The final coastal race for start of Rolex Middle Sea race took place yesterday in extreme conditions 18/10/07

Having cancelled the previous day’s coastal races due to big seas caused by extremely strong winds, most competitors were eager to get on the water yesterday for the final showdown before Saturday’s Rolex Middle Sea Race start in Valletta.

Winds were still very strong – gusting up to 45 knots – but the race officer (David Farrugia) at the organising Royal Malta Yacht Club decided to stick to his original plan to run the race for anyone keen enough to test themselves and their boat.

The course took the yachts from the start line off the RMYC westwards along the northern coast of Malta around Comino, the small island that lies between the ‘mainland’ and Gozo, and then back to finish off the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

Amindzhanov Temur’s Nord Star and Oleg Evdokimenko’s Vikesha both from Russia, local Maltese legend Arthur Podesta with Elusive Medbank, Felix Scheder-Biechin’s Vineta from Germany and Sven Niklaus’ Tai Shan from Switzerland.Vineta was first home whilst Elusive won on handicap.

According to reports from the club the start was gripping, with the wind funnelling into Marsamxett Harbour between Tigné Point and Fort St Elmo and sending long rollers down between the walls of Valletta and the foreshore of Manoel Island.

Skipper of Tai Shan – Sven Niklaus – commented after the race: “It’s not the first time we’ve sailed in these kinds of conditions and there was never any danger and we have nothing broken on the boat. Everything is OK. So it was absolutely not a problem?We did our own weather work this morning, so we expected very rough sea up to 4 metre waves and 20 – 30 knots of wind, but in fact we had between 35 and 45 knots, with the majority being 37/38 knots. But the decision to go today was a good one for us and we were happy for the race committee to give the green light.”

The view from the winning boat was slightly different. No playing it down for Arthur Podesta, who has seen it all before and more in this part of the sailing world: “It was a pasting!” he said, “the waves were far greater than I expected although interestingly the biggest were around the harbour entrance. We got a good start and were first out which was nice. Vineta eventually passed us, but she is faster and newer. It was good to beat her on handicap.”

Podesta was very pleased with the decision to go ahead with the race and was disappointed a few more boats had not taken up the challenge – although he understood why they had not, adding: “my argument for going is simple. I’m going to be out on a 600-mile race for four or five days with the possibility of these conditions. So a three-hour pasting is nothing! We have some work to do before the start but we’ll be ready.”

Overall Results

1. ELUSIVE MEDBANK, Arthur Podesta, MLT
2. VIKESHA Oleg Evdokimenko RUS
3. TAI SHAN Sven Niklaus SUI
4. VINETA Felix Scheder-Biechin GER