Sam of Hamble
Sam Alexander
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Rolex Middle Sea race 2009

This year's Middle Sea Race - our 6th - proved as challenging as ever. Printed below are the emails sent to the LCSC discussion group with our preview and postview of what is always a fabulous race.

Nisida off on the Rolex Middle Sea Race

We arrived in Malta last Friday - sailing into the Grand Harbour under the floodlit bastions to be greeted by Joe Cross with some very welcome beers after a week at sea. Ask Deb Ley, Jenny Scott or Jean Michel Borel for a report on our 860 mile trip - which was notable mostly for the wind being stubbornly on the nose, the sky remaining cloudless all week and the wildlife - including lots of dolphins, turtles and even a white tailed sea eagle.

We are moored right under Fort St Angelo - a 16th century fort where the Maltese fought off the Turks in 1565 in the Great Siege (firing captured Turks heads back out of the cannons) . In our line of boats, amongst a collection of huge race boats, are Beau Geste, Luna Rossa (with Torben Grael on board), Ran 2 (the STP 65, not the small one in Hamble), Allegre, Bella Mente, Rosebud, ICAP Leopard, DSK, two Volvo 70s etc etc... It's an awesome if somewhat intimidating combination.

The wind forecast is looking more promising than usual. This is our 6th consecutive Middle Sea and we've 4 times had not enough wind (like none for what seemed like days) or, two years ago, a bit too much for comfort (like 50 plus knots on two consecutive nights).

The race starts at 11am tomorrow - the start line is for the first time in the Grand Harbour between Fort St Angelo and Valetta (so no going round the ends...). You can follow our progress on the race tracker. Also doing the race from LCSC is Penny Pariso who has grabbed a ride on Geisha, a very well sailed Maltese IMX 40. We were betting her last night (after too many beers) that we would beat her round the course - we will see....

The course is 608 miles and with luck this year it shouldn't take us as along as four years ago when we'd just taken delivery of Nisida and failed to finish within the time deadline of 7 days. We probably wont beat our time of two years ago of three days 11 hours though.

We'll email once we're back next week with a race report


We were right in thinking that the wind this year would be such that we'd be fairly quick round the course for the Rolex Middle Sea Race - we took 4 days 2 hours and were back for a late lunch on Wednesday. And that we would beat Penny to the finish (we did just). But dont think this was an easy race. Almost inevitably after a trip down to and into the Med where we had the wind on the nose most of the way, the wind followed us round the course. After beating the whole way across Sicily, we turned 90 degrees left to go the 180 miles south to Lampedusa only for the wind to die overnight, leaving us becalmed (with the fleet behind catching up) until it filled in from the south.....Add to that wind shifts of up to 50 degrees under clouds (which you couldn't see at night) with driving rain and jumping from 10 knots to 35 plus knots and you'll see that this was hard work. There were a fair number of casualties. The worst hit was Rosebud (a beautiful 65 footer) who lost its mast after the back of the boat broke on a wave. Many others told of ripped sails. We damaged our brand new head foil (tuff luff) over a series of challenging sail drops - such that we had to race the last 150 miles under staysail on our inner forestay - not the most efficient way of beating...

We also caught our first fish of the year! We sailed between two connected and unmarked fish traps off Pantelleria- stopping nearly dead. Inside one was a huge tuna. We declined to have it for dinner and instead eventually disentangled ourselves.

But whatever the hardships this a fantastic race. The start in Grand Harbour was awesome and at the northern tip of the course Stromboli was in particularly fine form this year, while at the finish we beat our way into the fickle winds of the smaller harbour of the yacht club to a great cheer from the assembled masses. You certainly dont get that at Plymouth

And we of course finished in plenty of time to enjoy the many sights of Malta,. 'Joe's Tours' this year took us to neighbouring island Gozo. And the prize giving and ensuing party was a near 12 hour marathon on Saturday where we swapped tales with other yachts. One - Strait Dealer (a former race winner) - had only managed one meal in the whole race. I suggested that next year we swap crew around and that some of them come and help us sail and we'll help with their catering - those of us feeling well enough to eat ate very well indeed.

Our overall IRC result (39 out of 69) and in class (8th out of 17 in ORC - Nisida has a much better ORC rating than IRC) wasn't our best - not surprising given the fishing stop and the stay sail. But just finishing this race was a great result and the party atmosphere yesterday from all those who had made it round summed that up

And next year we'll be back for another shot at getting it right.....

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