Tuesday, November 1, 2011

J/122s Ramble-On @ Winter Series

(Solent, Hamble, England)- A bit like their musically spiritual compatriots in England, "Led Zeppelin", the J/122s continue to "Ramble On" and keep the pedal-to-the-metal in class this past weekend.  Not sure what got this train running down the tracks so fast, but surely the crews on the J/97 JIKA-JIKA and INDULJENCE have got it dialed in so far this fall season on the Solent.

This weekend HRSC hosted some close racing and some epic on-water battles in the Hamble Autumn Championships and Garmin Hamble Winter Series, in conditions that ranged from gusty to fresh & frighteningly epic?! There was some masterful sailing - and the odd impressive wipeout - across the fleet.

In IRC results are starting to look like a classic American "roller-coaster".  In IRC 1 Class, Doctor Ivan Trotman is now leading with his J/122 JOLOU with a 1-4-3-6 record for 14 pts.

Next weekend sees the third Winter Series race day on Sunday.   Sailing photo credits- Hamo Thornycroft   For more Garmin Hamble Winter Series sailing information

Malta's J/122s Rule Middle Sea Race

J/122 Artie sailing team- winners Rolex Middle Sea Race J/122s Cruise Overall/ Class Wins!
(Gzira, Malta)- The 32nd edition of the 606-nautical mile Rolex Middle Sea Race, which began last Saturday, 22 October from Grand Harbour in Malta, with 70 boats from 18 countries, will be remembered as an epic drama that saw FOUR (not one, not two, not three, but 4) J's battling for the overall and class leadership in one of the most challenging offshore races on planet Earth.  And, seemingly, all four boats were part of the Maltese Navy, a "family" from that little island nation known as Malta.  In a drama worthy of Homer's ODYSSEY, where Odysseus's voyage is punctuated by many bizarre twists and turns, it was the Maltese merchants of war that took home all the booty this time around-- hauling off enough silverware to make it seem almost illegal were it not for the fact their chosen steeds of war were nothing else than simple racer-cruisers like the J/122 and J/133. Truth be told, the "locals" won.  Royal Maltesian sailors Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard on their J/122 ARTIE won overall and IRC 4, too.  For them, it was truly the "third time is a charm", having finished second twice before!

J/122 Artie sailing Rolex Middle Sea race- finish in MaltaAfter finishing second overall in 2006 and 2010, owner Lee Satariano was clearly pleased with his first overall win, “It’s a moment to enjoy – it is a dream come true. Since 2002 the fleet has grown bigger, the competition is tremendous. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a beautiful track. The race is one you can never forget –every year something challenges you to go back out and enjoy the race.”

Satariano was quick to credit Ripard and the rest of his crew and said, “They have been preparing the boat the whole year and have been dedicated to the local races. The preparation for this race was even more and more intense - a lot of effort went into optimizing the boat and sails. During the race the crew worked round the clock, sometimes there were 5-7 sail changes in ten minutes; they worked fast, and in any conditions. It was very nice for them to do so well in such a race.”

As to what made this year’s race unique, aside from the obvious winning, he added, “Every corner had something we weren’t expecting – you were expecting one thing and then obviously facing different winds, rain, different directions, but it was totally exciting.”
The Middle Sea Race is the flagship race of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and each year, members of the club, young and old take part in the spectacular race. It is a special honor to be the first Maltese boat to finish the Rolex Middle Sea Race, as Georges Bonello Dupuis, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club explains, “For the entire race, all of the Maltese boats will be concentrating on crossing the line first, it is an incredible honor filled with pride and elation. All of their families will be in the yacht club, hoping that they will win. It is a great feeling to be the first home but a real welcome home party awaits them all.”

