First back home
At 18h 32m 32s CET this evening the Slovenia supermaxi Esimit Europa 2 arrived in Marsamxett Harbour to claim line honours in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. The 100 footer that was formerly Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo completed the course in a time of 2 days, 6 hours, 52 minutes, 32 seconds.
Dockside at Grand Harbour, owner and project manager Igor Simcic was presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece by Malcolm Lowell Jr. from Edwards’ Lowell, as well as the R.L.R. Line Honours Trophy by Royal Malta Yacht Club Commodore, Georges Bonello DuPuis.
Recapping the race, Flavio Favini, Esimit Europe 2’s skipper said: “It was quite a slow race in the first part, but then towards the coast of Sicily the wind started to increase. The first difficult part was entering the Strait of Messina because at that moment there was very light wind and it was very difficult to get in, but then after a while the current helped and we were able to manage quite well and leave the Strait quite fast."
Esimit led from the race start in Grand Harbour and managed to keep putting distance on Mike Slade's 100ft ICAP Leopard until some 25 miles from the Strait of Messina where the maxi stopped in a hole and their speed dropped away to zero. ICAP Leopard closed the gap, but soon were in the same hole.
Esimit managed to restart and gain ground, as Tiziano Nava, the navigator described: “We restarted and ICAP Leopard stayed stopped, probably there was some current against them. We gained a lot of miles at that point. For the rest of the race, we sailed pretty well, we made the right sail changes: the wind changed, the angle changed, all the time we had the right sails, so we could produce maximum target speeds, all the time.”
Favini continued: “Quite a large area around Sicily was light to very light wind, so quite complicated, because it was difficult not to stop in a wind hole. Towards the Egadi Islands we had some sirocco winds, which helped the boat to accelerate. But then it changed very quickly from the Sirocco to the Mistral, not too strong, but good enough to move well. The second part of the race was in fact very nice, with a nice breeze and fast.” The most wind Esimit saw was about 23 knots between Lampedusa and Malta when she was able to make 23 knots, uner one reef and a genoa staysail, later changing back up to a full main.
About their win Favini added: “It’s really not an easy one, full of tricks; it’s really a great race. We do not know how we will end up in handicap. We can’t do anything more, just wait. If the wind picks up the small boats will win; if it drops, we might do well.
“For us the big challenge was against Leopard, which won Line Honours last year here, but has also won the Rolex Fastnet Race, so it’s not an easy boat to beat, because it is a very good boat. But I think, in these light winds, we had an advantage with our boat. If it had been a very windy race, we don’t know.”
Esimit Europa 2 has had a successful first season taking line honours at the Giraglia Rolex Cup, winning the Maxi class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, and line honours at the Barcolana Race. About Esimit’s Rolex Middle Sea Race win, Igor Simcic said: “This race is much different from the other races, it’s very important, very difficult, and winning this race ahead of Leopard is a good message, that we are doing our job seriously, that we are preparing ourselves to the maximum, and that we are thinking of the future. We must be perfect today, to have a chance tomorrow to take another important step.”
Looking ahead to next year, Esimit Europa 2’s program will comprie a similar schedule of regattas, but will also include entering the Transpac and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Simcic said, “We want to give this message very clearly, of all Europeans on the same boat, and with the results we are confirming that it the only way to achieve European goals.”
This year’s weather conditions, lighter than forecast in the speed department, were not conducive to knocking off the course record. Esimit’s time was seven hours outside of the course record set by George David's Rambler (USA) of 47 hours, 55 minutes, and 3 seconds.