Rolex Middle Sea Race 2019
Here’s our report from this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race.
A race that surpassed my expectations in every way.
I’ve heard sailors claiming that this is the most beautiful offshore race in the world, and now I understand why. I also understand why people love Malta and the hospitality of people on the island.
And to top this, our team didn’t disappoint on the racecourse. We showed that we can challenge the best offshore teams with many pros on board, “do our thing” under pressure and deliver results in races that are new to us.
Trying to ping the port mark (Upper Barakka Gardens) on Friday evening.
We tried to use the week before the start as effective as possible. The crew was complete on Tuesday evening, and we went directly into the coastal race on Wednesday. It felt really good and we managed a class win. Thursday was set aside for MOB practice, hoisting the orange sails and some other small stuff that needed fixing. Friday was free to recharge for the start.
As in Fastnet, we used Aksel Magdahl, the Norwegian navigator as a sounding board pre-race. Back home we worked through the course together, and Friday evening we looked at the big picture for the race as well as possible scenarios for the first 24-36 hours.
As expected, not much wind, when we were checking out the first Rolex mark on our way to Grand Harbor.
In our class, we had some serious competition. The big thing was the duel between the two JPK 11.80. Courrier Recommandé won the race over-all last year (as well as Fastnet with 10.80 when we raced in 2015) and were clear favorites. Sunrise have a string of great results and the two boats top the RORC Season Championship in IRC2.
In general, many big boats that would have an advantage in the heavier breeze, so we knew we must race the boat as hard as possible for the first few days to get ahead.
JPK 11.80 Sunrise 1,098
JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommandé 1,097
J/111 Blur 1,096
First 44.7 Courier du Coeur 1,096
First 40 Mon Ile Tevere Remo 1,089
First 40 Olympia’s Tigress 1,081
Grand Soleil 43 GYR Jua Kali 1,081
J/122 Linea Rossa – Shaker 1,080
Solaris One 42 Unica 1,079
First 40 Kabestan Skylander 1,079
Comet 41S O’Guerriero 1,078
Archambault A40 Knyaz 1,075
Elan 400 Andromeda 1,066
Figaro II Inteman 1,065
Hinckley 51 Kiva 1,061
Giro 34 Lima Fotodinamico 1,060
First 40.7 Maltese Falcon II 1,054
First 47.7 Gagarin 1,053
The start in Great Harbour, Valetta
Amazing scenery inside the harbor. We even had crowds cheering “Heja Sverige” from ashore which was a first for us.
A local, very light, “sea breeze” filled the harbor, and we figured a start at the starboard end was favored. Less wind, but shorter distance to the harbor entrance. So either 25% down in free wind or in the bunch at the mark.
We ended up coming out right at the mark just a few seconds after the gun, and found a decent lane to pass the boats coming up on port. We had 2-3 boats ahead, but we could do our own thing.
Here’s the live feed from the starts. Our start is at 1:00:00 in the video.
We played the small puffs, first on the Valetta side and then over on the east side.
We exited the harbor in good shape.
Only First 44.7 Courier du Coeur was ahead by 50-60 meter.
Along the coast
At the mark we set the A3 gennaker and started moving. Such a relief to get out to sea…
Wind seemed to fill in from behind, so we tried to stay high between Courrier Recommandé and the mark. The luffing duel was us passing Courier du Coeur :-)
After some final gybes, we rounded first in our class. Wow!!!
Courrier Recommandé is the black boat. This was supposed to be Gery Trentesaux last race with this crew, and they have been the boat to beat for many years. Gery have done the Route du Rhum, Admirals’ Cup and won Commodores’ Cup 2006. With his different Courrier-boats he have won Fastnet Race (in 2015 in his 13th attempt, when we also led him halfway), Middle Sea Race (last year) and placed second overall in Sydney-Hobart 2015.
Over towards Sicily
As we wanted to stay right of the fleet, and to be able to sail our own angles, we started with a port tack… going back to Valetta?
It soon became apparent that a few boat aimed to go right; ClubSwan 42 Bewild, Carkeek 47 Black Pearl, DK46 Hydra and a few others.
And Sunrise naturally. Thomas Kneen had a successfull year in UK and pulled out all stops to beat Courrier Recommandé. Several pros and both John and Tom Ripard, with several overall wins in the race, completed the crew.
