In the recent history of the Royal Malta Yacht Club there was never a close finish as that of the Zhik Double Handed Figure of 8 race which took place over the weekend.
Just two seconds separated the winning boat – the J/99 Calypso, skippered by Seb Ripard, and Fabio Galea, from the First 45 Elusive 2, skippered the Podesta siblings, Christoph, and Aaron.
The start of the race, for which a strong south easterly wind was forecasted saw the first front runners exiting the harbour mouth close to each other.
Andrew Agius Delicata and Kevin Anastasi’s Reflex 38 Vivace, Elusive 2 and Calypso were all vying to take the lead on the 85-nautical mile course.
A slight gap between the three was short-lived, when Elusive 2 edged Vivace past the Grand Harbour mouth and started to take on an advantage over the Reflex 38.
In the meantime, Calypso crept up to catch up with them.
Unfortunately, a mishap on board Vivace as they rounded Filfla, resulted in them having to retire.
The weather caused mayhem on other boats which were forced to retire reducing the fleet to four boats aiming to complete the race.
With Vivace out of the fray, the two Jarhead Foundation boats Jan and Jarhead continued battling rough conditions, which at 30 knots were the strongest in the southern part of the island. The Jarhead Foundation’s namesake, skippered by Patrice Pace and Alex Siegler went on to finish in third place.
“The double handed figure of eight is a real iconic event, the sailing is tough and the scenery spectacular. This year was an epic edition! With a south easterly reaching 25-30 knots the sea conditions on the South coast were formidable and made for fun but scary sailing,” said Seb Ripard, skipper, Calypso.
“It was an exhilarating and exhausting race the whole way round, we cannot believe that it came down to a two second difference on an 85 nautical mile course… amazing.”
A conservative approach by the Podesta siblings could have potentially caused them to miss out on the win.
Aaron Podesta, commenting after the race, said: “The large waves combined with the fact that the boat is not set up for short-handed sailing, the decision to not hoist a kite was a wise decision. We also wanted to save our energy for the tough upwind leg that was in store for us.” Rounding the northern tip of Gozo the waves grew substantially. Nevertheless, they described the race as “one of the best annual challenges and overall, we had a fantastic sail round Malta and Gozo in some long-awaited strong breeze.”
A prize-giving evening took place at the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Trophies and Zhik merchandise were presented to the winners by Tom Ripard, who represented RLR Yachting, sponsors of the event.
In a statement, the club thanked RLR Yachting for their continuous support as well as Adrian Gauci Borda, Michaela Gauci Borda and Michelle Caruana for undertaking race management duties on race day.
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