Rolex Middle Sea Race courseLaid out on a chart, the RMSR looks simple- it's just a "giant around the islands race" (like Jamestown or Isle of Wight, but on much, much larger scale- for those of you counting, only 606nm).  Just start from Malta, head north to the Straits of Messina, go through it avoiding massive whirlpools and currents (and mythical serpents). Then, go a few bits to the north, avoid island volcano called Stromboli (note 1), keep it to the left, head west past Sicily (yet another island volcano) along its northern shore.  At the NW corner of Sicily off the islands of Favignana (note 2), turn left again and head south keeping the islands of Pantelleria (note 3) to the left and Tunisia (north tip of Africa) to your right (pirates included).  After Pantelleria, head down to the rock (island by some standards) of Lampedusa and turn left, heading east to the finish of Malta (a story and challenge in and of itself)(note 4).  Easy, eh? In some respects, it makes the RORC Rolex Fastnet Race look like a "piece of cake"-- head west from Cowes, turn around Fastnet Rock and finish at Plymouth, your basic "out and back race".  Not!  So, you can begin to understand "why" the "new" RORC 600 Race in the Caribbean and the classic Rolex Middle Sea Race have such appeal, they're easily one of the most challenging offshore races on the international racing calendar. Some times, all sun, fun, shorts and sunscreen.  Other times, one's contending with sailing's version of a nuclear wind with powerful, hurricane-like meltemi's/ scirocco's blasting off the desert or northern Europe.  It's a full-on team effort to simply sail well in this race, forgetting the fact that you're hoping to even get some silverware. In other words, full-blown, fully professional teams paid zillions of dollars can fail and be beaten by "family" teams.  The story, in fact, of this year's race.  David and Goliath reincarnate, if not one worthy of a Greek odyssey.

Who were lined up against the "family" J/Teams in this year's Rolex Middle Sea Race?  Well, nothing short of the 2011 RORC Boat of the Year- Inter-Galactic Winner- Nik Zennstrom's 72 footer RAN. Plus, a few other quick boats like ESIMIT EUROPA, a 100 ft canting-keel "needle" and other "wannabes" in the fast boats category. The collective payroll for one race on the top five finishing boats would pay for ALL four J's that took most of the silverware.  Perhaps sailing is the ultimate egalitarian endeavour.

J/122 Otra Vez- sailing Rolex Middle Sea Race off MaltaBefore we forget, we must mention the fact that a "newbie" to the local Maltese J/Navy is the J/122 OTRA VEZ sailed by Aaron Gatt Floridia / Edward Gatt Floridia.  Remarkably, in their first race on a J/122, against the most formidable competition imaginable, they managed a third overall and a third in IRC 4.  Not bad.  A podium finish in Class and Overall on their first try?  So, what happens when they actually "learn" the boat from the masters in Malta and go faster without hitting any corners?  Sounds like trouble for their competitors anywhere they decide to take their new race-horse.

Not to be forgotten are their stablemates, the J/133 JUNO sailed by David Anastasi racing in IRC 3.  They were nipping at their heels like a mad hound-dog all the way around the track.  Luck was not on their side.  Nevertheless, despite a few mistakes, JUNO hung very tough to get fifth overall and 2nd in IRC 3 Class, helping to lead to a J sweep of IRC 3 and IRC 4 classes.  Not far off the pace was the J/130 ANDAYA sailed by her Italian owner Lorenzo Libe-- ANDAYA won 3rd overall in the 1996 Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Prophetically, Christian Ripard on ARTIE had this to say just 24 hours before the start, "The forecast looks to be quite light for the first couple of days....but with the thunder clouds lurking around at the start we could have very unstable weather which could bring us anything from zero to fifty knots in squalls.....as always this race is the longest around the cans race which will keep us working continuously hour after hour."  Given that perspective (truer than what most would've imagined), here's what happened during the race.

Straits of Messina off ItalySUNDAY Report:
On the first night, the fleet parked up off the coast of Sicily near Catania – in the shadows of Mount Etna.  The bulk of the fleet was nearing the Strait.  The crew of the J/133, OILTANK KING JUNO (MLT), was clearly enjoying itself despite one or two issues yesterday, reporting in with a recap the early adventures, "Once out of the harbour, some local storm clouds brought with them squalls. We saw some boats tear their code zeros and spinnakers. On JUNO, we were not free of problems either. Even though we made the correct sail calls at the right times, at one point we lost both our spinnaker sheets and tack lines, giving us major problems with one of our spinnakers. Due to great teamwork, we managed to make a good recovery and now find ourselves sailing up the east coast of Sicily towards the infamous straits of Messina."

MONDAY Report:
J/133 sailing Rolex Middles Sea race with spinnakerForty-eight hours into the race and the fleet had encountered all of the challenges and conditions that tacticians and navigators had anticipated well before the race start.  The 606-nautical mile course around Sicily is notorious for its changeable conditions, and local anomalies in wind, current, and weather. Many competitors work out a game plan that breaks the course into several parts – each with its own challenges. And over-riding all race plans is the weather forecast – this year the predictions were for lighter breeze at the start, though several fronts passing through the area were expected to bring more wind along the western coast of Sicily.

