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Continua tra refoli capricciosi la ventinovesima Middle Sea Race. Dopo oltre tre giorni di mare, ancora nessuna barca ha tagliato il traguardo di...

[singlepic=595,250,170,,left]Rolex Middle Sea Race – Lampedusa – Continua tra refoli capricciosi la ventinovesima Middle Sea Race. Dopo oltre tre giorni di mare, ancora nessuna barca ha tagliato il traguardo di La Valletta e la flotta appare pressochè compatta dalle parti di Favignana, dove continuano a susseguirsi i passaggi degli equipaggi in gara.
Ad essersi avvantaggiati nel corso delle passate ore sono stati il Mills 68 Alegre di Andres Soriano e l’STP-65 Moneypenny di Jim Swartz, ormai giunti al traverso di Lampedusa, ultima boa del percorso.
All’inseguimento della coppia di testa, l’altro STP-65 Rosebud-Team DYT, già transitato oltre Pantelleria, e, più indietro, l’Open 50 Vento di Sardegna, allo stato attuale migliore tra gli italiani, quindi il TP52 Ran e Rapture.
L’arrivo dei primi, quasi sicuramente in volata, è atteso nel corso delle prossime ore. Da quel momento si inizierà a guardare il cronometro, anche se le arie leggere dovrebbero garantire distacchi difficilmente azzerabili con il calcolo dei compensi.

Per seguire la regata via web clicca qui.

Aces high and low
[singlepic=594,250,170,,left][Rolex Middle Sea Race Press Release] After playing cards below deck yesterday, the crew of Alegre (GBR) played the perfect hand in the witching hours last night to slip inside Rosebud (USA) and find sufficient breeze to keep her moving forward. At the same time, Moneypenny (USA), which had taken a more offshore line from Stromboli, hit a similar patch of wind to the north. Moneypenny and Alegre converged at around 0330 CET and have been locked together ever since. If the crew of Rosebud experienced a gut-wrenching sensation during this period it may have been soothed by the thought that this had happened before in the race and the elastic binding the fleet would soon bring her rivals back. At daybreak the extent of the horizon job would have become only too apparent.
Wind forward to 1700 CET this afternoon and the normally convivial Roger Sturgeon’s misery must be complete. Andres Soriano’s Alegre and Jim Swartz’s Moneypenny have been flying along at between 10 and 12 knots of boatspeed since the early hours of this morning and now lie halfway between Pantelleria and Lampedusa, the bottom mark of the 607 nautical mile course. They look to be in steady wind from the southeast and are likely to have a fast reach back to Malta once they make the final turn. It took Rosebud some twelve hours to completely break her shackles and reach the winds that are cooling the Mediterranean south of Sicily, but have refused to venture north. Such is the nature of yacht racing. The rich – Moneypenny and Alegre – got a whole lot richer, whilst the poor – the other seventy boats still racing – hit the poverty line. Rosebud is now well on her way to Pantelleria, but that will be small comfort to her crew of hardened racers.
Will Best, the navigator on the Mills 68, Alegre, took time out to explain what he believed happened, “just a quick note as I should be on the rail! We were the most inshore boat and got some great little patches of breeze, which just kept us moving. We looked buried at one point in the bay of Castellammare, and this is where we think Rosebud gybed out in search of more wind. We were then set up to be the first to get any wind with some south in it. It came quite quickly once we were around Capo San Vito and enabled us to stay inside Moneypenny too.” That will be the decision-making prowess of the navigator then? Best’s final remark reflects that chance sometimes plays a mighty part in this sort of game, “maybe it was a lucky hand.”

The critical point in the battle between Alegre and Rosebud was played out between 2000 CET and midnight last night. Alegre dived inshore, lost ground and for four hours sailed slowly along, lower and behind Rosebud, which was sailing the more direct course to Capo San Vito. Just before midnight it all changed. Alegre kept moving from parcel of wind to parcel of wind. More than once Rosebud came to a grinding halt, a combination of circumstances from which she did not recover really until midday today. Rosebud’s logged speeds on the tracker show her stuttering along at sub-five knots for much of the night. Alegre, meanwhile, apart from two holes that must have had the hearts fluttering, kept her momentum and sailed into the southerly flow at four in the morning. She has only looked back since then to keep an eye on Moneypenny.
The top guns on Moneypenny, which include Gavin Brady and Francesco de Angelis, took the STP 65 on a more northerly route across the top of Sicily from Stromboli. Out of sight of the fleet for much of yesterday, so it must have surprised her to bump into Alegre this morning as they converged just north of Trapani. Both got wind either side of Rosebud. Both are now tied together in drag race to the finish, in 10-15 knot south-easterlies that may build to 20 knots during the late evening. The best estimated time of arrival for these two is around 0400 CET tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. Given they have each other to spur themselves on, the pedals will be to the metal and an earlier arrival is entirely possible.
Looking at the remainder of the fleet’s progress today has been truly depressing sight. The southeasterly helping the leaders on their way has been within sniffing distance of the westernmost tip of Sicily all day, but has refused to move north of the Egadi Islands. Only two more yachts have passed the transit at Favignana – the double-handed Open 50 Vento di Sardegna (ITA), sailed by Guido Maisto and Andrea Mura, and Niklas Zennstrom’s fully crewed TP52 RAN (GBR), featuring a host of British pro-sailors that must have wondered what was going on today. At one point RAN looked odds on favourite for a podium finish. Whilst she lies in third overall on corrected time at Favignana, she could be hard pressed to keep her time on the smaller boats following her, let alone the faster ones ahead. At least she is on her way to the next island on the course.
Spare a thought for the backmarkers. Georges Bonello DuPuis, on Escape(MLT) called in this afternoon, “we’re going nowhere fast. Just dreadful. Still lots of others around us and the menu remains good.” Escape is only just now passing Palermo. The last boat in the fleet remains Zizanie (ITA), which has yet to reach Stromboli.
Elsewhere, Nisida (GBR) called in at 1600CET to mark the fact that “we were finishing at this time last year” and just to put this race into perspective. “We’re now travelling at respectable 7 knots under spinnaker, life is cheerful after a very difficult night. We’re 19-miles from Capo San Vito and expect things to get easier from there as we move into the more southerly wind,” advised co-skipper Hilary Cook.
On the Cookson 50, Lee Overlay Partners (IRL), skipper Adrian Lee reports that, “we spent most of the morning becalmed, added to which we caught a lobster pot about eight-miles off Cap San Vito at 1 o’clock last night. We went from ten knots to nought in ten seconds and had to send in diver to cut the line off the (canting) keel.” At press time, Lee and his crew are just north of the island of Levanzo in company with David Frank’s Strait Dealer (MLT), the first Maltese boat on the water.
Most of the crews are taking their medicine in good humour. Monterey (BER), for example, is “enjoying the opportunity to bake olive bread, water the plants (sic), perfect coffee-making skills and run the ice-maker for drinks.” The crew advise that despite this they are taking the race seriously and “chose a northerly course from Stromboli and are maintaining a slow, but steady progress to the turn at the Egadi Islands.” The Bermudan based crew of Monterey lie north of Palermo, with Jonathan Gambin’s Ton Ton (MLT) and Giampiero Martuscelli’s Obelix (ITA) in view.
Tomorrow should see the Line Honours boat back in Grand Harbour Marina and the clock counting down for the fleet to determine the corrected time winner.
Seventy-seven yachts representing twenty nations started the 2008 Rolex Middle Sea Race. Six yachts have retired so far.

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