After a breezy start with the wind speed touching over 20 knots, the entire fleet competing in the 2011 Rolex Middle Sea Race made excellent progress through the night and early morning.
However the wind speed has begun to decrease and many yachts are struggling to stay in good pressure as they approach the Strait of Messina. Good news for the majority of the fleet is that they have favourable current for now but unless the wind picks up, as the tide turns, those who do not escape the tidal gate at Messina will lose ground on those that have. It is worth noting that the depth at the top of strait is extremely deep with significant tidal flow.
The Slovenian Maxi, Esimit Europa 2 skippered by Jochen Schuman have rounded Stromboli and was in good pressure early morning, surfing along at 15 knots along the North coast of Sicily. Niklas Zennstrom's JV72, Rán are in second place on the water, having totally broken away from the pack but even after time correction Rán are hours behind Esimit Europa 2 for the overall lead. Both of these yachts look to be struggling for breeze later in the day and may not experience much in the way of sea breeze to the north of Sicily.
Maltese Ker 53, Dralion skippered by Pit Finis has had a fantastic first 24 hours. There nearest rivals on handicap is the German yacht, Speedy skippered, only a mile separate these two on the water. In a light southerly breeze, both are hugging the Italian mainland hoping to benefit from the effects of sea breeze later today. Italian entry Cantankerous and Norwegian Swan 82, Nikata are in the leading pack but are behind Dralion and Speedy on handicap.
Paola Podesta's Italian Grand Soleil 50, One lead the class on the water by a substantial margin but Maltese Xp 44 Vikesha, skippered by Timmy Camilleri and Oleg Evdokimenko is still very much in touch and Vikesha's lighter hull and bow sprit configuration may be an advantage in lighter conditions today.
The largest class of 23 yachts is also producing probably the most competitive battle after the first 24 hours. Three overseas yachts look to be contesting the class lead. Renso Grotessi's X-40 Pita Maha, Roberto Bruno's Canard 41, Aurora, both from Italy and Milan Hajek's First 40.7 Three Sisters from the Czech Republic. These three yachts are challenging for the class lead but the battle in the class is too close to call.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is organised in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.