After a faster than expected first 24 hours, the front-runners suffered on the stretch of the course along the north coast of Sicily where lighter winds finally materialized slowing the boats down to a relative crawl. But once they could stick their bows around the northwest corner of Sicily, past San Vito lo Capo, they were back in the breeze and off again.

Said one navigator in the midst of IRC 3 and IRC 4 fleets, "Looking ahead we expect our world to change when we round the western tip of Sicily and enter the southerly winds. The strength will increase and be more on the nose. At the moment we are peeling between the code zero and headsails, but we will just be using headsails shortly. We’re happy with that. We made a good decision last night to stay north, away from the wind shadows of Sicily and the Aeolian Islands.  Further ahead we think that Lampedusa could be a problem and another park-up. There is a low tracking over Malta on Tuesday that could bring really light winds, changing the picture all over again and really changing the shape of the race."

The bulk of the fleet - including all of Classes 3 and 4 - were fairly closely packed along the rhumbline off the northern coast of Sicily. Abeam of the island of Alicudi (one of the Aeolian Islands), one skipper said they had a visual sighting of 34-35 boats around them. He reported, "It was a tough night, we rounded Stromboli with good breeze around 2300 - its usual eruptions and a very nice view. About an hour later, the breeze started to die, and then it was just a big swell with sails flapping, shock loading the boat. We now are sailing in six knots of wind, making 6.3 knots of boat speed, with the apparent wind just forward of the beam. We anticipate the wind to increase by midday, though forecasts have been mostly inaccurate! Anyway, that’s the name of game. Right now we have bright sunshine some cloud cover."

Island of Sicily off to port of fleet in Rolex Middle Sea RaceTo give you some perspective from the top of the fleet, Nik Zennstrom, owner/skipper on RAN, said "We studied the different weather models that were available to us, and really tried to understand the race-course as well as possible. I think we handled it well; we didn’t make a lot of mistakes, which is what it’s all about in this kind of race. Though it was pretty light conditions; you didn’t have the tough conditions where you really have to handle the boat. It’s a fun race because there are always different corners to go around, different islands-- for sure it’s very tactical.”  RAN's tactician Adrian Stead, echoed that and said, “It was a pretty challenging race-- intriguingly, this race was not a case of the rich getting richer, as the weather conditions continued to confound even the race leaders right to the end – and served as a reminder of what may lie ahead for the rest of the fleet still racing. The last 50 miles into the finish were incredibly tricky. Originally we were pointing straight at Malta, then we were slowly headed and effectively faced with a 30-mile beat to the Comino Channel, and coming in to here at midday the breeze started to get very fickle off the shore, with very big shifts.  The last nine miles saw 40 degree shifts, and breeze as light as five knots to as much as 11 knots. You had to keep your wits about you the whole way.”

The conditions overnight definitely favored the lighter displacement boats and two Maltese yachts came to the fore. J/122 ARTIE skippered by Lee Satariano and double race winner Christian Ripard had an excellent night and were now very much in contention. Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia’s J/122, OTRA VEZ also came into the running. These two local yachts were barely half a mile apart.

By noon on the third day, the Rolex Middle Sea Race was living up to its billing as a highly changeable and tactically demanding race. As the majority of the fleet turns the corner northwest corner at Favignana, they should encounter stronger head winds, rain and a building sea state; the third night at sea looks set to be a testing one.

Sailng past Italy's volcanic island chain off SicilyBy Monday evening, the fleet began to experience a situation contrary to the forecast– a reminder again of the fickle weather conditions around Sicily. Several squalls swept through and a few boats were caught unawares, left to quickly douse spinnakers and run through sail changes, as the wind swung around from southeast to northwest.  Then it swung back again!  The fleet were experiencing the roughest conditions of the race so far. Beating into a stiff southeasterly breeze with an agitated sea state, it was a rock and roll ride for the fleet, soaking wet on deck with fresh supplies of food depleted and little sleep, a battle of attrition was the main course and a few hours restless sleep the desert. Malta’s capital Valetta’s famous battlements are testament to the fighting spirit of the nation and several Maltese yachts have come to the fore in these difficult conditions.

