Maltese Yachts update
0930 CEST on Wednesday 26TH October.
With 18 yachts finished and two retirements the bulk of the remaining yachts in the 32nd Rolex Middle Sea Race are still battling to reach the finish at the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Lighter conditions have beset the fleet but those that have rounded Lampedusa are now sailing in a southeasterly breeze and maintaining good boat speed, flying downwind sails. The Royal Malta Yacht Club is expecting a monumental party tonight with six Maltese yachts expected to finish the 606-mile ocean classic this afternoon and early evening.
Leading the Maltese fleet of eight yachts is J/122 Artie, co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard. Participating in her second successive Rolex Middle Sea Race, Artie's crew comprises eight local sailors and the team has come close to winning the race overall on two previous occasions. At 0930 this morning Artie was 24 miles from the Comino Strait leading the charge for the Maltese fleet, both on the water and after time correction. However, Artie's crew will be constantly looking behind. No less than four Maltese yachts are posing a major threat. Jaru Team EC, Oiltanking Juno, Elusive St.Regis and Otra Vez are all less than 5 miles behind Artie.
Maltese J/133 Jaru Team EC, is skippered by Andrew Calascione and John Ripard (first cousin to Artie's Christian Ripard). John Ripard is also sailing with his son Sebastian. Jaru is just 3.5 miles astern of Artie and virtually level with Oiltanking Juno.
However Jaru has taken up a more northerly position outside Comino and Juno to the south, which one of these yachts has chosen the correct angle of attack is about to be decided. Juno has other close company, Arthur Podesta's First 45, Elusive St.Regis has drawn level with Juno on the water. Arthur Podesta's crew include three of his children, Maya, Aaron and Christoph Podesta.
J/133 Otra Vez co-skippered by brothers, Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia will be cursing their luck, their broken bowsprit is now a serious handicap. As they sail towards the finish off the wind, Otra Vez is unable to fly their fastest sails. This is the first year the brothers have raced their new boat and Edward is a committee member of the Royal Malta Yacht Club.
Jonathan Gambin and Nicky Sammut's Dufour 44, Ton Ton Surfside has put up a tremendous fight and are just a few miles behind the chasing pack, whilst Grand Soleil 40 Aziza, skippered by Sandro Musu taking part in his eight race, has fallen behind in the lighter conditions. Jonas Diamantino's Comanchie Raider II Gasan Mamo retired earlier in the race.
Artie looks like winning the battle of the eight Maltese yachts but the crew will be keeping a constant vigil on the movements of the opposition, nipping at their heels. Similarly, the chasing pack will be fully focused on Artie, if the leader snags a hole in the wind, the competition will be fully prepared to sail around them to snatch victory at the 11th hour. For these Maltese yachts, it looks like a fight to the finish.
There are 64 crew-members on the eight Maltese entries in the Rolex Middle Sea Race and many more competing on yachts from overseas. The youngest are Nicky Fenech and Fabio Galeo who are both just sixteen years old. The oldest, at 66 years young, is Arthur Podesta competing in his 32nd race. This is a huge diversity of people, ranging from Maya Podesta and Sebastian Ripard, aspiring to represent Malta at the 2012 Olympic Games to Maltese sailors competing for first time, such as Zack Micallef sailing on Elusive St.Regis.
The 32nd Rolex Middle Sea Race showcases the depth of talent and passion for sailing in Malta, tonight that will be celebrated at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.