Slowest race on record
The crawling pace continues to characterise the 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race as one of the slowest races in recent years unfolds. The bulk of the 83-strong international fleet has passed the volcanic island of Stromboli, and is engaged in a search for breeze to propel them across the northern coast of Sicily. Although her pursuit of the race record may be over, Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) continues to lead the fleet successfully resisting the challenge of the two Mini Maxis Rán 2 (GBR) and Stig (ITA).
By mid-afternoon today, Esimit Europa 2 had eked out a 40 mile lead over her nearest rivals and is approaching Trapani, the halfway point of the 606-nautical mile course. This separation appears courtesy of a key tactical decision at Stromboli.
“It was light so we sent Jordi Calafat up the rig and he saw there that was more pressure close to the volcano. We decided to head into this and it worked out,” explained navigator Juan Vila. Since then Esimit Europa has been able to travel at a consistent 10 knots while her rivals scrabble about looking for puffs of breeze. Jochen Schümann’s crew currently estimate arrival in Malta late tomorrow (Tuesday evening), but are taking nothing for granted: “At the moment we have some distance over the nearest boats but things can change very fast and the fleet may regroup again.”
An update from Rán 2 exemplifies the difficulties facing some crews: “This is the slowest offshore race we have sailed and it’s a new experience for some. We are cutting food rations as we will not have enough until arrival whenever that will be. When the wind is here, it lasts for a very short time.”
Chris Opielok’s Kohinoor offers a different perspective. Lying in the middle of the fleet having passed Stromboli at midday his crew are appreciating their extended view of the volcano, despite the problematic wind: “There is a pack of about 25 boats around us. It was very dull and pretty shifty last night with no wind. In ten hours we made only ten miles! There was nothing else to do than have a fantastic meal.”
The forecast for the days ahead remains confused. Pressure is building around Sicily, but offshore and that will only benefit those that can reach it.