EXCLUSIVE Middle Sea Race, the storm as told by those who faced it

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imageNo one would have expected such a dramatic change in weather conditions at the Rolex Middle Sea Race: no one. Not even the crew of Peppe Fornich’s Grand Soleil 37 Sagola Biotrading: Paolo Codeluppi, from aboard, tells us about the experience. The rising wind, the changing of sails, the painful choice to retire. With the knowledge that they did the right thing.

SEE PHOTOS FROM ABOARD SAGOLA BIOTRADING

MY 40 HOURS IN SICKLE CELL
“As the weather forecast predicted, the west enters. Already at the height of Palermo, the wind was beginning to ease and we went from flake 1 to flake 2. Scapoliamo Levanzo late Tuesday evening, with a foothold that allows us to sail on course toward Pantelleria. The wind picks up, and I have just in time to go and dress appropriately for what, without knowing it, will become my 40 hours in the sickle cell. I do in fact go up on duty at 4 am. On Monday night in front of the Aeolian Islands in an absolute calm. Once resting for Pantelleria we quickly switch to jib 3. This morning we are already at 30 knots and the boat is scoring highs of 16 riding the wave. Information received gives us first in fifth IRC class and fourth behind Esimit in overall. The wind strengthens to the point, after seeing the boom repeatedly in the water, to remove the mainsail completely. We are traveling across with 32-35 knots constant westerly. But the most impressive thing is the rising sea. You quickly switch from the sickle position, for balance, to the cockpit position, for safety.

SOME ABANDONED BOATS
We see a few boats around us of which a couple are dry-sailed. I don’t see the occupants but find out later that some boats have been abandoned. The wind picks up and after jib 3 we mount the tormentor: an orange handkerchief that allows us to always travel above seven knots with peaks of 12 in favor of the wave. The waves are as high as houses: no less than 7 to 8 meters, and the windex reaches near 50 knots. The boat takes powerful broadsides on the broadside and several times lies down with its spreaders in the water.

THE COURAGE TO RETREAT
We arrive late in the evening at the Lampedusa gate and the captain makes a bold choice: despite the first place in IRC class 5 that we are holding, he commands that we enter the harbor where we meet several other boats. The weather forecast gives wind strength 9-10 and very rough seas. It is expected to drop to force seven on Friday, and this will allow us to get off to a safe start. Often choosing to give up is braver than continuing to run. With bitterness in our mouths but the knowledge that we made the right choice we enter port before midnight Wednesday. Here ends our Rolex where, when you’re small, you don’t just need a trained crew and a fast hull, but a lot more courage than on a 30-meter mega boat where everything is consumed under you and not around you.”

Paolo Codeluppi

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