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Black Pearl and Wild Joe finish top of their class in the Rolex Middle Sea Race

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This year’s 40th Rolex Middle Sea Race was an all or nothing affair in terms of wind. The 113 competing yachts faced challenging and varying conditions, ranging from very light air making a painfully slow initial 48 hours for most of the fleet, to gusts up to 30 knots and a building sea state with boats smashing upwind towards the end. Of the yachts carrying Doyle sails, the race saw them improve on their 2018 results.

Black Pearl

Black Pearl*, the Carkeek 47, owned by Stefan Jentzsch competed in IRC class 2 and crossed the line at the top of its class, but it wasn’t an easy ride. “This boat is built for reaching and downwind more than upwind, so whenever we go upwind it is like a rodeo. You get bounced around, it’s hard to catch a nap and it’s even harder to cook. Boiling water becomes a hazard,” explained Jentzsch when the boat docked. “It was tough, but every year there is a tough part and that is what we like about the Rolex Middle Sea Race. It was a fun race!”

Black pearl
Black Pearl carries a Doyle mainsail, J3, Cable less GS and Cable-less Code 0 © ROLEX/ Kurt Arigo

On board was Luke Molloy, Doyle Sails Grand Prix Sails Consultant, who is always in demand on the racing circuit. He explains how last year’s Middle Sea Race disaster actually helped the crew this year.

“Black Pearl suffered a broken mast in the Middle Sea Race 2018 and we took the opportunity to optimise the new mast and sail package using Doyle Sails' design tools. This resulted in quite a different setup to the previous aero package and the end result of winning class 2 was the ultimate payback,” he says.

The team saw great performance from their new cableless MH0 and cableless GS, which were manufactured in the Palma loft in Mallorca. The offshore mainsail and J3 were manufactured in the Auckland loft, where the speciality is Grand Prix finishing – the sails looked perfect and performed flawlessly.

“We sailed the boat at over 95 percent performance for the entire race, which is a great effort by the whole crew. Many of the original team members commented on how much better and faster the boat sails now she’s been optimised with a new mast and sails,” adds Molloy.

“The race is a favourite of Black Pearl and we are planning on competing again next year with a new, slightly bigger version. As a result of this, Black Pearl is currently for sale and we would like to race against her next year!”

Black Pearl finished with an elapsed time of: d3 h20 m8 s55, and a corrected time of: d5 h3 m1 s6.

Wild Joe

Wild Joe, a 2002 RP60 skippered by Marton Jozsa, finished fifth in IRC class 1. Wild Joe's strategist is Stu Bannatyne, the only sailor to have won four editions of the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Race. He is also Doyle Sails Grand Prix Race Sales & Projects specialist.

Bannatyne explains that the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race was probably the best outing for the Wild Joe team this year, and was a culmination of many months of preparation. “In last year’s race we were forced to retire with hydraulic issues so it was very pleasing to complete this year’s race without any equipment failures,” he says.

The forecast was not ideal for Wild Joe, although a light-air first half was looking promising and the boat managed to hold second place on the water for the monohulls for a long time, and lead in IRC overall in the early stages.

Wj
Wild Joe during the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race

“The wind gods however did not play ball, and we narrowly missed out on slipping through with Rambler to the next wind line while north of Sicily,” says Bannatyne.

“Instead we parked and watched with dismay as a large number of smaller boats brought breeze right up to us before we all got going again. We soldiered on to the finish upwind – close reaching in 15-20 knots – definitely not the preferred conditions for the skinny Wild Joe!”

Wild Joe had a full set of Doyle sails for this year’s race. “Although we didn’t get to use them all and sadly missed out on any fast reaching and running where we could have used the high-speed specialist reaching sails with the DSS foil, the all-round inventory worked well for us,” says the strategist.

“Special mention must go to the masthead code zero – last seen wrapped around the keel during this year’s Giraglia Race after a halyard lock failure – the sail was rebuilt by the team at Doyle Sails NZ and was back as good as new. We flew it for many hours in the first half of the race before giving way to the new set of jibs which we used for the last few hundred miles.”

This time thankfully there was no sail damage, and a happy owner and team arrived back in Malta with an elapsed time of: d3 h16 m43 s3, and corrected time of: d5 h13 m25 s52.

Middle Sea Race Facts

Organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC), the Rolex Middle Sea Race covers 606 nautical miles, setting off from Grand Harbour in Malta which is overlooked by the old fortified city of Valletta. Famed for its shifting wind conditions, the race also takes the yachts past iconic active volcanoes Mount Etna and Stromboli.

The overall winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is decided by the best corrected time under the IRC Rating Rule.

This year, Maltese yacht Elusive 2, skippered by the Podesta family, and the American Maxi Rambler, owned by the record-breaking George David, celebrated victories, with Rambler taking line honours and Elusive winning overall.

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