Charles Dunstone's Nokia has collected provisional corrected time victory over Alfa Romeo in the Rolex Middle Sea Race

On the stroke of noon yesterday, on the third day of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo entered Marsaxmsett Harbour and crossed the Royal Malta Yacht Club’s finish line in first place. Less than three hours later Charles Dunstone’s Nokia sailed through the same stretch of water to collect provisional corrected time victory. With the fleet now spread out over half the 607-mile long course local weather conditions are dictating everybody’s fate.

By rounding Lampedusa on Monday afternoon with just 100 miles to sail and 13 hours to do it in, Crichton’s Super Maxi was in a position to break the Rolex Middle Sea Race course record. But the weather pattern the crew had been sailing southe-east in from Pantelleria towards Lampedusa was about to change and as the crew turned their boat east towards Malta the wind disappeared.

Crichton commented after the finish: “It was really frustrating last night [Monday]. We came past Lampedusa in good shape for the record and then 20 minutes later, nothing. The wind completely disappeared, there was not even a ripple on the water and it took us all night to go nowhere.”

Crichton and his crew may have been disappointed to have lost another record opportunity but he can be happy with the fact that Alfa Romeo has now achieved the grand slam this year by collecting line honours in the entire Rolex season of races including the Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2002, the Rolex Giraglia Race, the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Rolex Maxi Cup and now the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

The boat that was ultimately to upset Alfa Romeo was Charles Dunstone’s Nokia. From the same design stable as her bigger sister but nearly 18ft shorter and with a significantly less sophisticated configuration, Nokia rates lower than Alfa Romeo but never seems to have a problem staying in touch on corrected time. Skippered by David Bedford, Nokia’s consistent performance is in part down to her crew.

Bedford commented: “I think one of the reasons we have been competitive here is because we were well equipped with helmsman and trimmers. Every night has been really dark, no moon and no light of any kind. Having people who could steer fast and trim sails well, who rotated frequently and were always fresh was really important.”

Dunstone’s Nokia has now beaten Alfa Romeo on handicap three times in three races.