Just 12 boats from 57 starters complete Rolex Middle Sea Race in Malta 25/10/07

All the Rolex Middle Sea Race competitors have now finished the race which started from Valletta last Saturday. From a total of 57 entries just 12 completed the course withRamblertaking the overall win and the course record with a time of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds.

The frontal system that put three-quarters of the fleet into harbour during the first 36-hours of the race last weekend is a distant memory with the final boats drifting across the line in Marsamxett Harbour in light airs yesterday.

British sailor Shaun Murphy, co-skipper of the J/105Slingshot-the only double-handed yacht to complete the course – ran out of metaphors in trying to encapsulate what had been a ‘race of two halves’ for him and Roger Barber.

Commenting on the conditions Murphy said: “We started with squalls containing thunder, lightning, hail and horizontal rain with the trysail up and then spent much of the second half in sunshine and shorts, sailing under spinnaker clocking a top speed of 19.8 knots. Finishing was just fantastic. We were completely taken by surprise with the response of the people at the Club.”

As is tradition when yachts are finishing this offshore classic, a big crowd had gathered at the Royal Malta Yacht Club andSlingshotreceived a standing ovation.

Peter Hopps and Hilary Cook, co-skippers of another British yachtNisidafinished at night and missed the crescendo of a daylight finish. But they too had been in an exceptional race dodging thunderstorms, lightning and hail on the first leg up the eastern seaboard of Sicily. Once past Messina they had a good leg to Stromboli, although the foredeck crew had certainly had enough sail changes to last the race, if not a lifetime.

At Stromboli there was a sense of déjà vu. Hopps and Cook have done the race twice before and always seem spend some time becalmed of the volcanic island, “it’s as good a place as any, given there’s always something to look at,” laughs Cook. But this time it was the calm after and before the storm. A good chance to draw breath.

Cook continued: “The most satisfying thing about this race was that we had a team of people that a week ago did not know each other, for three of whom it was their first ever offshore race, and they all came together and really looked after each other. We really did work very hard as a crew.”

Arthur Podesta on Elusive Medbank – the first Malta boat to finish – also points to a sound, prepared boat and crew morale as the bedrock of a secure platform in a race where the wind repeatedly went from 10 to 50 knots and back down again in an instant.

Podesta’s three children that range in age from 18 to 24 have over 20 Rolex Middle Sea Races between them. Still fewer than their father, but Podesta is quick to acknowledge the role they and the rest of the crew play in setting up the boat and managing her on the racecourse. According to daughter Maya, on her seventh race, this is by far the worst she has experienced: “I saw 57 knots. I’ve been in 45/50 before, but I’ve never been in 57. It’s an experience. When it really blew the first night it flattened the seas, it was amazing. But then the seas started building. And then the northern part of Sicily was big. It was definitely the toughest. The one where we retired because we could not make the time limit because there was no wind was tough. This was tougher, and more exciting. And I loved every second of it!”

Gianpiero Martuscelli, skipper of Obelix, the only Italian boat to finish so far from the 13 that started was also aware that he had been in a monumental race, commenting: “It is the third time we have done this race and it was absolutely the toughest but it was an incredible experience. We enjoyed it; we just had a very great time fighting in these rough conditions. We were very happy with the boat. In 45 knots and rough waves this boat just performed very, very well.”

Martuscelli admits to feeling apprehensive before the start knowing that there would be periods of seriously bad weather, but he discovered that when they got stuck in they did not think of them anymore: “We could really get along with the weather conditions, and never had a real problem. The hardest moment was the night we sailed between the Stromboli Islands and Capo San Vito. The wind got very strong, at 0600 there was a real black wall in front of us with lightning, thunder, squalls, waves up to 6m – a lot for the Mediterranean.”

Overall Results