08 Nov 2017
The crew of Elliott 35 ft Crusader tell us about their Rolex Middle Sea Race 2017
Unpredicted circumstances saw a last minute change to the crew and meant unfortunately we started without Ant on board.
Starting with an amazing backdrop, in much larger company, although not quite the same scale as Fastnet, we were the little boat that had people wondering if we got our start time wrong...
With not the best start, but a quick beat out the Harbour and a two mile A3 reach along the coast to a rounding mark, we were off towards Sicily, and had already passed 3 boats in our division.
The leg to Sicily started with cracked sheets in 14-16 knots on the J2 which slowly died and went aft allowing us to carry the MH0 to the corner. We elected to work a higher line to try and avoid the park up that was showing on the grins. Some boats set chutes and were not seen again.....We managed to sneak along in very light breeze, and only stopped for about 30mins, making good ground on the fleet ahead. We carried the MH0 and then A3, when a light Westerly filled in, most of the evening until the forecast Northerly built, around 3am. We changed down from the MH0 and sailed on the J2 until morning of day 2 and then J3 for a few hours until the breeze eased as we beat towards Messena.
We had lost touch with the 50s in our division, but could still see Maverick the infinity 46 from div 1 until the straits of Messena about 3-4 miles ahead. We had a good battle with a Swan 53 and 56 and a few others as we short tacked up the coast against the southerly tidal flow. We cleared the straits in the late afternoon and set the MH0 for the 40mile leg to Stromboli. About 10 miles across we parked as the light easterly faded before the forecast Mistral started to fill in. We took the chance to eat, and get everything tidied up knowing we were in for a windier.... second half of the race.
The forecast SWly filled in ahead of the Mistral and we had a quick MH0 reach before the W-NW Mistral developed. This filled in at just before 9, straight into 18-20 and building just as we approached Stromboli. The weather and cloud along with lightning and thunder overshadowed the fact we were rounding an active volcano. We had put the J4 on in the park up based on the forecast and it was the correct move. We sailed on port a couple of hours until the forecast right hand shift and tacked over headed for the Trapani corner of Sicily. 120nm at 45 true away, or about 15-16 hours. The Mistral built through the night and we slowly added reefs to all sails until we were on our J5 and triple reefed main.
We caught a boat ahead and watched them pull out as we passed, but didn’t know the extent of boats retiring with damage or because of the weather until after the finish. The sea state was pretty messy with 3m plus wind swell from varied directions with the breeze was averaging in the high 20’s and gusting into the mid 30’s making driving difficult and sleeping nearly impossible as getting tossed into the bunk above was common.... It was touch and go on laying the last point but a late 20 degree right shift meant we could finally get rolling and started to see good numbers as the angle freed up and we bore away around Trapani to the Isole Egadi. We set the FR0 after clearing the second island and started ticking off miles. This was the start of a quick and wild ride. A3 and full main was set at Pantellaria with top speeds in the high 20s with breeze still gusting to the low 30s and clouds brining big squalls and shifts making driving difficult. By day light we were rounding Lampedusa and headed towards Malta. The angle was better than expected and allowed for a quick reach with a reefed main and J2 at 100-110 TWA. The breeze built again into the high 20s as we approached Gozo hitting up to 20knots boatspeed. We exited the strait between Malta and Comino and set the A3 for the last 10 miles to the finish. We could make out the Kerr 46 Tonnere de glen in the distance and we caught and passed before the finish as they unfortunately had a boom problems. We finished with an official time of 3 days 4 hours and 18 minutes and were the smallest boat to finish 9th over the line with only 32 out of just under 100 boats that started finishing.
Well done to the crew and thanks for all the support! Thanks Anthony Leighs for letting us continue with the race without you! It was a fantastic race that won’t be forgotten and really showed what the great little boat can take!
Image Rolex Fastnet 2017 Carlo Borlenghi