Initially we worked hard to stay right of them, but at some point it became apparent that they wanted to go all-in on the right corner, while we still tried to keep it safe vs the fleet. See tracks below.
We went from J1, to code, to A3 before sunset. Nice sailing.
Simon and Jens getting some well-deserved sleep.
We run a 3-watch system, with 2 hours on (just driving the boat hard), 2 hours standby on deck (doing navigation, food/nutrition and serving those that are on) and 2 hours off (asleep below). Worked very well, as we’re able to do all maneuvers with 6 on deck, and we also have some slack if someone get seasick or incapacitated in any way.
Amazing sailing at night. Compared to Scandinavia, the nights get really dark. Fast. And often we didn’t get the moon up until long after midnight.
20:00. Well placed between the two favorites. Not as extreme as Sunrise, but still to the right of the fleet…
00:00. Further north, anticipating the gybe north. Maybe we were a bit too careful here, and should have stayed further south. But we thought Sunrise was taking on to much risk…
04:30. Going north. I think we timed this well, and we made huge gains on the boats on the inside. We underestimated the pressure Sunrise had during the morning hours. But in hindsight I’m not sure we would have taken that risk if we had to make the same decision again.
Sunrise. Pointing at Messina with the code up. Life is good.
When the wind filled we went to A3 and then to A2. Here we’re crossing tracks with Xp-44 Warrior Won. Chris Sheehan and his team from New York have done many of the bucket list races over the last four years, and the boat is now for sale in the UK.
Here’s the full leg:
The red “exclusion zone” is the area where we thought we might be affected by Etna.
Another day coming to an end. Pär Lindforss joined the team for this race, and fit right in from the start. We met 1985 and have sailed many different boats together over the years.
Welcome to my office… over the last few years we’ve added more good helmsmen to the team, so I can spend more time in Expedition. We tend to have a very collaborative process, with many people involved in making decisions. For us this works very well offshore, especially in waters where we have no experience.
Through the Strait of Messina
Reggio Calabria on the Italian side.
We were in a hurry to get north before the south going current got to strong. We stayed close to the east shore, and managed to get through with the A2 up. We just kept X-treme 37 Africana astern and the distance to Courrier Recommandé and we knew Sunrise was just 10 nm ahead.
We studied the local boats ahead to figure out the best way to cross the TSS. As fast as possible seemed to be the consensus, at passing it at a right angle would mean dead downwind. We decided to follow in their track.
Stromboli, here we come
After Torre Faro, we stayed left for better pressure, and to set up for a coming shift. We maximized that move, almost getting caught in a wind hole on the left side…
… before gybing and getting in below the other boats. We managed to pull away from both Africana and Courrier Recommandé on this leg.
Stromboli at sunrise. Spectacular views, thunder and even some lava coming up over the edge.
Playing the weather north of Sicily
08:00 in the morning. Around Stromboli in good shape, and very happy with the first phase of the race. Getting to Messina proved just as tricky as we’ve heard, but we found a way that was both fast and had low risk.
It was harder than expected to break free from the wind shadow of Stromboli. Some boats got stuck as far away as 10 nm, but we managed to get an inside track without getting caught.
At all times we track the speed of our competition, as well as angles over time. This helps us push ourselves to go faster, as well as indicators for more or less wind.
The usual suspects was two boats from our class, as well as some from the faster IRC4:
– JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommandé 1,097
– JPK 11.80 Sunrise 1,098
– First 45 Elusive 2 1.110
– Xp-44 Xp-act 1.136
– X-Treme 37 Africana
– Xp-44 Xpresso 1.127
We stayed south of the fleet, and managed to get some leverage on Sunrise…
…so when they gybed south, we were a few nm ahead of both them and Elusive. Wohoo!!
Here’s the same situation on the official tracker. Something I should print and keep on the office wall :-)
Late night and early morning we had some tough transitions with a few hours with westerly wind. We lost some of the Xp-44’s, but Sunrise lost even more… Snakes and ladders.
Around the corner
Sunset over Sicily. And some fantastic news when we looked at the tracker.
Leading our class in both IRC and ORC and 4th over all. Not bad. And just 274 nm to go!
Going south to Pantalleria
During the day the wind filled, and with 20-22 knots we went to heavy weather jib and a reef in the main. Not too bad, but very wet sailing in the J/111.