In Class Three, at Favignana, the J/133 JARU Team EC, skippered by Andrew Calascione and John Ripard were leading the class on handicap and by 0830 Tuesday morning JARU had pulled ahead of close rival ARTIE (racing in Class Four) by one and half miles to lead the fleet of eight Maltese yachts in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Challenging for the lead and very much in the hunt in Class Three was the other J/133 OILTANK KING JUNO skippered by David Anastasi.

Continuing to lead Class 4 were the two J/122s from the Maltese fleet-- ARTIE and OTRA VEZ. As Ripard said presciently before the race start, “It’s not a long passage race, you have a lot of corners, a lot of changing winds when you go around a corner. They get becalmed, you run away; you get becalmed, they catch you up, it really keeps you on your toes, the whole way around. That’s why it’s so much fun, but it’s so hard doing it.”

OTRA VEZ had a full on battle Monday night, sustaining damage that prevented them from flying any spinnaker. OTRA VEZ was probably the only yacht that was hoping that they will beat all the way to the finish. OTRA VEZ crew, Sean Arrigo Azzopardi contacted the Royal Malta YC Tuesday morning at 1030 with news from on board- "We’re all fine, doing well overall. The boat is coping, but we broke the bowsprit last night. We were carrying the Code Zero a bit too high in a big chop, and seem to have blown it. I don’t know if we can get it fixed, I hope we don’t need to use it. We had big waves rounding Favignana, and about 20 knots of wind. When we freed off slightly to make Pantelleria, we were sailing at a true wind angle of 050, the wind settled, big waves, and we were doing about 8.5 knots. It was pretty comfortable.  It is a beat to Lampedusa. We’re not sure if we are going to need the bowsprit. The wind looks as though it might come around, but we are not too sure since the wind has been doing its own thing. Apart from in the Strait we have not really had what we’ve been expecting. From the beginning to half the race, nothing at all like what we thought.  Before Favignana, we encountered the squalls, but mildly. Not as bad as others seem to have. Maybe we were ahead of it. We slowed down a lot at Trapani. We were hoping not, it looked like it was going to pull us through but it didn’t. The wind for us did not come around too much.  It is a beautiful day now, the wind is blowing 13 knots, we are beating tight, with a wind angle of 040 heading towards Lampedusa, the sea is mild. It’s pretty nice. Some bigger boats are closing from behind, but we are still chasing ARTIE who is about a mile and a half away. We were together with JARU at Trapani, but he did not slow down like we did. He managed to sneak away, so maybe he is a couple of miles ahead.  Right now we are trying to get as much rest as possible to try and fight out the last bit. We’re loving every minute."

J/122 Artie sailing to finish line in Malta's harborWEDNESDAY Report- Finish
With 18 yachts finished and two retirements, the bulk of the remaining yachts were still battling to reach the finish at the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Lighter conditions beset the fleet but those that rounded Lampedusa were now sailing in a southeasterly breeze and maintaining good boat speed, flying downwind sails. The Royal Malta YC was expecting a monumental party Wednesday night with six Maltese yachts expected to finish in the afternoon and early evening.

At 0930 hours, leading the Maltese fleet of eight yachts home was the J/122 ARTIE, she was 24 miles from the Comino Strait and leading her class, the Maltese fleet and the entire race on IRC handicap!  Can we say that a "Triple-Crown winner" was a possibility?  Nipping at their heels less than 5 nm behind in the final mad dash to the finish line were the three other Maltese J's- the J/133s JARU Team EC, OILTANK KING JUNO and the J/122 OTRA VEZ!  It was a family affair, too.  JARU, was skippered by Andrew Calascione and John Ripard (first cousin to ARTIE's Christian Ripard). John Ripard is also sailing with his son Sebastian. The J/122 OTRA VEZ, co-skippered by brothers Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia, had to be cursing their luck, their broken bowsprit was now a serious handicap. As they sailed towards the finish off-the-wind, OTRA VEZ couldn't fly their fastest sails.

J/133 Jaru sailing into finish line at MaltaFinally, after racing over 606 nm, the J/122 ARTIE crossed the finish line at 15.22 CEST, eight minutes in front of the J/133 JARU TEAM EC and, in doing so, was the first Maltese boat home. That finish also put the local entry, co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, ahead of Zenstrom's RAN (GBR) as overall handicap leader.  As a result, ARTIE and crew may have been the first "Triple Crown" Winner ever in the history of the Rolex Middle Sea Race- Overall IRC Winner, IRC Class 4 Winner and Maltese Fleet Champion!

