Class winners confirmed as double handed title goes to Plain Sailing – Article in The Times of Malta, 29th October 2010

Sailing – Rolex Middle Sea Race

BOV Plain Sailing – winner of the Rolex MSR double handed class. Photo: Rolex Kurt Arrigo

If the early stages of the Rolex Middle Sea Race were a test of patience, the latter miles were a true test of endurance.

A strong mistral of up to 40+ knots helped push the fleet homeward to the finish at Marsaxmett Harbour, Malta yesterday.

The last two yachts still at sea, Zizanie and Amethyst Abroad, were around the island of Lampedusa and racing towards the finish line off the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

The two boats showed heaps of perseverance for hanging in, even if the northwesterly breeze had subsided to a ‘mere’ 25+ knots.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the fleet were safely secured in either Marsamxett or ‘around the corner’ in Grand Harbour Marina, and the overall class standings were sorted as the last boats trickled in.

As expected, following the happenings of Wednesday, the overall winner this year is Lucky (USA).

Racing offshore double handed is not for the faint-hearted. It requires all-round seamanship, determination, stamina and, above all, courage.

At the 606-nautical mile Rolex Middle Sea Race, the Double Handed Class is somewhat under the radar with only three entrants, but this year’s competitors were a diverse and experienced group.

Taking line honours in this category was White Star, a custom 54-footer, which finished on Wednesday afternoon with an elapsed time of 4 days, 6 hours, 44 minutes and 18 seconds.

But the Italian boat had to wait to know their fate as direct rivals BOV Plain Sailing completed the race yesterday.

The 34-footer, BOV Plain Sailing, crossed the line at midday after five days, zero hours and 52 minutes at sea. Their corrected time was good enough to give the Maltese boat the Double Handed Class overall win.

Veteran skipper Anthony Camilleri is no stranger to the Rolex Middle Sea Race, sailing in his 10th race. But his crew, Gilbert Azzopardi, had never raced two-handed before and neither did the boat. The Tango 34 was the smallest and lightest boat of the 76 that started the race last Saturday.

Camilleri spoke dockside after completing the race.

“I am delighted that we have won, but first and foremost, I must give a mention to Beppe Bisotto, skipper of Atame. We had a great battle, often side-by-side, but when we developed a problem with the reefing lines in our mainsail, he offered to stop and help.

“That offer of assistance shows the spirit in our sport, we look after each other.

“Probably the lowest moment in the race was Wednesday night. We were tired and the weather was really bad, up to 40 knots of wind on the beam, with six-metre waves crashing into the cockpit. We took down the mainsail and continued under storm jib alone, it was the hardest part of the race.

“This race is one of contrasts and the previous day the sailing was spectacular. Downwind with the spinnaker up, we were surfing at a constant 12 knots, at times accelerating to 18 knots. It is an amazing feeling with just the two of us, a very special moment.”

White Star’s crew were experienced double handed sailors Diego Tisci and Daniele Chiamenti.

Tisci is a veteran of eight Rolex MSRs, Chiamenti several as well, but this is the first double handed MSR for either of them.

An Italian owner built the yacht and is entering it in double handed races as a way to showcase its potential. As Tisci said: “This was the first race of a new programme for the boat. It was like a test, so we see how the yacht goes, how we have to optimise that and the crew.

“We had a problem at the start and we broke the jib, this is why we stayed far to the east on the way to Messina. We could only use the staysail and code zero, which doesn’t allow you to sail very close to the wind – that’s why we had a very strange track.

“At the end that was the best we could do. Around Stromboli, we didn’t have much wind and again it was difficult to go to weather without the proper headsail.”

Chiamenti explained: “After that the race was very strategic. But our strategy was based on the sails that we had, not on the wind.”

When the forecast coincided with this strategy, White Star was in good shape. From Trapani on, the northwest breeze allowed them a favourable point of sail. To add to their woes, White Star lost instruments as well. The two sailors estimated maximum wind speed at approximately 35 knots but off the wind, and with a staysail set, they were good to go.

Asked about the best part of sailing double handed, Tisci said with a smile “I think the team. But really, I like sailing short-handed. It’s nice to be at sea. You don’t have to argue about what you think is right or wrong… it’s your race, just yours.

“You aren’t a wheel in a big mechanism; you are only the mechanism. And we take all decisions together.”

The two concurred about the course, and Chiamenti said: “For sure it’s the best race in the Mediterranean. It’s very tactical and the panorama is superb.

“You’ve got a volcano, you’ve got the Messina Strait and the time of year is great, it’s not too cold, not too warm.”

On Wednesday night, the Fast 42 Atame pulled into Trapani to get a respite from the relentless wind and sea.

Beppe Bisotto emailed: ‘Ad impossibilia’ (it’s impossible).

“Ian (Knight) and I shared the same thinking. Outside, a Force 8 gale is blowing hard from the north. No way to pass Favignana island, as we had been stopped for ten hours with no wind. We missed the wind shift, blowing at SW Force 7 straight into the face, with forecast predicting Force 8 on the back.

“More than this, to Pantelleria Force 7 SW on the nose was forecast. So, surrounded by gales, we decided to stop and avoid any possible damage.

“Do not forget that we were only two-handed instead of a full crew of eight to ten. By the way, we are happy to have raced faster than many bigger boats with full crew. Atame is definitely solid, fast and reliable.”

Only the x40 Pita Maha (ITA), retired yesterday, bringing the total number of retired boats to 15, with 58 boats finished, and two still racing.

MSR 2010 class winners

IRC Overall – Lucky (USA)

IRC 1 – Esimit Europa 2 (SLO)

IRC 2 – Lucky (USA)

IRC 3 – Jaru (MLT)

IRC 4 – Artie (MLT)

ORC Overall – Jaru (MLT)

ORC 1 – E1 (RUS)

ORC 2 – Varuna (GER)

ORC 3 – Jaru (MLT)

ORC 4 – Three Sisters (CZE)

Double Handed

BOV Plain Sailing (MLT)

Rolex MSR trophy winners

2010 Lucky (USA)

2009 Alegre (UK)

2008 Spirit of Ad Hoc (FRA)

2007 Rambler (USA)

2006 Morning Glory (GER)

2005 Atalanta II (ITA)

2004 Optimum III (GRE)

2003 Nokia (UK)

2002 Market Wizard (MLT)

2001 Strait Dealer (MLT)

For further information, kindly contact 77 Great Estates on (00356) 2125 2455; (00356) 9944 7444; skype: info.77GreatEstates or info@77GreatEstates.com.

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