Howth sailors endure a gruelling Middle Sea Race

27 October 2014

The early benign conditions that the 122-boat fleet experienced in this year's Rolex Middle Sea Race could not have helped prepare the sailors and their boats for what lay ahead in the latter part of the race. The organisers described the closing 24 hours as 'probably the toughest in the 46 year history of the event'. According to Francesco de Angelis, tactician on defending champion B2 from Italy: “The difficulty of this race is that you never know what the wind is going to do. It’s a long one, with a lot of corners, and the scenario is always changing. You know the wind you will start with, but you don’t know what you will find along the way. It is never easy.” 

Howth was well represented in the race, with a team chartering Lucy Reynolds' Beneteau First 40 'Southern Child' and also with Laura Dillon on the S&S 41 'Winsome'. Laura and her team retired from the race following the extreme weather conditions that the fleet encountered during Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Laura described the conditions as 'frightening' and explained that their team retired in order to avoid damage and injury (or worse) to their boat and crew. (Read her report on 'Winsome's' website here.) Similar discussions were had on board 'Southern Child', but the HYC team rationalised that it was better to continue racing given their remote location (approaching the island of Lampedusa) when the sustained Force 10 winds hit the fleet. They sailed under storm trisail for 24 hours, rotating helms every 30-60 minutes in an effort to maximise progress to windward in the very confused seas and waves up to 30 feet high. Only when they eventually sailed through the finish line in Marsamxett Harbour in Malta did they realise that they finished 6th in their class of 32 boats, with 24 having retired.

Howth's Kieran Jameson, who is one of the most experienced offshore racers in the country said of the weather 'sustained wind strengths of 44 knots for a period of 24 hours really tested the spirit of the crew, and the relentless conditions were some of the most difficult that I've seen'. Fortunately they were up to the task and the team of Kieran, Darren Wright, Colm Bermingham, Frank Dillon, Rick De Nieve, David Wright, Paul Walsh, Jonny White, Will Murray and owner Lucy Reynolds made it back to Malta shaken but not stirred. 

Top: Darren Wright, Kieran Jameson, Frank Dillon, Rick De Nieve, Colm Bermingham - Sitting: David Wright, Laura Dillon & Jonny White


Jonny at the wheel during the calm before....


'The storm' - Kieran viewed through the washboards


The 'Southern Child' team on tour in Valetta


Owner Lucy Reynolds back on shore with HYC's Kieran Jameson


The Ryanair crew joined the celebrations on an entertaining trip home...