Owner Lee Satariano was clearly relieved to beat his local rivals home and said, “It was very achievable because we worked very hard. The crew has been preparing the boat for the past several months, we even have a new sail wardrobe. Being the first Maltese boat gives us a big satisfaction because the local competition is very, very big.”  Christian Ripard, co-skipper said, “It’s a great feeling. We ended up doing most of the race alongside or crossing tacks with JARU; it’s nearly a re-run of last year, though this time we managed to beat them.  We were sailing the boat as well as we can. We knew if we had the same conditions as the rest of the competition, we’d do well. The boat is going exceptionally well, and it’s a very good crew. This was a very enjoyable race. When you race on a Maxi you tend to be on your own, but when you’re with the smaller boats, then you really have a race on, there are different dynamics -- you’re crossing tacks with foreign boats, with local boats -- it was one of the most enjoyable races for me."

Volcanic island of Stromboli(1) Part of the Aeolian island chain, Stromboli is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily. The active volcano is approximately 900 m (3,000 ft) high, and its most recent eruption was in August 2009. There are two villages on the island with several hundred inhabitants.  Stromboli gained acclaim in 1950 when Italian director, Roberto Rossellini set the classic movie 'Stromboli' starring Ingrid Bergman, on the island. The island, and nearby Strombolicchio, are marks of the Rolex Middle Sea Race course, left to port by the race fleet.  Stromboli is part of the Aeolian Island archipelago, named after the wind god, Aeolus. The largest islands in the group are Lipari and Salina; others include Vulcano, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, and Panarea, as well as nearby islets. The islands are of volcanic origin and include two active volcanoes: Vulcano and Stromboli. Over 40 species of birds are found on the islands, including ten that are on the Sicilian Red List for threatened species.

Rolex Middle Sea Race mark rounding(2) The Rolex Middle Sea Race Mark is unusual as many of the marks of the course are physical islands. At the northwest corner of Sicily, off Trapani, lie the Egadi Islands. These islands (Favignana and Levanzo) must all be left to port, except for the island of Marettimo, which must be left to starboard.  The permanent population for the three islands is around 5,000. Although a popular summer destination, it is still possible to find secluded coves and walking paths. The islands are rugged and hilly, but offer wonderful beaches for swimming in the cobalt blue sea.

(3) the Italian island of Pantelleria lies 100 km (62miles) southwest of Sicily and only 60 km (37miles) east of the Tunisian coast. The island has an area of 83 sq km, and a population of around 3,000 inhabitants. Despite being volcanic, Pantelleria is surprisingly fertile. Not to be missed is the Montagna Grand, a natural park and the highest point (836m) on the island. As well, there are many beaches and sea caves to explore.

Rolex Middle Sea race start and finish line(4) The finish line for the Rolex Middle Sea Race is inside Marsamxett Harbour, opposite the Royal Malta Yacht Club in Ta’Xbiex. Marsamxett is the northern of Valletta’s two main harbors (the other is Grand Harbour). This natural harbour is dedicated more for leisure use – with plenty of dockage for recreational and tourist boats.  The harbour is ringed by fortifications. As well as the walled Citadel of Valletta to the south, in the middle of the harbour sits the 18 century Fort Manoel, built by the Knights of Malta, under the patronage of Portuguese Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena. The former home of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, the fort is undergoing major restoration work to repair damage sustained during the Second World War.   To experience live video footage from the J/133 JUNO- access their archives.  Rolex Sailing Photo credits- Rolex/ Kurt Arrigo.   For more Rolex Middle Sea Race sailing information.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Smashing Day for J/122s

Hamble Winter Series Update
(Hamble, England)-  After the first weekend's boisterous conditions, light winds saw in the 2nd weekend of the Garmin Hamble Winter Series, with the conditions giving all classes some sparkling sailing and nail-bitingly close racing.

This weekend featured the Hamble Big Boat Series on both days, with top-class racing for everyone. Thanks to Rule 26 who sponsored the event. Saturday dawned with 8-12 knots of breeze from the east, expected to shift to the right during the day. Four races were run, with a windward-leeward course set across the North Channel from a committee boat at East Knoll

By contrast, Sunday morning saw thick fog, with ships sounding their way slowly up Southampton water with foghorns blaring. PRO Jamie Wilkinson set an hour's postponement to let the fog clear, later postponed by a further hour when ABP, backed up by a competitor in a RIB reported that the Southampton Water was impassable. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and this wasn't an unpopular move as it allowed competitors to watch the end of the rugby.

