Malta’s Grand Harbour performed some magic Saturday, as an assembled 118 yachts set off on the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race.
While cannon fire aloft marked each start, whispering zephyrs greeted the crews at water level. Would there be sufficient breeze to exit the harbour was the key concern.
As it was, all seven starting groups got away cleanly, with several yachts putting down markers as they made the best of what wind was available.
At the start, though, it was Leopard 3 that set the final departure of the day alight.
Using massive sail area to carve a decisive path towards the breakwaters at the entrance to Grand Harbour, the Farr 100 led by Chris Sherlock was a majestic sight for the well-wishers.
By 16:00 CEST Saturday, progress has been as expected: exacting and demanding, as the crews representing 24 countries do their best to navigate between fluctuating cells of pressure that litter the channel between Malta and Sicily.
At the front, the five maxi multihulls are leading the way, with debutante Frank Slootman’s Snowflake making the early running.
Among the monohulls, the tracker showed Elusive II to be ahead on elapsed time by virtue of a fast departure from Grand Harbour and the most northerly positioning on the rhumb line to the finish.
Big picture observation day 1:
The entire fleet appears to have sailed east of the rhumb line, aiming to find more breeze.
The first big tactical decision will be when to time the gybe north to maintain best progress to Capo Passero. The forecast suggested steady wind overnight up much of the eastern seaboard of Sicily.