Rolex Middle Sea warm-up

The inshore race to Comino and back was held today

Wednesday October 17th 2012, Author: Louay Habib, Location: Malta

With a stiff breeze gusting close to 20 knots and a short sea state, today’s 16 mile Coastal Race from Marsamxett Harbour east around the island of Comino and back was a lively affair. 30 yachts entered the race, far more than ever before, which bodes well for the expected record entry for the start of this Saturday’s Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Two Maltese yachts enjoyed a fine battle. Elusive 2, skippered by Rolex Middle Sea Race veteran, Arthur Podesta crossed the finish line just seven seconds ahead of Jonas Diamantino’s Comanche Raider II Gasanmamo.

Arthur Podesta said after the race: “It was a great race with some great competition. All the participants are keen yachtsman, highly committed, competitive and have a deep knowledge and love of sailing. We had more wind than expected and therefore achieved a good result, in our opinion. The team was great as always with all these experienced sailors on board. The coastal race today was a very good practice for the race next week.”

Mike Agius, Comanche Raider II Gasanmamo added: “Most of the race went very well and I think we achieved a good result. The boat performance was very satisfactory and although we were short with crew, they all did an incredible job. It was also fantastic to sail next to such impressive boats such as Stig. This is what always makes this race so special and exciting. As a pre-race it was a very good preparation for the big race next week. After the race today we are very confident that we are all set for another great Rolex Middle Sea Race 2012.”

Line Honours and victory in Class One went to Alessandro Rombelli’s JV72 Stig. “We are still getting used to the boat as Stig was only launched this summer, today was all about learning more about her," said Rombelli. "I am really looking forward to the Rolex Middle Sea Race, which will be a big test for us. In my previous boat, I have taken part in several offshore races but this will be the first long race for the new yacht and we are spending as much time as we can sailing in preparation for the race.”

In Class Two, Eddie De Villiers’ South African crew are enjoying their trip to Malta. In true South African style, Hi Fidelity prepared for today’s coastal race with a South African braai (BBQ) and the meat feast obviously paid off. The South African team secured victory in Class Two today.

Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Mike Joubert is part of the crew and has competed in the race several times: “We still have plenty to do before Saturday’s start but that was a good shake out and the course was great, it enabled us to get plenty of different sails up and have a good look at, it is a good start that we hope to build on and we need to be fully prepared, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is a true test.”

In Class 3, Three XP44s enjoyed a close battle over the 16-mile course, XP-ACT with Maltese 49er sailor, Sebastien Ripard on board ran a close second to Oleg Evdokimenko’s Vikesha. Latvian skipper, Vadim Yakimenko was third with Amber Miles.

Ripard said: “It was a close battle between three identical yachts but we made a few mistakes, which cost us. Hopefully we can learn from them. We expect to have a great race against the other Xp44s for the Rolex Middle Sea Race and hopefully this battle within the race will lift our overall performance.”

In Class 4, Russian skipper, Yuri Fadeev led his team to victory aboard the Dufour 44 Ton Ton Kabestan. Sailing Logic’s First 40 Lancelot 2 was second by just under two minutes on corrected time, but Tim Thuberon was pleased with their performance: “The race didn’t really suit us in so much as we are one of the smallest boats in our class and the fetch gave the bigger yachts an advantage. However, it was very encouraging to handle the boat well especially at mark roundings. Finishing close behind Quokka is a good yardstick to our performance. Sailing as well as we did fills the team with confidence for the big race ahead.”

Swiss sailor, Franco Niggeler has one of the most remarkable yachts racing this year. The Extreme 42 Kuka Light has a canting keel and rotating mast and showed impressive downwind speed during the coastal race, finishing just 5 minutes behind Stig on the water. Australian high performance sailor, Greg Homann describes the ride. “Kuka Light was designed to go fast and we certainly did that today, matching Stig for pace downwind even though we are half the size however upwind there was no way we would keep up with them. Kuka Light is a fun boat to sail and the race is going to be a real blast, we are in the same class as Esimit Europa 2, so it’s a real David vs. Goliath encounter, a light race would suit us for a result but the boat is so much fun in decent breeze.”

The Coastal Race was primarily a practice race for the 606-mile classic but if the truth be told, some yachts will have gained a psychological advantage. The Rolex Middle Sea Race will start this Saturday, 20th October at 1100 local time.

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