'I think these Farrs are very fast boats in light air,' commented Nabatea's skipper Jef CHEVALIER. 'For this race it is a good boat to have.' A Greek-owned Farr 52 Optimum 3 won the Rolex Middle Sea Race last year. Nabatea sailed an excellent race making their break as they came out of the Strait of Messina. They then benefited from being in front, sailing into stronger wind before their rivals. This was despite having blown out their light spinnaker as they entered the Strait. 'We were downstairs repairing it, sewing it by hand for hours and hours until we were finally able to finish the race with the proper spinnaker for light airs,' said CHEVALIER.
Nick LYKIARDOPULO's Ker 55 Aera with Olympic triple medalist Ben AINSLIE (GBR) on board, arrived at 02:28:20 yesterday morning, but with a higher rating than Nabatea, she is at present fourth overall on corrected time.
Fifth home was the first of the two Volvo Ocean 60s, the Croatian AAG Big One. 'It was a slow race: cruising actually, sunny and nice weather,' said skipper Marko MURTIC. 'After Stromboli we were parked for about 20 hours. We were match racing with Aera for a while and then we split during the night and in the morning they were 20 miles ahead - it was really a disappointment.'
Otherwise MURTIC was happy with his crew's performance. 'We were here two years ago and that was an on-off wind race - 40-50 knots of wind and then nothing. On that occasion we'd only bought the boat maybe two or three months before. This time we knew the boat well and we had a really good crew but there wasn't really the opportunity to show what we could do.'
Due to the lack of wind, a large group of boats were heading back to Malta under power yesterday. While twelve boats had pulled out from the race by Wednesday afternoon, so this number has increased to 28 yesterday. Most of those retirees had been becalmed on the leeward side of Pantelleria. They started their engines when their crews realized that with the forecast for continued light winds they would not be able to reach the Valletta finish line before the deadline of 0800 local time tomorrow.
Two boats still sailing and having an intense, albeit relatively slow match race were David FRANKS' J/125 Strait Dealer and the Swan 62RS Constanter of Willem MESDAG. On Wednesday night the big American Swan was ahead, but she had been overtaken by the Maltese yacht yesterday morning shortly before rounding Lampedusa.
'We have had long patches of doing nothing,' admitted FRANKS. 'Last night was good for us. We were averaging probably five or six sail changes per hour - from drifter and code zero, up and down. We were squeezing everything out of it we could.
'This is my fourth [Rolex Middle Sea Yacht Race] and is clearly the longest,' continued FRANKS. 'In fact it is the longest any of our crew has done. Breakfast yesterday was our last full meal. Since then we've been on half rations. We have five small bottles of water left for each of us for the rest of the race.'
On Wednesday night they made good progress when they encountered a small thundercloud. 'We had this cloud which rained on us and then went away,' commented Strait Dealer's navigator Graham SUNDERLAND. Yesterday afternoon they had five knots of wind from just north of due east.
A short distance away there has been disaster on Constanter - no cake! 'We have some lovely fresh baked bread with a few nuts and things in. We are all freshly showered so that is nice. We're not running out of supplies. But according to the sign on the fridge we are low on milk so no more lattes,' commented navigator Campbell FIELD.
FIELD says information in the forecasts he has seen varies for the final stretch back to the Comino passage and then round to the finish line in Marsamxett Harbour. But he is expecting the wind to veer and to build slightly this evening. 'That should turn into a gain for us and more wind would definitely be a gain for us.'
Another boat, the Bavaria 46 Flying Colours sailed two handed by Anthony CAMILLERI and Kevin Gauci MAISTRE, reports they are determined to continue sailing, 'We have only just got enough wind to keep on going. The few Maltese boats still racing have given us their full support and so our morale has gone up again. We are hoping we will make the time limit but this is not an easy task. Wind is all we need - mercy from the gods of the wind.'
24 yachts from the original fleet of 58 are still racing, with 28 having retired and six having finished.