The team of «Bogatyr Igor» Rytov became the absolute winner of the offshore Rolex Middle Sea Race. The Russian crew covered 606 miles in 3 days 20 hours 21 minutes at corrected time.
The last time a yacht of this size won an RMSR in 2002 was the J/109 Market Wizard of local yachtsmen John Ripard Jr. and Andrew Calassione.
The current Rolex Middle Sea Race has fully confirmed its reputation as one of the most challenging regattas in the Mediterranean, with only 35 yachts out of 104 reaching the finish line. This race is called the toughest since 2007, when only 15 boats finished.
The regatta was held in two stages. The slow, heavy passage up the east coast of Sicily through the Strait of Messina to one of the symbols of the race - the volcanic island Stromboli - was replaced by storm conditions on the west coast of Sicily. Mistral raged all the way back to Malta. In the Lampedusa area, wind gusts reached 45 knots.
«This was the hardest race I've ever been in," comments James Blackmore, owner of Swan 53 Music, who ended up coming in second. - At one point, we caught a 45-knot squall at the Lampedoosa. It started raining, everything seemed unreal. A magical race».
It was the heavy displacement Music, well prepared for storm conditions, that became «Bogatyr's main rival in the» fight for an absolute victory. On the fourth day Music managed to take the lead for a few hours, but her dreams of victory were crushed by the tenacity of the crew of Igor Rytov. At the last 200 miles, Bogatyr «»showed the maximum he could do, and as a result, he was six and a half minutes ahead of Music.
«For us, this is the second Rolex Middle Sea Race and the heaviest offshore we have had so far. It was very difficult, especially at night, when you can't see the sea well enough, look away and a multi-storey house rolls over you. Even professionals thought it was the last race for themselves," says Igor Rytov, owner of the Russian team. - On the last stretch we realized that there was a chance to win. I told the team that we must do everything possible and impossible, and the last 3 hours we squeezed the maximum.
«It was a very hard, unbelievable race. We worked 24 hours non-stop at maximum. We are proud to be the first Russian team in history to win the race -»echoed by the crew tactician Konstantin Besputin.
«We practiced a lot together, having met for the first time 5 years ago," said Dmitry Kondratyev in an interview after the race. - My advice for other sailors who are going to participate in the RMSR in a crew of two - think twice. Prepare yourself well. The right decisions regarding details - sails, ropes - can make the race easier. You need to have a good rest, eat and drink water. Otherwise you will quickly get tired and lose concentration.
Jamie Sammut, a member of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, is a veteran of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, but the 2017 race was disappointing for his team at the 42-foot Unica, which decided to leave the race:
«After the Stromboli was rounded, the squalls rolled up every 15-20 minutes. Not far from Alicudi, we saw that some boats had turned over. We're here to have fun, not act in survival mode. One thing pulls another like a domino effect, so it was a wise decision. Taking off the race after two months of preparation is painful, but sometimes Mother Nature is stronger. We don't regret anything.
To get out of the race - this decision flashed in the minds of the 50 foot Fidanzata crew for a moment. For the third night, the crew decided to take shelter off the coast of Palermo and take a little respite to regroup and assess the weather conditions.
«We spent some time rebuilding and made a collective decision that we would continue. We are glad that we were able to finish this tough race. It is an invaluable experience»," said Fidanzata crew member Andreas Brugger.