The Lampedusa Express. All aboard.
After we passed Pantalleria the wind increased to 20-25 knots and we were now on a beat with 80% on port and 20% on starboard (that we wanted to save until the end of the leg). We managed to push the boat hard, but the waves were very steep and we ended up either flying over and slamming hard into the next one… or just going through them.
It was pitch black without a moon for most of the night, everyone was wet and got soaked every time we hit a big wave and in general it was pretty miserable. A few of the crew went out of rotation, but we managed to drive the boat hard with 5 on deck and 4 below.
We talked about how much better life must have been in the 45-footers, but apparently they were miserable as well… And a 60’ ORMA trimaran was abandoned after nearly sinking, so I guess it was the same for everyone.
At Lampedusa, we were still 5th over all, but a 90 nm waterline race to Malta would make it hard vs the bigger boats.
1 Courrier Recommandé Jpk 11.80
2 Elusive 2 First 45
3 Bewild Swan 42cl
4 PrimaVista-Lauria ICE52
5 Blur J/111
6 Sunrise JPK 1180
7 Xpresso Xp-44
8 Xtra Staerk Xp-44
9 Xp-act Xp-44
10 Warrior Won Xp-44
Back home to Malta.
At Lampedusa we had to give in to Sunrise. We couldn’t match their waterline length and form stability. And both of the JPK’s were very well sailed.
During the 90 nm back to Malta the wind dropped and we could go to J2 and full main. We knew we couldn’t catch the JPK’s and that we had over 5 hours to the next boat in both IRC5 and ORC5. We still pushed, as everyone was keen to get a beer and a warm fresh water shower.
After a short beat along the coast…
… we could set the A5 at the last mark, blast into the harbor and finish just after midnight.
What a feeling!!!
After cleaning up the mess, we did a thorough structural inspection after all the slamming. All good, and nothing broken beyond the normal wear and tear.
Tough legs that affects both boat and crew.
This is what I wrote to my crew on the flight back to Sweden:
Many thanks for a fantastic race!!!
If you haven’t noticed, I’m extremely satisfied with our achievement.
And proud to be part of this team.
When I reflect on the last week, some things stand out.
First. That we do our thing. We race our boat, our way and are confident in both boatspeed, strategy/tactics and the team’s ability to execute. When it’s tough, we fight for every meter. When we’re in the lead, it’s no different.
We’ve improved in areas where we were weak, and we’ve become even better at our strengths. We also seem to be able to know when to attack and when tom play defense against other boats.
Our execution was pretty close to flawless.
Second. It’s clear that we can challenge the best boats in the world in our size. I don’t really think results is that important, but it’s great to be able to benchmark our team vs Courrier Recommandé, the team on Sunrise and other pro crews.
You have earned the respect of many international sailors.
Enjoy that feeling.
Naturally, we can improve in many areas. Especially in heavy weather, where we should be able to make the ride somewhat more enjoyable for everyone…
Let’s take a month off, reflect on what we’ve done and meet up for dinner in December.
The boat is on the hard in Valetta. Next event is Rolex Giraglia Cup in June 2020.
From left to right:
Mats Björk have also been with the team forever. Runs keyboard and keeps everyone on the same page (it becomes apparent when someone else is trying to do his job). Also a great finance guy, who coordinates budgets and that we have somewhere to stay when ashore.
Pelle Pedersen have been with a team for many years, and is my co-skipper when we race doublehanded. We’re like an old married couple, but our disputes usually makes the boat go faster. With Pelle running his watch I can sleep tight.
Pär Lindforss came onboard for this race. Super experienced offshore racer and one of my best friends. Trimmer. Driver. Likes being on the rail in the worst conditions? Can sleep anywhere.
Andreas Turesson is a great sailor and gifted trimmer. Especially downwind. But his biggest contribution is lifting the team when we’re down. Lots of energy when it’s needed the most. And ashore… Superpower: doing volts inside the boat in big waves.
Peter Gustafsson. Me. Responsible for getting a decent race boat to the starting line, and coordinating navigation and weather analysis.
Jens Allroth is another big guy doing trim and helming a lot. Pushing for flatter jibs and more infucker, way beyond the tuning guides, he’s given us an edge upwind. A guy to trust in rough conditions.
