Photo Credit: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo. Portions of article thanks to Royal Malta Yacht Club 2012.
On the morning of October 20th, a record 83 yachts from 19 different countries started the 606-mile, 33rd annual Rolex Middle Sea Race in the Maltese capital of Valletta.
The fleet, including Quantum customers Nick Lazos and Periklis Livas on their Farr 52, Optimum 3 Aspida, departed in champagne sailing conditions as a brisk south easterly breeze propelled the fleet toward Sicily and on to the Strait of Messina, until the wind faded on the first night close to Stromboli. This was the first of many “re-starts” in the race, as a high-pressure system settled over Sicily creating long periods of calm weather. Maxi Esimit Europa 2 from Slovenia, hoisted a man up the rig, in a desperate search for breeze. Ran had become a serious threat for line honors in the race but the Slovenian Maxi found some wind and escaped from Stromboli in the lead. Meanwhile the rest of the fleet were desperately seeking breeze to make Favignana, the northwest corner of the racecourse. Utilizing the fresh northwesterly winds became a crucial part of the race.
On the morning of Day Two, the majority of the fleet were trapped in whispers of wind trying to reach the fresh breeze to the west of Sicily.
By Day Three, Ran was flying down the western coast of Sicily, extending over 7 miles on rival Mini Maxi Stig. Ran’s great pace was rewarded, as they became the overall handicap leader. Artie RTFX could only watch as their dreams of winning for the second year running were fading fast. However, South African entry Hi Fidelity and the Greek team on Optimum 3 Aspida, powered by a full inventory of Quantum sails, were also into the favorable wind and were challenging for the overall victory.
On Day Four, The 100-ft Maxi, Esimit Europa 2 crossed the finish line at The Royal Malta Yacht Club at 01:13.15 CEST, sealing a third straight, line honors win.
In the early hours of Day Five, a massive thunderstorm and torrential rain engulfed Malta, and Nick Lazos and Periklis Livas on Optimum 3 Aspida crossed the finish line at 03:00 to lead Class Two and the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall. However, the Greek team’s tenure on this extra-ordinary race was very short lived. At 04:18 Eddie De Villiers’ Welbourne 46, Hi Fidelity crossed the finish line to take the overall lead in the race. In the driving storm, the South African crew, soaked to the skin, looked astonished to find out that they were hot favorites to win the overall prize for the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
By the afternoon of Day Five, it became clear that none of the yachts still racing could top Hi Fidelity’s corrected time and Hi Fidelity were announced as the overall winners. The team from South Africa became the ninth different country to provide a winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy joining yachts from Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In the early hours of Day Six, Josef Schultheis' & Paolo Semeraro's Xp44, XP-ACT crossed the finish line. The team had come desperately close to beating Hi Fidelity but had to settle for a win in Class 3 and third overall. XP-ACT had three Maltese crew on board. However, Artie RTFX with an all-Malta crew became the first Maltese boat to cross the finish line and win Class 4.
On Day 7, The Rolex Middle Sea Race came to a fairy tale conclusion for the Irish Two Handed team racing Dinah. There were emotional scenes dockside at The Royal Malta Yacht Club, as Irish sailors Barry Hurley and Andrew Boyle sailed home in their 35ft yacht to win the double handed class, they finished just 25 minutes inside the time limit after seven days of tense racing.
In the end, Quantum customers Nick Lazos and Periklis Livas, on Farr 52 Optimum 3 Aspida, finished 1st in the ORCI category and 4th overall in the IRC category. The Grand Prize Giving for the 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race took place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta. Guest of Honour, Tourism Minister Mario de Marco, described the Rolex Middle Sea Race as the most prestigious international event in Malta.