Here’s our report from our Rolex Middle Sea Race.
A very different race compared to the one we did in 2019.
After lifting to clean the bottom and converting the boat into race mode, we had a few days on the water. We managed to win the Sailing Malta Coastal Race, which was good for morale, and we had a full day looking through the sail inventory and safety procedures.
We usually race with nine crew in three watches, but we wanted to experiment with 7 with 2+2+2, with me being the off-watch navigator. This would allow me to focus on the most strategically important segments of the race.
Naturally, we would give up straight-line speed in some conditions, but we’ve concluded that we couldn’t beat JPKs or the 45′ boats anyways if stability became a big part. So basically, bet even more on our strengths (while being even weaker in other conditions).
And this race is supposed to be a combination of light upwind and heavy downwind. Right?
Always a bit tense before leaving the dock.
Many sweet boats on the line. Here’s Skorpios and Caro, the all-new Botin 52 designed with the sole purpose to do well in the Rolex 600′ races. Some competition.
We did a “cracking start” (according to RORCs commentator Louay Habib) at the starboard end of the line and had free wind all the way to the pier. Unfortunately, we had a hard time matching the speed of the bigger boats with taller rigs, and were 5th at the first Rolex mark.
A short downwind leg along the coast to another Rolex mark. We managed to keep up with JPK 11.80 Rossko Racer and keep Sunrise behind us.
Then north towards Sicily.
Our routing indicated the wind would go to NE and increase, so we stayed high. Many other boats, including Sunrise and Rossko Racer, stayed low.
When the wind increased, we went to J3.5 and struggled with speed. At Cabo Passero we were 12th, and almost 40 minutes after Rossko Racer and Sunrise on corrected time. It looked like a long and painful race for us.
More painful sailing for the J/111 up to Messina. Between 15 knots with full main and J2 and 34 knots with J3.5 and two reefs. Not ideal,
Getting into the strait south of Messina, the wind got light, and we could set the A3.
We then did a pretty good job getting through the bunch of boats that parked ahead and managed to get through just before the current turned.
But the JPKs managed to pull away further. Sunrise was 2 hours and Rossko Racer 45 minutes ahead. Our position was slightly better with a 9th IRC5 and 3rd in ORC5 just 25 minutes behind Rossko Racer.
Yup. Swan 65 Kings Legend.
The stretch up to Stromboli was pretty straight forward in 20-30 knots of wind. We tried a few sail combinations, but J3.5 and a reef turned out to be the best option again.
And again, losing out to the wider boats. Sunrise was over 02:40 ahead on corrected, and Rossko Racer almost 01:20. Put still moving up the general ranking, which was good.
At Stromboli, it was borderline conditions for a gennaker, and we were rather tired. And maybe hampered with fewer people on deck. So we decided to play it safe and go wing-on-wing with the jib.
VMG wasn’t bad, but in hindsight, we should have tried the A5. Usually, we’re keen to push it, but this time we played it safe (we had a good debrief after the race).
Around us, it was 50/50 on a kite or not, but talking to teams afterward, many had the kite up for 15-20 minutes before they exploded. Many teams went through half their downwind inventory before ending up in the same situation as us.
At least we managed to set a new speed record. I guess main and jib is less drag than the big gennaker 😂
Strategically we wanted to push west and stay right of the fleet. There was lots of thunderstorms over Palermo, and we expected the wind to go south after a small front had passed.
When the wind dropped, we put up the A3 and navigated a patch of really light winds when the front passed before heading SW towards Cabo San Vito.
We pushed a bit too hard and blew up the A3 in a 25-knot gust, but then we were trucking again.
We felt we could have pushed harder after Stromboli, but we made some huge gains on the fleet that choose a more southern route. At Favignana, we had passed J/122e Juno, J/122 Noisy Oyster, J/133 Jivaro and Swan 53 Ballytrim. And we were just an hour after Rossko Racer.
Looking at the tracker, Sunrise and the bigger boats didn’t have the same transition as the rest of class 5, and they were now 6 hours ahead! IMPRESSIVE!
A guest that jumped on board during the night. Young Kraken?
Finally got some use for the code just west of Favignana. Thanks to Foggy Dew for the photo.
Just after Favignana we had another hole where we caught some of the boats ahead, but many of the boats behind managed to catch us as well. Especially the J/122s JOY-Spartivento and Noisy Oyster were uncomfortably close and at Pantalleria we were almost an hour behind on corrected.
Snakes and ladders.
Finally some breeze. Betting on a more westerly option.
There were a number of boats heading for land and a possible sea-breeze, they looked good for a while, but I think they had to manage a difficult transition to the new breeze.
After Pantelleria we stayed on the right side for more pressure, and managed to time the last gybe towards Lampedusa in a good way.
Simon doing the dishes. We’ve developed a system where we can prepare freeze-dried meals in any condition, and keep them hot for the next watch. Great effort by Simon, Jocke, and Johan to keep everyone fueled even in difficult conditions.
