While Nautor Challenge continues to lead the Rolex Middle Sea in a building 18knot breeze, the tailenders are sitting in light airs

As Malta awoke to find another dusting of ash from Etna and fresh northerly winds bringing cooler air and clouds, the Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet was experiencing mixed fortunes.

The leader Nautor Challenge continues to show her racehorse pedigree, enjoying a downwind run towards the ‘bottom mark’ of the course, the isle of Lampedusa. Passing Favignana, the largest of the Egadi islands, off the western tip of Sicily at 2100hrs on Monday evening, she reached Pantelleria at 0800 this morning gybing onto the lay line of Lampedusa in 18knots of wind from the north.

Behind her the much of the fleet faced a frustrating night off the northern coast of Sicily. Albablu the Farr 40 (USA 40040), Strait Dealer J/125 (MLT1250) and Tonnerre de Breskens the Lutra 52 (NED27) rounded Favignana at about 0700 this morning and are well on their way to Pantelleria in much the same wind as the leader. This group of yachts still has a chance to catch Nautor Challenge on handicap and will be doing its utmost to take advantage of the favourable conditions currently experienced by the leader.

Further back, a large number of yachts were logged as passing Capo San Vito at around the same time this morning, suggesting the majority of boats are sailing almost in convoy. Market Wizard, the J/109, jointly skippered by John Ripard Jnr and Andrew Calscione reported in at midday that she had the custom-built, spirit of tradition yacht, Angelica IV and Maltese Falcon (MLT407) in front and behind respectively. Sailing in light northerlies these yachts continue to struggle to find the wind needed to push them through the Egadi Islands and onto the western-most leg of the course. Just before 1600hrs Chris Bull on Primadonna, the Prima 38 (GBR2519R) advised the Race Committee she was finally abreast of Maretimo, with the Humphries 38, Commanche Raider (IRL 985) and the First 40.7 Squalo Bianco (ITA 13927) behind.

Last night (Monday) two more yachts retired. Apollonia Nice (Sunod 37) has suffered irreparable damage to her rudder and has pulled into Portorosa. Meanwhile the oldest and heaviest yacht in the fleet, the classic Zwerver (NED 1038), decided that the continued lack of wind was too much to bear.