By 1000 the fog began to clear to reveal a millpond, with zero wind – but by 1230 a light breeze had built from the WSW and the race committee hurriedly set a course for all classes, with starts combined to get racing underway as soon as possible.

After a false start, the wind built to 10 knots during the race, which meant that all classes converged on the leeward mark at once, with large gains for the taking for those with an inside overlap.

In IRC 1 Class, the good Doctor Ivan Trotman continues to be a force amongst the leaders on his J/122 JOLOU with his 1-4-5 record to be currently lying 2nd in class.  Ken Lowes J/122 GHOST is showing improvement every race  and with his current progress may be winning by next week!  So far GHOSTS record of 9-8-4 for 21 pts is promising. 

Next weekend sees the third Winter Series race day on Sunday.   Sailing photo credits- Paul Wyeth   For more Garmin Hamble Winter Series sailing information


Monday, October 24, 2011

J/122 Wins Silver in RORC Season Championships

(London, England)- It was a tough year.  It was a Fastnet year.  And, an RORC 600 year.  It was not going to be easy for any boat participating in this years RORC Seasons Points Championships to easily walk off with all the silverware and pickle-dishes.  Nevertheless, some J/Teams prevailed despite some harsh and very, very challenging conditions offshore- some absolutely not within the "wheelhouse" of where these J/Teams can succeed, if not dominate offshore.  Again, this year's series points to the fact that a good all-around design is critical to offshore success-- too "type-formed" and you win big in one event and get crushed in the next.  Such was the case this year.

In the IRC Classes the best five offshore races are counted towards the RORC Season's Points Championship. These were heavily contested and in some of the classes, the results were undecided until after the Cherbourg Race, the last race of the season.  For the J/Teams, "Congratulations" are in order for those that persevered and prevailed against the best offshore sailors from Western Europe.  Here's the scoreline for these J/Teams:

- Emily Verger Plate - IRC Two Overall-  JOOPSTER- J/122 - Neil Kipling (GBR.

In addition to the winners, special mention should be made of the following performances:

- IRC Overall- the J/122 sailed by Neil Kipling was third overall.

The net, net of the 2011 RORC summer sailing season is that it takes solid, easy-to-sail, all-around boats to succeed in the RORC events.  Again, with primarily all amateur/ corinthian teams, the fleet of J sailors not only had fun but won their fair share of silverware, too.  Nothing like adding a few more pickle-dishes to the serving inventory at home!  For more RORC Offshore Season sailing information.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rolex Middle Sea Race Preview

J/122 ARTIE sailing Rolex Middle Sea Race (Gzira, Malta)- The 32nd edition of the 606-nautical mile Rolex Middle Sea Race begins this Saturday, 22 October from Grand Harbour in Malta. Currently, there are 80 boats entered from 18 countries.  The RMSR is easily one of the most challenging offshore races on the international racing calendar.  Asked whether there is anything about the race in particular that drives sailors to participate over the years, one sailor said, “I don’t think there is one thing-- there are several things. Getting through the Strait of Messina is always a challenge (a.k.a. "the around boot challenge"), you are always relieved to get through it. Next on the way is Stromboli, a volcano that erupts about every 20 minutes or so. For people that haven’t seen it before it is an amazing sight. From there it remains interesting all the way through to the finish, turning left around two enormous rock precipices jutting out from the ocean, and right up to the line in Marsamxett Harbour where the wind is fickle and you are not finished until you are over the line.”

J/111 J-STORM sailing Rolex Middle Sea Race off MaltaLooking forward to their first tour in the RMSR are two new J owners, one sailing the J/111 and the other in a J/122.  Said J/Boats Italy's Paolo Boido- "The first J/111 J-STORM just delivered to owner Massimo Colosimo will race the Middle Sea Race.  They just called me now (Wednesday night), on their way to Malta, reaching with full main and Code 0 in medium/heavy SW at the remarkable average speed of 18 knots!"  Sure sounds like that Italian crew are going to have a fun, challenging time racing around the track.  If there was a race ever purpose-built for any one boat, the J/111 sailed conservatively should do just fine (avoid the corners, my friends!).  In addition, a new J/122 added to the local fleet is OTRA VEZ sailed by Aaron Gatt Floridia / Edward Gatt Floridia from Malta, sailing in IRC 4.

