Following three complete days at sea only three yachts participating in the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race have passed the northwest tip of Sicily, roughly the halfway point of the race. The prevailing wind remains weak, but is expected to strengthen, coinciding with the arrival of bulk of the fleet at the Egadi Islands. This turning point of the racecourse could mark the turning point of the race.
Nikklas Zennström’s sailing yacht Rán made the best of the third night at sea. The Swedish Maxi 72 closed the gap with superyacht Esimit Europa 2 to a mere 5 nautical miles at Pantelleria, where the Slovenian maxi was parked in a wind hole. At noon yesterday, some 72 hours after the race start, 137 nautical miles separated Esimit Europa 2 from the finish line. Rán is only 8.5 nautical miles behind.
The majority of the fleet continues to negotiate the leg between Stromboli and the Egadi Islands. This group comprises over 100 boats and is condensed into just 60 nautical miles. There are two sub-groups: those sailing close to the Sicilian shore and those searching for wind further north.
George Sakellari’s sailing yacht Shockwave is positioned between the frontrunners and the bulk of the fleet astern. The American Maxi 72 passed Pantelleria at around midday, some 45 nautical miles behind Rán and 110 nm ahead of the Italian yachts Cantankerous and Mascalzone Latino, the two boats conducting a close duel at the front of the chasing group.
The wind was forecast to start filling in on the western side of the racecourse later yesterday afternoon. This new scenario awaits the yachts approaching the Egadi Islands, and the crews will be preparing for a wild ride south to Lampedusa and to the finish line in Malta.
The first boats were expected to arrive back in Malta sometime yesterday night. “We expect to arrive between 10pm and midnight,” reports from Esimit Europa 2 skipper Jochen Schümann. The finish line is set at the entrance of Valletta’s Marsamxett Harbour. These yachts will set the benchmark corrected time for rest of the fleet. If the weather stays true to the forecast, hopes of glory will already be filtering through the minds of those competing on the smaller yachts.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.