Supernice downwind sailing during the third night, first with the A2 and later with the A5 when the wind came up during the night. Lots of dark clouds with 20-24 knots of wind.
At Lampedusa we were right behind Rossko Racer (a repeat of 2019 when we battled Sunrise at the exact same location) and managed to make some time on the other boats. We were now 5th in IRC5 and leading ORC5 after Arcona 380 had wrapped their spinnaker around their forestay during the night.
With 90′ of waterline reaching at TWA 80-100 we knew this was mostly about minimizing our losses. Very uncomfortable in a J/111…
Also, was it possible to reach Malta before some really ugly weather hit?
We had a few hours left when we saw some small tornadoes, and the wind went NE and increased.
A bumpy upwind between Comino and Malta before we could lay the finish. Little did we know that the race would be shortened later…
Finally back home!!!
To summarize. We were really struggling up to Messina agisnt the JPKs and the bigger boats in our class, but also from our misjudgment of the wind on the first leg to Sicily. The race is often decided by Messina, and Sunrise did a fantastic job of extending from there.
We should have pushed much harder at Stromboli and taken more risk. Maybe it hadn’t changed anything, and we would have ripped the A5 within the hour. But we would have had better footage 😂
On the upside. We did very well on all the legs after Stromboli, and ended up 1st in ORC5 and 4th in IRC5 (after some of the best boats in the Med). Pretty similar to our result in 2019.
All in all – super happy with our performance, and some important lessons for future races.
|1||J/111||BLUR||576.9||d3 h22 m47 s8|
|2||J/122||JOY-Spartivento||582.2||d3 h23 m27 s28|
|3||Swan 55 Yawl||LULOTTE||596.8||d4 h0 m48 s13|
|4||Arcona 380||KIBOKO TATU||599.6||d4 h0 m59 s48|
|5||J/122||NOISY OYSTER||587.2||d4 h1 m46 s41|
|6||JPK 10.80||ROSSKO||593.6||d4 h2 m0 s24|
|7||Beneteau First 40.7||MALTESE FALCON II||595.9||d4 h3 m45 s28|
|8||G 34 ONE DESIGN||ALFA||588.4||d4 h4 m19 s41|
|9||X-442||MUZYKA²||575.7||d4 h7 m0 s25|
|10||Dehler 41||HOBART||591.6||d4 h16 m46 s5|
|14||Sun Odyssey 40||AMAPOLA II||591.1||DNF|
|1||JPK 1180||SUNRISE||1.099||d3 h7 m32 s12|
|2||JPK 1180||ROSSKO RACER||1.096||d3 h16 m4 s3|
|3||J/122||JOY-Spartivento||1.066||d3 h16 m15 s46|
|4||J/111||BLUR||1.095||d3 h17 m21 s4|
|5||J/122E||BURAN||1.089||d3 h17 m52 s55|
|6||F/irst 40||TEVERE REMO MON ILE||1.099||d3 h17 m57 s53|
|7||J/122e||JUNO||1.091||d3 h18 m5 s54|
|8||J122||NOISY OYSTER||1.074||d3 h18 m27 s4|
|9||J/133||JIVARO||1.094||d3 h18 m36 s53|
|10||Swan 53||BALLYTRIM||1.093||d3 h19 m4 s46|
|11||X-442||MUZYKA²||1.085||d3 h23 m40 s44|
|12||X 4.6||ARTEMIS||1.097||d4 h0 m52 s37|
|13||Fast 42||ATAME||1.074||d4 h7 m49 s10|
|18||Bavaria 42 match||MATCH POINT||1.066||DNF|
|18||Sun Odyssey 40||AMAPOLA II||1.051||DNF|
Just four of us at the prize giving…
Johan Johansson did his first (but hopefully not last) race with the team. A no-nonsense sailor who used to race offshore with Ker 39 Vencom. Great jib trimmer who always pushes for more.
Pelle Pedersen is my doublehanded co-skipper and have been with a team for many years. We’re arguing like an old married couple, but it makes the boat go faster. Watchcaptain.
Peter Gustafsson. Me. Responsible for getting a decent race boat to the starting line. This time also dedicated navigator.
Jocke Cordally was originally signed up for Rolex Middle Sea Race 2018 (!) and finally got a spot on board. Allround sailor who steps up when it becomes rough.
And the others…
Simon Kindt have been with the team forever, and my MVP. Always first onboard to prepare, everything he touches ends up better than before. A skilled bopwman who also makes sure nutrition works. 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 and watchcaptain.
Michael Wahlroos is a Finnish shorthanded sailor (and now also famous for winning the CS50 Nordstream Race as a skipper). He did Aegean 600 with us and now got promoted to watchcaptain. Great with some sisu when it’s blowing 40 knots.
A big thank you to everyone who helped out: B&G, Cyclops Marine, Happy Yachting, Henri Llloyd, North Sails, Liros & Spinlock.
And to all our fans.