A tactically challenging and meteorologically intriguing 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is developing. Some 28 hours into the contest, all 83 yachts are still in contention with the vast majority of the fleet currently negotiating the infamous Strait of Messina. Leading the fleet is last year’s Line Honours winner, Slovenian Maxi Esimit Europa 2. Two 72-ft Mini Maxis; Niklas Zennstrom’s Rán 2 and Alessandro Rombelli’s Italian Stig. All three boats are travelling at a meagre two knots and separated by metres rather than miles and can only watch as the chasing pack come up behind them with the breeze.
Lee Satariano & Christian Ripard’s J/122, Artie RTFX still lead the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall after time correction. Artie RTFX was the first Maltese boat to exit the Strait of Messina, one of the defining parts of the 606-mile course. Artie RTFX rode a favourable current through the narrow gap between Sicily and the Italian main land and a small break away pack of boats is trying to do exactly the same before the tide turns.
Leading the chasing pack behind Artie RTFX is Josef Schultheis' & Paolo Semeraro’s Xp 44, XP-ACT with several Maltese crew on board. XP-ACT should be next through the strait and look to be in a strong position. However two British yachts are ahead of them after time correction; Nick Jones’ First 44.7, Lisa and Philippe Falle’s Grand Soleil 43, Trustmarque Quokka.
Jonas Diamantino’s ILC40, Comanche Raider II Gasanmamo has found another gear. After suffering in the light airs over night, the all Maltese crew have fought back but Comanche Raider Gasanmamo is still over 2 miles behind Artie RTFX and need to beat the reigning champions by a significant distance on the water to make any claim for the big prize.
Looking up the track, the formidable Maxi yachts are approaching Stromboli, however yet again the wind looks to be fading tonight, which should allow the yachts who have made it through the Messina Strait to sail right up to them. For those that do not make it through Messina, it looks like a painful afternoon and evening; the tide will turn and the wind will ease, some may even go backwards, unless they decide to anchor.