Seven days of thrilling racing


On the morning of October 20, 2012, the Saluting Battery, high up in Valletta, signalled the start of the 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race.
A record entry of 83 yachts from 19 countries started the 606-mile race witnessed by thousands of spectators crowded along the bastions overlooking the Grand Harbour.
The Slovenian Maxi, Esimit Europa 2, was to take line honours for the third consecutive year. However, it would be seven days before the last yacht would cross the finish line.
It was on day four that the 100-ft Maxi, Esimit Europa 2, crossed the finish line at 01:13.15 CEST. Jochen Schümann showered the Maxi crew with champagne dockside at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.
“That was a tough one,” explained Schümann. “We got caught up by Ran and Stig in the first parking lot at Stromboli but it was by no means the last.
“Our goal was line honours and it was impossible to relax during any part of the race.
“We are delighted to have taken line honours and finish off a great season in style.”
It was nearly seven hours before Niklas Zennstrom’s JV 72, Ran ,crossed the finish line, setting the bar for the rest of the fleet to better after time correction. Ran put in a magnificent performance to lead a highly competitive Class 1 and lay claim to an overall win but overall victory was to escape them.
In the early hours of day five, a massive thunderstorm and torrential rain engulfed Malta. Nick Lazos and Periklis Livas’ Farr 52, Optimum 3 Aspida reached the finish line at 03:00 to lead Class Two and the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall.
However, the Greek team’s tenure on this extraordinary race was very short-lived. At 04:18 Eddie De Villiers’s Welbourne 46, Hi Fidelity, completed the race to take the overall lead.
In driving rain with thunderbolts lighting up the bastions, the South African crew looked astonished to find out that they were hot favourites to win the overall prize.
“We didn’t have a clue how well we were doing until we finished, it is unbelievable,” exclaimed Hi Fidelity’s owner, Eddie De Villiers.
“The crew have been absolutely fantastic, I cannot give them enough praise. This has been one hell of a race, we have had just about everything thrown at us.
“Coming through the Comino Strait there was a terrific amount of thunder and lightning, it was all around us and the wind touched 37 knots.
“To come through the finish and find out that we have such a great result is amazing!”
By the afternoon of day five, it became clear that none of the yachts still racing could better Hi Fidelity’s corrected time and the latter were announced as the overall winners.
The team from South Africa became the ninth different country to provide a winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy joining yachts from Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In the early hours of day six, Josef Schultheis’ and Paolo Semeraro’s Xp44, XP-ACT, crossed the finish line. The team had come close to beating Hi Fidelity but had to settle for a win in Class 3 and third overall.
XP-ACT had three Maltese crew on board. However, Artie RTFX, with an all-Malta crew, became the first Maltese boat to cross the finish line and win Class 4.
Artie RTFX co-skipper Christian Ripard spoke dockside: “We did our best, it was a great race and everybody did a great job working really hard but we just kept on getting stuck in patches of no wind, which was very frustrating.”
On day 7, the Rolex Middle Sea Race came to a fairytale conclusion for the Irish Two Handed team racing Dinah.
There were emotional scenes at The Royal Malta Yacht Club as Irish sailors Barry Hurley and Andrew Boyle sailed home in their 35ft yacht to win the double handed class, finishing just 25 minutes inside the time limit after seven days of tense racing.

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