Under brilliant blue skies and active seas on Wednesday, a fleet of 38 boats from 10 countries started the 2023 ORC European Championship here in Malta with a brisk “majjistral” wind, the local term for a breeze from the northwest that funnels between Sicily and Tunisia. This brisk breeze of 14-20 knots helped propel the teams in all three classes in a fast initial phase of their courses set for completion in 24-36 hours.
The 10 entries in Class A have a 186-mile course that from the start off Valletta first winds around the southern coast of Malta, around the small island of Filfla, unwinds back to the east, then northeast on a long leg towards a special purpose buoy set off the Marina di Ragusa at the southern tip of Sicily. From there, the Class A fleet heads southwest to a mark at the northwest end of the island of Gozo, where they then head southeast to round Malta to port, take a 13-mile leg past Valletta to Comino, then back to a picturesque finish line set in Valletta harbor between the Bastion and Tigne Point.
Leading this pack is the TP 52 BEAU GESTE, owned by Hong Kong-based Karl Kwok and an international team organized by Gavin Brady (NZL/USA).
The 19 entries in Class B have a 151-mile course to sail which also includes a tour of southern Malta, but without going as far as Filfla before heading off to Ragusa. From there, they go directly to Comino without the lap around Malta via Gozo, and do a lap around buoys east of Valletta, before heading to the finish line.
The pack in Class B has been tight, with multiple lead changes on the headsail reaching leg to Ragusa made between several Club Swan 42’s – Renzo Grottesi’s (ITA) BE WILD, Tomas Dolezal’s (CZE) DARING SISTERS, Aivar Tuulberg’s (EST) KATARIINA II, Valentin Oeru’s (ROU) SETSAIL and Nicola De Gemmis’s (ITA) MORGAN V – as well as Stergios Leontaridis’s (GRE) Farr 40 ELLINIX FARR AWAY and Ermono Galeati’s (ITA) Grand Soleil 43 REVE DE VIE.
The nine entries in Class C are racing a 140-mile course that is similar to the Class B course without the extra lap made east of Valletta. In this group, the leader has been Vincenzo de Blasio’s (ITA) Italia 11.98 SCUGNIZZA, followed by a Bulgarian Sun Fast 3600, Atanas Vladimirov Panov’s IRON BUTTERFLY, followed in turn by Giovanni Toscano’s (ITA) Italia 11.98 VARENNE in close pursuit.
In the championship rules, the results from this race cannot be discarded, so all teams will be fighting through the day and night for their best results.
Tommaso Chieffi, tactician on Claudio Terrieri’s (ITA) Swan 45 BLUE SKY, said this race will be complicated due to the initial windy conditions followed by light air shifting to the east and southeast tonight.
“We will first try to not break anything when it’s windy,” he said. “Then as the wind gets lighter towards Ragusa and on the way back towards Gozo, this will become a more tactical light air downwind race. We need to remember to pace ourselves and keep our team rested to perform at their best. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
The race may be tracked on the event website at https://orceuro2023.com/tracking/long-offshore-race.
Once finished, race results will be posted at https://orceuro2023.com/results.
The 2023 ORC European Championships are being supported by Yachting Malta, Visit Malta, the Ta’ Xbiex Local Council, the Eastern Regional Council as part of its activities for the 2023 European Region of Sport and Heineken.
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