If Monday’s story of the 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race was the first multihull to finish, Tuesday was definitely monohull line honours.
At 01.52am Tuesday morning, the fascinating race-long duel between the Farr 100 Leopard 3 and the Wally 93 Bullitt concluded.
It was the Chris Sherlock skippered Leopard 3 that glided into Marsamxett Harbour first on a cloudy, but moonlight night.
The waterline length of the older, but revitalised, Monegasque-flagged maxi proved decisive once through the Egadi Islands, off northwest Sicily, converting a 30-minute lead into a more comfortable one hour, 50 minutes.
Bullitt at least has the consolation of winning IRC 1 on time correction.
“We are really pleased to have won the line honours in the Rolex Middle Sea Race for a second time,” said Sherlock, who has been with the boat since its launch in 2007 and oversaw a comprehensive refit following the 2022 race.
“It’s been a difficult 12 months getting the boat up and ready after the last win. So, to do it again against such esteemed competition like Lucky and Bullitt is really pleasing.”
Leopard’s owner was also celebrating a second win in a row with the boat.
“It is a great feeling because this is a magnificent location and course,” he said.
“We did not have a lot of problems, so all credit to the team because we have worked very hard on the boat since last year.”
Back out on the course, the battle is still raging. All other class prizes are still up for grabs, and most importantly the overall prize has yet to be decided.
In IRC 2 on Monday evening, the front runners on the water, Max Klink’s Swiss Botin 52 Caro (winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race in July) and Chris Sheehan’s American Judel/Vrolijk 52 Warrior Won (third overall at the same race) looked to have made a clean break from their pursuers.
Even a wobble during a tricky transition at Pantelleria was a minor distraction.
Piling on down to Lampedusa, Warrior Won had wrested a small lead and must have been relishing the turn towards Malta and the more open angle enjoyed by Leopard and Bullitt.
Arriving at the western end of the isolated landmass at around five o’clock in the morning, alongside the VO65 Ambersail racing in the class above, it was as though the crews just deployed their anchors.
Italy’s southernmost outpost is only seven miles (11km) in length. It took Caro and Warrior Won three hours to clear its southern shore and turn northeast towards the finish.
At 4pm on Tuesday, Caro is just under 30nm from the South Comino Channel with her American rival just behind.
Both were expected to finish last night, out of the running for the overall win and looking over their shoulders at the chasing pack with regards to class honours.
In the lower-order classes, the fleet is spread between Lampedusa in the south and Palermo in the north.
The wind is all over the place, with westerlies above Sicily and huge holes to the south.
Waves of pressure from the west are due to sweep over the course area during the coming hours. Staying in phase with the bands will be critical if one aspires to do well.
The bottom of the course is currently in the breeze, favouring the Ker 46s Frederic Puzin’s Daguet 3 from France and the Francesco Bertone skippered Lisa R from Italy in IRC 3, and Renzo Grottesi’s Italian Swan 42 Bewild and Conor Doyle’s Xp50 Freya from Ireland in IRC 4.
Just a few miles to the north, the Podesta family’s Maltese First 45 Elusive 2, racing without wind instrumentation, and Montenegro entry Marina Rubicon/X-Odessa skippered by Riccardo Terrades are almost at a standstill.
North of Pantelleria, Christina and Justin Wolfe’s double-handed Sun Fast 3600 Red Ruby from the United States in IRC 6 continues to make progress south, while the Maltese entry OpenPayd BeFree a J112/E skippered by Horst Huesley and Jonathan Camilleri Bowman is struggling.
North of San Vito lo Capo, first-timer Simon Xuereb and his Maltese Dufour 40 Spirit of the Wind are in the breeze, while Beppe Bisotto and Atame are making slower progress a couple of miles to the east.
And so it goes on. Whether the mud will be any clearer this morning remains to be seen.
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