107 yachts started the 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race with 94 yachts racing for the overall prize of the Rolex Middle Sea Trophy, awarded to the best yacht racing under the IRC Rating system.
There are six individual IRC classes, and winning class at the Rolex Middle Sea Race is a primary goal among the teams. Once that is achieved, the prevailing weather conditions will influence which class produces the overall winner.
At 14:00 CET on the fourth day of the race only two of the yachts vying for the overall prize had finished. Eight yachts have retired, leaving 84 still racing. While only a dozen yachts have rounded the most southerly mark of the course, Lampedusa, nearly 50 have passed Pantelleria. Those with strong claims on the class podiums are becoming more apparent.
The fascinating battle in the high performance class, fought out over the past three days, will conclude this afternoon. In the hunt are Marton Jozsa's Hungarian RP60 Wild Joe, Quentin Stewart's Infiniti 46 Maverick and Maximilian Klink's Swiss Botin 65 Caro. All three yachts are expected to finish the race before sunset. With the wind on the final approach to Marsamxett Harbour proving less than stable, opportunities exist for a final throw of the dice.
Vincenzo Onorato's Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino has eked out an impressive lead over fellow Italian Cookson 50 Cippa Lippa, owned by Guido Paolo Gucci, and barring disaster should be on for the class win. Pablo Garriga's Spanish TP52, Audax, looks to be well placed to claim third. Throughout the race, Mascalzone Latino has been consistently ranking as one of the best performers in the fleet. Last year the crew lost the overall title by just nine seconds, perhaps this could be their year.
Three yachts appear to be vying for the class win. Aldo Quadarella Italian Milius 49 Zenhea Takesha was just 30 minutes ahead on corrected time from David Collins' Swan 45 T'ala, as they passed the largely low lying island. The Russian Ker 40 Frogfoot, skippered by Sergey Bryuzga, was third.
Maltese hopes for the race remain optimistic. Aaron, Christoph & Maya Podesta's Maltese First 45 Elusive 2 was leading at Pantelleria, by just under 20 minutes on corrected time, from another locally based yacht - Timmy Camilleri & Josef Schultheis' Xp-44 XP-ACT. Eric De Turckheim's French A13 Teasing Machine was third 25 minutes behind Elusive 2. The class is producing one of the closest battles in the fleet.
In what appears to be a private battle between the J/Boats, two-time winners, Lee Satariano and the Maltese crew on the J/122 Artie co-skippered by Christian Ripard and Sebastian Ripard was leading by just under 40 minutes from Laurent Charmy's French J/111 SL Energies Fastwave. Yves Grosjean's French J/133 Jivaro is striving to keep in touch, currently lying third.
Noel Racine's French JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, with Rolex Fastnet winner Alexis Loison in his crew, looks to be holding an advantage over Igor Rytov's JPK 10.80 Bogatyr. The two yachts have been trading places at the head of the race’s small boat class and expect this race to go to the wire. Leonardo Servi's Italian Comet 38 Scricca so far is in third.
In terms of the main prize, it is a little early to be making firm predictions. There are three days of racing left, and over three-quarters of the fleet still on the course. Looking at positions at Pantelleria, Mascalzone Latino (in Class 2) held a 30-minute advantage over Foggy Dew (Class 6) after time correction. Artie was in third, an hour and a half behind the leader.
The weather conditions have been a moveable feast, gorging and starving the fleet throughout the past three days. Unsurprisingly, they look set to change again and perhaps decisively in favour of those yachts closest to the finish. The south easterly wind that has provided a relatively quick passage from Palermo to the finish for the faster yachts is due to fade overnight. If so it will dramatically slow the progress of the smaller yachts, particularly those still to round Lampedusa. Whether this change comes to pass and the effect it has on the fortunes of those in contention for the overall prize will be the subject of tomorrow’s news.
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