Johan Fredriksson is a recent addition to the team. Being a Laser sailor his driving can be a bit aggressive at times, but that’s how we like it. It’s never a dull moment when Johan is around, and we laugh much more when he’s around Keeps the team caffeinated.
Simon Kindt have been with the team forever, and is probably my MVP. Always first onboard to prepare, everything he touches ends up better than before, he makes sure nutrition works and he rules the bow. Proactive, thorough and always ready to dig in.
Mattias Bodlund is a big strong lovable guy who can do any job onboard. Great split vision and key to our smooth sail shifts. Designated diver.
A big thanks to everyone who helped out: B&G, Cyclops Marine, Happy Yachting, Henri Llloyd, Liros, Sailracing, Seldén & Spinlock.
And to all our fans.
Results IRC Over All
|POS||BOAT NAME||BOAT TYPE||CATEGORY||ELAPSED TIME||CORRECTED TIME||RET||COMMENTS|
|1||ELUSIVE 2||First 45||IRC/Class 4||d4 h7 m6 s54||d4 h18 m27 s28||RDG|
|2||Courrier recommandé||Jpk 11.80||IRC/Class 5||d4 h8 m33 s46||d4 h18 m42 s19||d4 h8 m20 s13||none|
|3||Bewild||swan 42cl||IRC/Class 4||d4 h3 m40 s51||d4 h20 m13 s40||d4 h2 m9 s46||none|
|4||Sunrise||JPK 1180||IRC/Class 5||d4 h11 m8 s37||d4 h21 m38 s37||d4 h8 m14 s31||none|
|5||Xpresso||XP44||IRC/Class 4||d4 h8 m23 s56||d4 h21 m39 s27||d4 h5 m33 s35||RDG|
|6||PrimaVista-Lauria||ICE52||IRC/Class 3||d3 h23 m56 s56||d4 h21 m55 s16||d3 h21 m7 s51||none|
|7||Xp-act||Xp44||IRC/Class 4||d4 h8 m0 s59||d4 h22 m9 s45||d4 h4 m45 s18||RDG|
|8||Xtra Staerk||Xp 44||IRC/Class 4||d4 h8 m25 s38||d4 h22 m12 s42||d4 h5 m6 s40||RDG|
|9||Albator||Proto||IRC/Class 4||d4 h5 m3 s10||d4 h22 m32 s6||d4 h1 m34 s37||RDG|
|10||Blur||J/111||IRC/Class 5||d4 h12 m14 s53||d4 h22 m38 s24||d4 h8 m25 s56||none|
|11||Warrior Won||Xp44||IRC/Class 4||d4 h9 m6 s45||d4 h23 m24 s28||d4 h4 m45 s18||RDG|
|12||CORUM – DAGUET2||MYLIUS 15E25||IRC/Class 3||d4 h0 m8 s4||d5 h0 m21 s37||d3 h19 m25 s12||none|
|13||Adrian Hoteles Macaronesia||Sydney 43GTS||IRC/Class 3||d4 h7 m5 s53||d5 h2 m4 s5||d4 h0 m40 s14||none|
|14||Leaps and bounds||Gs58P||IRC/Class 3||d4 h4 m2 s42||d5 h2 m45 s19||d3 h21 m16 s57||none|
|15||Black Pearl||Carkeek 47||IRC/Class 2||d3 h20 m8 s55||d5 h3 m1 s6||d3 h13 m44 s10||none|
|16||ARTIE III||HH42||IRC/Class 3||d4 h2 m21 s32||d5 h3 m8 s43||d3 h19 m25 s12||none|
|17||L’Ange De Milon||Milon 41||IRC/Class 4||d4 h14 m43 s3||d5 h3 m13 s43||d4 h6 m50 s14||none|
|18||SOLENN||JPK 10.80||IRC/Class 6||d4 h22 m38 s30||d5 h3 m23 s14||d4 h14 m3 s20||none|
|19||ROSSKO||JPK 10.80||IRC/Class 6||d4 h22 m4 s30||d5 h3 m23 s18||d4 h13 m31 s44||none|
