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Exceptional Artie Wins Second Rolex Middle Sea Race

ARTIE (MLT) crossing the finish line in Marsamxett Harbour to become winners of the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2014 (Photo: ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo)

10 November 2014

An impressive fleet of 122 yachts from 24 different nationalities took to the start line of the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race set in Grand Harbour creating remarkable expectation and excitment as the cannons of the Saluting Battery at the Upper Barrakka gardens fired the start signals to one of the most prestigious international classic yachting races.

So many powerful boats and strong sailing teams with experiences and victories in prestigious global events where on this 35th Edition, 46 years since the first race was held, the 606-nm legendary racecourse offered everything - Exceptional Conditions, Exceptional Endeavour - a Race which has bestowed upon the fleet all the possible challenges that a yachtsman circumnavigating the world's oceans could face.

In such demanding circumstances it takes a real champion, or should I say a strong team of champions, to face such challenges and conquer all. And Lee Satariano and his crew onboard the Maltese entry J/122 Artie were indeed Excepional Winners of the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race stunningly organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the eminent sponsors Rolex.

Truely a great honour for Satariano whose name was already inscribed in the historic archives of this famous Race which he also won in 2011. Co-skipper with Lee on both victories was Christian Ripard another talented Maltese yachtsman who further to the two Artie's conquests was also overall winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race on two other occasions, namely in 1996 on Big Foot, and in 2001 on Strait Dealer.

Four Wins which make Christian Ripard the Champion with the most number of victories in this sensational Race followed by the Italian Nello Mazzaferro who skippered Nita IV to three consecutive wins in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

And here is how Chris flawlessly described his fifth Rolex Middle Sea Race on J 122 Artie and his 8th together as co skipper with Lee Satariano.

" I like offshore racing with my friends and family, as it's more of an adventure and challenge, rather then when doing it professionally. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but both are demanding in terms of boat prep and individual crew contribution. All in all, they are both similar in terms of work demands and crew commitment.

Obviously when doing it as a professional one must excel in their designated role and is expected to do the job to the best of their ability, as a pro. When one does a campaign as an amateur, then another dynamic is introduced .... passion.
So when we started this years race, all were doing it with great passion to win as amateurs. All are good sailors but more importantly all are mariners with seamanship in their blood, experienced to handle whatever we would get.

From the start, the frame of mind on board was of a very focused team. We knew that this year our competition was even greater then ever before and that we'd have to work hard to secure a decent result.

The first leg to Sicily was a race with no overtaking zones and we found early that our main competition Otra Vez (another J 122 with the exact same rating!) was being sailed very well. On reaching the southeastern most tip of Sicily, the fleet was split into three main groups that where to the west, middle and east of the rumbline. Otra Vez was in the middle group and us in the east group. As the sun went down the wind died for all yachts but started favoring the middle group and who quickly made large gains on the other two groups (west and east groups). After a painful two hours looking at OV disappear over the horizon we were now ten miles behind them before we finally got into the same breeze. This was a blow to us and we knew, would be hard to regain, especially as OV was sailing as fast as we where! This pushed us to concentrate hard at keeping the boat moving (only 3 knots of wind!) and at getting all the ‘shifts' right. By morning we had closed to gap (behind OV) to six miles and were moving better then a lot of boats around us, in the light downwind conditions. By the time we got to the Messina Straits we had closed the gap to three miles and getting closer with every gybe. On exiting the straits we found a large number of yachts (approx. 70) spread wide from east to west covering a large area all trying to get the best angle to still light running downwind with our A1 asymmetric and still gaining.

The leg to Stromboli is crucial and big gains can be made......if you read the signs correctly....which we did very well and calculated that we actually overtook around 60 yachts by the time we got to Strombolicio (the turning point).....and only one hundred meters behind OV. We had gained the ten miles we lost in 24hrs!

At this stage we also knew that the next longest leg to Capo San Vito would be the race decider and worked very hard (very little sleep) to keep the boat moving and head northwest for the forecasted N Westerlies due to arrive in 30 hrs.

With good crew work (skill) and constant watch on our competition we edged forward on the fleet albeit very slowly to gain a few crucial miles on our nearest rivals on the water....a TP 52, Swan 82, Marten 49 and five other larger race yachts, so that when the first little signs of the NW came we started multiplying our advantage with every minute and gained enough on OV to round C S Vito fifteen miles ahead and also leading all the Class 3 yachts (we are Class 4) as well, boat for boat!

This was our winning move.

Once we rounded Favignana we had 25knots TWS at 120 TWA and started to put on the miles on our competition. The lead we had of fifteen miles translated to around 35/40 miles in front of OV and counting by the time they rounded the corner behind us.

The advantages of having a talented and experienced crew is that when we did get the breeze (40 to 50+ TWS) and large seas (8 to 10 meters) we handled the boat without any dramas and or damage, only ripping the JT out the foil twice and broaching (a few times!) plus losing our wind instrument at the top of the rig, only to settle down with our storm jib and two reefs in the main (still over powered at times!) and be sure that we did actually finish the race. We did not have to push the boat but we were still racing and didn't actually know at the time that we were hours ahead of all our competition.

Basically we sailed from Favignana to the finish line in approx 25hrs!...nearly half the race...not bad going for a bunch of amateurs!

If you don't have a good team, you just won't get through it or you will break things and when it comes down to it, this team proved excellent", observed the veteran yachtsman Chris Ripard.

The proud winner Lee Satariano believes that "The Rolex Middle Sea Race 2014 will definitely be a race to remember for many years to come not only cause of Artie's success but especially to the conditions of the race from the start till the end. "

"Christian...he's an inspiration with so much offshore experience on the highest level and a skillful sailor! Sebastian other co skipper of Artie brought that other extra edge on board when it came to tactics..." yet Lee's biggest applause went to the people who sailed Artie to its second victory.

"Factors to make it a winning boat is the crew...every crew member just excelled in his role and together the right formulae evolved...a well prepared boat is the final factor!" - and on this 35th Edition certainly a World Class Offshore Classic, Artie's winning team was made up Lee Satariano (owner-skipper), Chris Ripard (Co-skipper), Sebastian Ripard (2nd Co-skipper), Tim Davis, Thomas Ripard, Mathieu Almekinders, Sam Pizzuto, Matthew Gusman, and Gordon Bugeja.

Good Show Boys - You made Malta proud!

For further details, please contact:
Wilfred Sultana & Associates Co. Limited
P.O. Box 24,
Gzira GZR 1001
Tel: 2131 4956
Mob: 9907 1949