Kurt Arrigo / Rolex

ICAP Leopard goes the pretty way

Mike Slade's supermaxi manoeuvres to avoid zone of calm in Rolex Middle Sea Race

Sunday October 24th 2010, Author: Suma Maffei Plowden, Location: Malta

With the frontrunner, Esimit Europa 2 halfway down the track to Favignana and Maretimo, at around 13.30 ICAP Leopard made a bold move, heating up about 45 degrees off the rhumb line to avoid a windless area, and in a bid for speed. Alegre and the following pack of a dozen or so 50-footers – E1, Pace, Lucky, Wild Joe, Cantankerous, Latetia, Dralian, Brave, Ambersail and Altair 3 – are now around Stromboli. Behind them a steady procession of the fleet continues straight back to Messina.

The Slovenian maxi, Esimit, may be in pole position for line honours but there is a tense battle for the overall lead on corrected time. Yachts from three different classes occupy the podium positions at the Messina checkpoint. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a truly international affair with yachts from six different countries battling for the overall lead.

Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard’s J/122 Artie, from the Royal Malta Yacht Club, is leading on corrected time at Messina. Ripard has won the race before and is recognised as one of the finest yachtsmen in Malta.

Just over an hour behind the overall leader is American Bryon Ehrhart’s TP52 Lucky from the New York Yacht Club, which is very much in contention. There are three boats scrapping for third place overall: Royal Malta Yacht Club member Soenke Stein’s J/133 Juno, Martino Orambelli’s Italian Swan 45 Mandolino and the Spanish Swan 56 La Floresta del Mar, skippered by Jaime Olazabal. Johnny Vincent’s British TP52 Pace is also vying for honours and is lying in fifth place overall.

Pace’s navigator, Mike Broughton explained via satellite link: “We are playing nip and tuck with Wild Joe and the other TP52 Lucky, who have us on corrected time at the moment. We had a great race up until about 06.00 this morning when we parked up with most of the rest of the fleet 15 miles east of Catania. After a short-lived windy run through the Messina Straits, we are now sailing in light airs just three miles behind Alegre and E1.”

The weather forecast shows the approach of the cold front on Monday afternoon that should move along down the southwest coast of Sicily. Conditions then look lively and will make it a quick latter part of the race for those boats around the turning ‘mark’ of the island of Favignana. For the smaller boats still racing westwards, this will be a significant speed bump in their progress as they beat out to the corner.

Jaime Olazabal, skipper of La Floresta del Mar suggests that these expected conditions may favour the Swan 56. He said: “The more the wind goes on the nose, and the heavier it gets will be better for us. That might be the case tomorrow on our way to Trapani, but the weather forecast remains a little unclear. Today we have been enjoying some of our supplies of Spanish jamón which will keep our strength up for the racing to come.”

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