was co-skippered by the Podesta siblings – Aaron, Cristoph and Maya, who caught the Rolex Middle Sea Race bug from their father Arthur, who competed in every race from 1968 until 2014. Less than half an hour separated Elusive from XP-ACT after nearly four days of racing, evidence of the intense struggle. “You need competition to push yourself, and we have pushed each other,” commented Maya Podesta, referring to the local rivalry. “It was a really good race. All of the Elusive crew put their heart and soul into the boat. We all have our own things to offer, and together we make a great team.” In the overall standings under IRC time correction, Elusive is the best placed Maltese entry.
With the majority of yachts still racing from the smaller boat classes, it is possible to give a provisional overview of the podium positions the bigger boat classes. IRC One, looks to have been won by German Maxi 72 Momo, owned by Dieter Schön. Next in line is another German entry, Caro. The 115ft Nikata, the largest yacht ever to take part, holds third.
In IRC Two, Optimum 3, co-skippered by Periklis Livas and Nikolaos Lazos, looks secure at the top of the class standing. Pietro Moschini’s Italian Cookson 50, Endlessgame, appears to have lost out by just under five minutes. Gérard Logel’s French TP52, Arobas², was third, slipping in ahead of Freccia Rossa by less than two minutes, confirming the close nature of the competition.
Dominque Tian’s French Ker 46, Tonnerre de Glen, held pole in the overall standings for a few hours. She eventually gave way to faster opposition, but her commendable performance means she should have won IRC Class Three from Vittorio Biscarini’s Mylius 50, Ars Una, with Comanche Raider III in third.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is not all about trophies and prizes. There remains a place for the Corinthian sailors and adventurers who simply wish to challenge themselves over a racecourse that demands determination and perseverance to endure the wide range of conditions and rewards with spectacular vistas of volcanos, islands and islets, and, a variety of sealife.
Built in 1976 by Palmer Johnson, the Frers 53, Encounter, is a classic of the IOR era of yachting. Speaking to co-owners Bart Weduwer and Ed Spaargaren, shortly after finishing their first ever 600nm offshore race, both were evidently proud of the achievement. “It was a beautiful, incredible race. A great experience,” they agreed. “It absolutely lived up to its reputation. The playing with the current through Messina, passing Stromboli at night, the beat to Favignana in 25 to 30 knots on the nose, the roller coaster ride to Lampedusa surfing at 20.4 knots and a tough reach back.”
Weduwer and Spaargaren’s final words were reserved for the Royal Malta Yacht Club, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its famous race: “They are such nice people and it is really to the credit of the club that they hold this event and continue to persevere with it each year. It is a lot of work to put it on and a great tribute to their efforts that they have a record fleet this year.”