|20||Mon Ile Tevere Remo||first 40||IRC/Class 5||d4 h17 m52 s56||d5 h4 m1 s4||d4 h9 m6 s13||none|
|POS||BOAT NAME||BOAT TYPE||CATEGORY||TCC||ELAPSED TIME||CORRECTED TIME||RET||COMMENTS|
|1||Courrier recommandé||Jpk 11.80||IRC/Class 5||1.097||d4 h8 m33 s46||d4 h18 m42 s19||none|
|2||Sunrise||JPK 1180||IRC/Class 5||1.098||d4 h11 m8 s37||d4 h21 m38 s37||d4 h8 m28 s3||none|
|3||Blur||J/111||IRC/Class 5||1.096||d4 h12 m14 s53||d4 h22 m38 s24||d4 h8 m39 s29||none|
|4||Mon Ile Tevere Remo||first 40||IRC/Class 5||1.089||d4 h17 m52 s56||d5 h4 m1 s4||d4 h9 m19 s51||none|
|5||Unica||Solaris one 42||IRC/Class 5||1.079||d4 h21 m24 s44||d5 h6 m41 s16||d4 h10 m18 s25||none|
|6||INTEMAN||FIGARO II||IRC/Class 5||1.065||d5 h8 m22 s5||d5 h16 m42 s43||d4 h11 m42 s16||none|
|7||Lima Fotodinamico||Giro34||IRC/Class 5||1.06||d5 h20 m15 s7||d6 h4 m40 s1||d4 h12 m12 s45||none|
|8||Olympia’s Tigress||Beneteau First 40||IRC/Class 5||1.081||d5 h17 m59 s36||d6 h5 m10 s15||d4 h10 m6 s37||none|
|9||Maltese Falcon II||Beneteau First 40.7||IRC/Class 5||1.054||d5 h22 m0 s2||d6 h5 m40 s7||d4 h12 m49 s43||none|
|10||Gagarin||First 47.7||IRC/Class 5||1.053||d5 h22 m17 s36||d6 h5 m50 s6||d4 h12 m55 s55||none|
|POS||BOAT NAME||BOAT TYPE||CATEGORY||GPH||ELAPSED TIME||CORRECTED TIME||RET||COMMENTS|
|1||Blur||J/111||ORC/Class 5||576.7||d4 h12 m14 s53||d4 h19 m48 s14||none|
|2||ROSSKO||JPK 10.80||ORC/Class 5||597.3||d4 h22 m4 s30||d5 h2 m32 s18||d4 h15 m35 s9||none|
|3||Unica||Solaris one 42||ORC/Class 5||582.3||d4 h21 m24 s44||d5 h4 m31 s39||d4 h13 m11 s14||none|
|4||Kabestan Intuition||Reflex 38||ORC/Class 5||597.4||d5 h22 m34 s5||d6 h3 m27 s29||d4 h15 m57 s49||none|
|5||Gagarin||First 47.7||ORC/Class 5||597.3||d5 h22 m17 s36||d6 h3 m40 s19||d4 h15 m35 s9||none|
|6||Maltese Falcon II||Beneteau First 40.7||ORC/Class 5||586.1||d5 h22 m0 s2||d6 h5 m21 s22||d4 h14 m6 s2||none|
|7||KNYAZ||Archambault A40||ORC/Class 5||577.9||d6 h8 m32 s35||d6 h19 m17 s50||d4 h12 m10 s39||none|
|12||Andromeda||Elan 400||ORC/Class 5||590.3||d0 h0 m0 s0||d0 h0 m0 s0||d4 h14 m47 s7||DNF|
|12||Angelica Ii||One off Sciarrelli||ORC/Class 5||590.4||d0 h0 m0 s0||d0 h0 m0 s0||d4 h15 m4 s20||DNF|
|12||Aquaranta||Archambault 40||ORC/Class 5||580.5||d0 h0 m0 s0||d0 h0 m0 s0||d4 h13 m1 s59||DNF|
Oct 29, 2019 @ 08:46
Och tack själv för att du delar med dig till oss andra skrivbordsseglare … härlig läsning i höstmörkret.
Oct 29, 2019 @ 08:49
Grattis till mycket fint resultat!
Oct 29, 2019 @ 09:13
Såg fram emot rapporten! Tack för super intressant läsning! Congrats till er!
Oct 29, 2019 @ 10:28
Stort grattis till otroligt stark prestation! Superspännande att följa er hela varvet runt! Tack för trevlig läsning också som vanligt!