J/122 finishing Rolex Middle Sea Race off MaltaJoining these two "newbies" in the RMSR are perhaps the craftiest and smartest Maltese yachtsmen, the teams on JUNO and ARTIE, both of whom have either won the RMSR overall on handicap and/or won their classes over many, many years.  Leading the charge at least boat-for-boat will be the J/133 JUNO sailed by David Anastasi racing in IRC 3.  Nipping at their heels like a mad hound-dog will be that tenacious team on the J/122 ARTIE, led by renowned Maltese sailors Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, dueling it out not just for IRC 4 Class honors but for overall honors as well.  If J/News readers recall, in last year's 2010 RMSR, both JUNO and ARTIE were not only class leaders, but overall RMSR IRC leaders literally up to the final 5 miles in the harbor-- which, as everyone knows, can be the "heartbreaker" for many well-sailed, tenacious teams.

Starting Saturday afternoon UTC time, you can track these teams as they make their way around this epic race course.  Sailing photo credits- Rolex/ Carlo Borlenghi.  Please take a look at the official Rolex Middle Sea Race website.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

THE Winter Series Opens With a Bang!

(Hamble, England)-  This weekend saw the Garmin Hamble Winter Series get underway, with some exciting, blustery conditions to see in the start of the event’s 30th anniversary.  Perhaps one might refer to this eponymous event as "THE Winter" Series as it has always enjoyed an immensely popular following amongst knowledgeable and enthusiastic sailors over time.  Like some other events across Europe and the America's, it does assume a bit of a "Goodwood-type" or "Woodstock-like" pilgrimage from the cozy confines of the tree-lined squares in London and surrounding suburbs down to the sleepy little seaside town alongside the Hamble River just north of the boisterous and, sometimes, sublime "river" of water known around the world as simply "The Solent".

BLACK FLEET Report- The first weekend, Sunday, also saw the first day of racing for the Black Fleet in the main series, with two races scheduled. PRO Jamie Wilkinson set a range of windward-leeward courses for the different classes. At 1045 the wind shifted left by 20 degrees, causing some bigger boats to overstand their windward mark. This first race saw 17-20 knots of breeze and a classic wind-over-tide chop which made for some impressive surfing on the downwind leg. By the second race, the wind, now in the south-west, was building, with regular gusts of 25 knots.

In IRC Class 1, Dr Ivan Trotman’s J/122 JOLOU leads the fleet, yet another fresh face amongst the leadership in IRC I with a 1-4 for a total of 5 points.  Ken Lowe is sailing his J/122 GHOST and lies 7th after collecting a 9-8 for 17 points.

For more Garmin Hamble Winter Series sailing results.   Sailing photo credits- Eddie Mays


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Western Oz J/122 LITHIUM Smokes Perth

J/122 sailboat- ultimate offshore racing sailing boat(Perth, Fremantle, Australia)- Graeme Monkhouse sailed his recently acquired J/122 LITHIUM in his first double-handed race.  Graeme purchased LITHIUM after a long selection process.  The objective was to find a boat which can be comfortably cruised with the family, be competitive on IRC, and have a turn of speed which keeps the excitement levels up.  The J/122 ticks all the boxes. LITHIUM reduced its IRC rating from 1.086 with class sails to 1.058 with a furling number 4 jib and A5 spinnaker to suit double-handed sailing in the predominantly fresh Fremantle breezes. Good move.  The "Fremantle Doctor", if you all recall, was the notorious wind that smoked many an America's Cup program in 1987 with steady 20-35 knot breezes!

The first offshore race of the Perth summer season saw record numbers compete in gentle, uncharacteristic 0–12 knot winds.  The Double-handed race was a 25nm course off Fremantle.  The race started in no wind before a south westerly change saw spinnakers hoisted to the day buoy.  In 5 knots of breeze the fleet sailed close hauled 5nm before tacking for a 4nm reach into the shipping channel.  LITHIUM set its Code Zero to great advantage and was doing over 8 knots in under 10 knots of breeze.  A 6nm beat up to Garden Island saw the lead narrow and it was a close battle for first place at the rounding mark.  However the 6.5nm square run down the channel saw LITHIUM drop back.  A 2.3nm broad reach to the finish and LITHIUM crossed the line second and placed 2nd on IRC, a tantalizing 56 seconds off 1st place.