Doyle-powered yachts dominate the podium in the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race. Far 100, Leopard 3, skippered by Chris Sherlock, crossed the finished line on Tuesday 25th October to take Monohull Line Honours in an elapsed time of 70 hours, 34 minutes and 29 seconds. In blazing sunshine, the massive spinnaker bearing the unmistakable logo of the famous maxi was lowered at the Fairway Buoy and the international crew hit the rail for the short beat to finish.
Three minutes later, a second crescendo with the arrival of Andrea Recordati’s Wally 93 Bullitt.
Leopard 3 is rolling back the years to join an exclusive group of four other yachts to have secured line honours on three or more occasions. While Rambler 88 remains the most successful, with five successive wins, this result was remarkable for skipper Chris Sherlock who first raced the course in 1997 and Joost Schultz, one of the crew, on his first-ever Rolex Middle Sea Race.
This is the third time Leopard 3, skippered by Chris Sherlock, has participated in the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the second time it has been the first monohull home, winning the RLR Trophy.
“It is emotional to take line honours after three days and nights of racing,” commented Joost Schultz. “There have been lots of ups and downs and surprises. This race has many twists and turns around every corner, including getting caught in fishing nets.
“On the first night, it was really light winds, we could not see the dolphins around the boat, but we could hear them breathing through their blowholes. We were lucky enough to go around Stromboli in the daytime, and we could see the lava rolling down the mountain. Many times, we felt like we were at one with nature.”
Leopard 3 had a superb start and led the monohull fleet all the way to Capo Passero and through the Messina Strait, where it experienced strong winds over 20 knots. However, on the leg to Stromboli, a broken sail and an entanglement with a fishing net cost Leopard 3 the lead, as Andrea Recordati’s Wally 93 Bullitt (ITA) raced past.
It took Leopard 3 until just after Palermo to catch up with Bullitt. Once its prey was caught, Leopard kept a vice-like grip to the finish. Bullitt crossed the finish just under an hour behind Leopard 3 on elapsed time. “Even this year with light winds, it is physically and mentally tiring, but for me to do this race with a very good professional crew is a real honour,” explained Schultz. “We were not always leading the race, but it is never over until you cross the finish line.”
From a tactical and navigational perspective, the race played out as expected by Will Best and Mitch Booth, who confirmed that the forecasts at the start of the race came to pass. There were localised moments of strong conditions, such as during the Messina Strait and at the Egadi Islands, but overall, it was a light wind race. The conditions from Lampedusa were better than expected and made life a little easier. Leopard 3 was able to maintain a loose cover on Bullitt, offering no passing opportunities and not over-stretching crew or equipment.
Follow the Rolex Middle Sea Race here.
Image Credits // Alex Turnbull and Kurt Arrigo
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