Georges Bonello DuPuis
Oct 29, 2019 @ 10:52
Dear Peter and all on board BLUR.
What a well-documented blog. Well done on your result.
It was a privilege meeting you all here in Malta. Looks like you all enjoyed yourselves.
Wishing you all success in 2020
Georges Bonello DuPuis
Oct 29, 2019 @ 10:58
Thank Georges! Always a pleasure to visit the Royal Malta Yacht Club – one of my favorite yacht clubs around the world.
Oct 29, 2019 @ 10:59
Grattis och välseglat!
Nu då ni visat att J111 går bra på orci kanske ni kommer till Tallinn på VM2021? Mera offshoreinriktat utlovas enligt ORC AGM tack vare SHF.
Oct 29, 2019 @ 11:09
Som jag sagt tidigare är det inget fel på ratingen. Och vi skulle mycket väl kunna köra EM på Capri i maj nästa år (ligger på vägen till södra Frankrike och skulle passa i tidsschemat).
Men… jag tycker inte det är värt besväret att köra massa starter i en 36-fotare mot ClubSwan 42, X-41, Landmark 43, Xp-44 och Farr 40. Vi kan göra perfekta starter men sedan är det kört.
Skall man segla ORCi på riktigt måste vi skaffa en J/112e för att bli störst i lilla klassen, eller någon av båtarna ovan för att komma iväg på ett vettigt sätt i klass B.
Vår bucket list innehåller Rolex-och offshorerace som körs enligt IRC. Så det blir fokus framåt. Inte för att det är en “bättre” regel, utan det är det som körs där vi vill segla.
Oct 29, 2019 @ 12:13
Thank you for sharing
Oct 29, 2019 @ 18:54
Unprivileged and privileged sailing the same water. Nothing to see, carry on.
Oct 29, 2019 @ 22:03
Cool båt, coolt team, cool regatta!
Oct 30, 2019 @ 15:57
Tack för intressant och välskriven race rapport! Ett härligt team, bra båt och noggranna förberedelser under flera år har gett detta välförtjänta resultat. Stort grattis från hela besättningen på Kwanza
Oct 30, 2019 @ 20:19
Tack för utförlig och intressant beskrivning av era upplevelser. Betydelsen av förberedelser kan inte nog framhållas. Baserat på er nyvunna erfarenheter, är det något särskilt ni ser att vi kan lära och ta efter när det gäller att arrangera distanskappseglingar?
Oct 31, 2019 @ 08:08
Den stora skillnaden mot här hemma är som vanligt de sociala arrangemangen.
Både innan race, med “owners reception” (som var ganska tråkig), Crew Party (bästa seglarfesten genom alla tider) och en fantastisk prisutdelning. Och att man har klubben som ett naturligt socialt nav under veckan. Man är också mån om att logistiken skall fungera för besättningar som bor i olika delar av Valetta, både med bussar och RIB-transporter.
Här är det tydligt att Rolex är på plats för att garantera upplevelsen. Och det känner väl jag som ägare också – att jag har lättare att välja Rolex Capri Sailing Week eller Rolex Giraglia Cup, för att jag vet att arrangemangen kommer att vara i världsklass.
Rent seglingsmässigt så är det nog ingen stor skillnad mot t.ex. ÅFOR. Banbenen är väl liknande i längd, man seglar “runt” något, klasserna var väl liknande i storlek. Administration och säkerhetsbesiktning är bättre på Fastnet eller ÅFOR (lite väl sydländskt på Malta), men det funkar helt ok.
Kanske att tracking & resultat via YellowBrick blir bättre än det vi sett här hemma, men det är ju framförallt en kostnadsfråga.
Sammanfattningsvis så är väl dessa race mer av “destinationer” och helhetsupplevelser än många arrangemang hemma, där själva kappseglingen står mer i centrum.
Oct 31, 2019 @ 07:53
Oct 31, 2019 @ 21:27
Tack Peter för en fantastisk rapport! Grymt imponerad av det ni gör som team. Lycka till nästa säsong.
Nov 5, 2019 @ 09:01
Mycket intressant rapport och bra seglat önskar vi från Team Pro4u!
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Hope to see you on the water somewhere in the future and congratulations on the prizes, very well done!
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