Update 1730 – First Arrival Imminent

Update 1730 – First Arrival Imminent

Esimit Europa 2 enjoyed their downwind romp around Lampedusa, rounding at 12.40, with ICAP Leopard rounding just less than two hours behind. With the finish line looming only 25 miles distant, barring any breakdowns, Esimit should have a lock on line honours. The Slovenian entry is due over the finish line off the Royal Malta Yacht Club in Marsamxett Harbour around 18.30 local time.

ICAP Leopard has been chasing all the way from the start and actually gained ground on Esimit, only 40 miles behind at 17.00, but was quickly running out of runway to reel in the big blue maxi.

The last of the fleet of 69 yachts still racing has rounded the volcano of Stromboli and are all making their way to Favignana then around Pantelleria, Lampedusa, and through the South Comino channel, to the finish in Marsamxett Harbour, Valletta.

With nine boats around the ‘mark' of Favignana, current overall leader, based on this group, is Bryon Ehrhart's TP52 Lucky. Ehrhart is a veteran of the Transpac, Newport Bermuda Race, and Bayview Mackinac Race and also actively campaigns an Etchells 22. On board TP52 Lucky, the crew include some of Ehrhart's Etchells crew, as well as Irishman, Ian Moore (crew member, BMW Oracle America's Cup team) and New Zealander, Dave Swete (2010 World Match Racing champion).

Tonight could well be a tough one for many of the yachts that have not yet reached the northwest corner of Sicily. A cold front is due to arrive from the northwest, bringing rain and wind speeds in excess of twenty knots, and lumpy seas, hampering their progress to Favignana.

Beating into strong headwinds can take its' toll on the crew and the equipment, as Steinlager 2 have already found out. Steinlager 2 is part of offshore racing folklore, winning the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race with legendary skipper, Sir Peter Blake.

Giles Pearman, crewmember onboard said, "All sorts of problems changing to the number four headsail. We almost lost the number three (headsail) over the side when it ripped out of the foil. It took eight of us on the foredeck to get it under control. The decision on deck is that for now lifejackets and harnesses are mandatory. My Russian teammates are acting like nothing just happened; but I can't hide the fact that I am exhausted."

Further back in the fleet, Elusive 2 Medbank crew member Maya Podesta emailed earlier today, "Monday morning started with eggs and bacon on Elusive, after a not very pleasant second night. Lots of starting and stopping and 'no wind' games! Keeps you awake with lots of sail changes and trimming. It must be scenes such as a glowing eruption of Stromboli on one side, and baby dolphins on the other side of the boat at 2am that make this race special, and keep you going!

"It's amazing how boats close by on either side can just sail by you and those behind keep catching up, while you never quite manage to catch those ahead of you! We've had a lot of drizzle all through the night, but nothing like the rain we hear they had back home! So no rainbows to find a pot of luck at the end! But hey, it's a long race, and we're here to keep pushing, no matter how nasty the wind can be!"

Additional boats that have retired today include the Class 40 Pogo 1 (GER), which is headed to Messina, the Cookson 50, Calipso IV (ITA) currently in Palermo, and the Vismara 42 Nautilus QQ7 (ITA).

The race fleet can be tracked online at www.rolexmiddlesearace.com/tracker/#tracker

George David's Rambler (USA) established the current Course Record of 47 hours, 55 minutes, and 3 seconds in 2007. ?

The final prize giving is at 12.00pm on Saturday, 30 October at the Mediterranean Conference Center in Valletta.

For a full archive of photography, media releases and audio files covering the Rolex Middle Sea Race, visit www.regattanews.com

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