Rolex Middle Sea Race: WARM UP IN MALTA

Dark clouds scudded across the sky over Valletta, bringing with it wind pressure for the ten boats that took to the start line for a coastal race in advance of Saturday’s start of the premier event, the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
The fleet – just a part of the 84 yachts entered in the offshore race – used the approximately 24 mile course as a warm-up, a chance for the foreign boats to shake off the jet lag and get crews sailing together, for some the first time in these waters.
The coastal course also gave a chance to sort out the local conditions, which were fresh today, as well as this archipelago’s fascinating geography. The fleet started in Marsamxett Harbour, in the shadow of the towering spire of St Paul’s Cathedral and the landmark dome of the Carmelite Church.
Dockside ambiance at the Grand Harbour Marina Photo by: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo
There was no shadow from the breeze however, which shortly before the start piped up to 15 to 18 knots. The northwesterly wind angle put the fleet on a broad reach and shortly after the start, many boats put up spinnakers or big genoas; the TP52 Lucky hoisted an asymmetrical spinnaker and shot to weather of the fleet and led out of the harbour. At the opposite end of the line was the 38-footer, Seawolf of Southampton (GIB) flying a symmetrical kite, that enabled them to sail more of a rhumbline course down the coast. Offshore the 3 - 4 metre sea was slightly bigger than the accompanying 18 to 20 knots of breeze; once on the opposite gybe the bigger boats made use of the following seas to surf at speeds of 18+ knots in the gusts.
The course took the boats a mile out to a fairway buoy, and then on the opposite gybe, around and down the eastern end of Malta to round the outer island of Filfla, leaving it to starboard, and a long beat back to the finish in Marsamxett Harbour.
Boats sailing off Marsamxett Harbour Photo by: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo
Today’s fleet was a good cross section of the breadth of the full list of competitors with boats from Russia, Italy, Switzerland, Gibraltar, United States, and United Kingdom. The lone Maltese boat was Elusive Medbank (MLT), Arthur Podesta’s Beneteau 45. This will be Podesta’s 31st Rolex Middle Sea Race, and the lifetime sailor has the distinction of having done every race since the inaugural start in 1968. His track record is good with wins in 1970 and 1983, and a 2nd and 3rd place as skipper. Arthur’s core crew is made up of his daughter Maya (who’s done 9 races), and his two sons Aaron (9 races) and Christoph (8 races).
The first boat to finish was the Valentine Zubkov’ Shipman 63, Coral (RUS), at 14:29:12 (an elapsed time of 4 hrs, 29 mins); but, it was David Latham’s Seawolf that won the coastal race on corrected time, followed in 2nd place by Elusive Medbank, Peter Hopps’ Nisida (GBR) in 3rd, and Coral in 4th (the balance of results were pending at press time).
ELUSIVE 2 MEDBANK, Arthur Podesta Photo by: Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

Quite a few boats and competitors are still enroute to Malta, while many of those already here spent the day dockside running through a punch list of tasks to complete over the next three days. The 606-nautical mile offshore race begins on Saturday from Grand Harbour, with a start at 11.00am.
Tomorrow, Thursday, is a Crew Party at the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and on Friday there will be a skipper’s race and weather briefing. The Rolex Middle Sea Race commences on Saturday, 23 October 2010. The final prize giving is on Saturday, 30 October.
George David's Rambler (USA) established the current Course Record of 47 hours, 55 minutes, and 3 seconds in 2007. 

Rolex Middle Sea Race: WARM UP IN MALTA Rolex Middle Sea Race: WARM UP IN MALTA Reviewed by Panos Douros on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 Rating: 5

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