Day two: Hold the Föhn

Malta Independent - - SPORTS -

Af­ter scorch­ing around the early part of the course, cov­er­ing over half of the 608 nau­ti­cal-mile course in just 24 hours, Lloyd Thorn­burg's Amer­i­can MOD70 Phaedo3 and Gio­vanni Sol­dini's Ital­ian MOD70 Maserati have come to a rel­a­tive grind­ing halt. Af­ter sus­tain­ing speeds of over 20 knots en route from Strom­boli, the pair ‘hit the wall’ just be­fore San Vito Lo Capo on the North West tip of Si­cily.

This 'pit-stop' was to Maserati's ini­tial gain. Hav­ing been around ten miles be­hind Phaedo3 for much of the leg, the Ital­ian team kept a more northerly route, were able to hold bet­ter pres­sure longer and ac­tu­ally over­hauled their ri­vals. The joy was short lived as Phaedo3’s coast-hug­ging tac­tics ap­pear to have en­able them to slip into new stronger breeze as they round the cor­ner and start to head south.

This lack of wind north of Si­cily can be at­trib­uted to a low pres­sure sys­tem in the At­lantic, which is lit­er­ally suck­ing warm air out of the Mediter­ranean and up over the Alps into parts of north­ern Europe. Cur­rently in Zer­matt, the tem­per­a­ture is higher than usual for the time of year. The southerly wind ex­pe­ri­enced in the alpine re­sort con­firms this trend in the south­ern Mediter­ranean. The wind ef­fect is known lo­cally in Switzer­land as a “Föhn”, a generic term for "hairdryer".

The “hairdryer” is hav­ing a con­sid­er­able ef­fect on the bat­tle for both line hon­ours and the over­all win in the mono­hull fleet.

Ge­orge David's Amer­i­can Maxi Ram­bler 88 is in an epic bat­tle to main­tain their po­si­tion at the front of the mono­hull fleet. In an ef­fort to skirt the wind­less hole that trapped the mul­ti­hulls and which is fore­cast to ex­pand east­ward, Ram­bler 88 ini­tially dived south af­ter round­ing Strom­boli and is now head­ing off­shore away from Filicudi. The pur­su­ing pack of yachts con­tinue to snap at her heels. The Dan­ish Volvo 70 Tri­fork, with Bouwe Bekking at the helm, is a mere three miles astern. Clarke Mur­phy's Car­bon Ocean 82 Ae­gir is five miles be­hind. Per­haps even worse, at least in the minds of the Ram­bler crew, Mar­ton Jozsa’s Hun­gar­ian RP60 Wild Joe, Max­i­m­il­ian Klink's Swiss Botin 65 Caro, Vin­cenzo Ono­rato’s Cookson 50 Mas­cal­zone Latino and Quentin Ste­wart's In­finiti 46 Mav­er­ick are all within ten miles of the pre­race Line Hon­ours favourite.

The stakes are high. Those yachts con­nect­ing with the southerly off the western seaboard of Si­cily will have an ad­van­tage over the rest of the fleet strug­gling to head west. If so the sce­nario will have a tremen­dous im­pact on the con­test for the over­all win on cor­rected time.

The tac­ti­cally chal­leng­ing con­di­tions on the first night were used well by sev­eral smaller yachts in­clud­ing Lee Satar­i­ano's Mal­tese J/122 Ar­tie, which was lead­ing the fleet at Messina and has made good progress to­wards Strom­boli. How­ever, if as ex­pected, the wind­less zone on the course spreads east along the north­ern coast of Si­cily, these slower yachts may find their podium prospects se­verely dented. Of course, this is yacht rac­ing, there is much to play for and no one is giv­ing up just yet.

Of the 16 mono­hulls that have rounded Strom­boli, Eric de Tur­ck­heim's French A13 Teas­ing Ma­chine is cur­rently lead­ing un­der IRC, just ahead of Mas­cal­zone Latino.

For more in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing pic­tures, videos and blogs from the com­peti­tors please visit: www.rolexmid­dle­sear­

Maserati Photo: Roberto Runza

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