Under brilliant blue skies and active seas today, the fleet of 38 boats from 11 countries started the 2023 ORC European Championship hosted by the Royal Malta Yacht Club with a brisk “majjistral” wind, the local term for breeze from the northwest that funnels between Sicily and Tunisia. This brisk breeze of 14-20 knots helped propel the teams in all three classes in a fast initial phase of their courses set for completion in 24-36 hours.
The 10 entries in Class A have a 186-mile course that from the start off Valletta first winds around the southern coast of Malta, rounds the small island of Filfla, then unwinds back to the east then northeast on a long leg towards a special purpose buoy set off the Marina di Ragusa at southern tip of Sicily. From there the Class A fleet heads southwest to a mark at the northwest end of the island of Gozo, where they then head southeast to round Malta to port, take a 13-mile leg past Valletta to Comino, then back to a picturesque finish line set in Valletta harbor between the Bastion and Tigne Point.
Leading this pack is the TP 52 BEAU GESTE, owned by Hong Kong-based Karl Kwok and an international team organized by Gavin Brady (NZL/USA). Chasing this reigning ORC Class A World Champion team is local-based Aaron Gatt Floridia with is ICE 52 RS OTRA VEZ, with another local team, Lee Satariano’s HH 42 ARTIE III, not far behind at 1830 CET.
The 19 entries in Class B have a 151-mile course to sail which also included a tour of southern Malta, but without going as far as Filfla before heading off to Ragusa. From there they go directly to Comino without the lap around Malta via Gozo, do a lap around buoys east of Valletta, before heading to the finish line.
The pack in Class B has been tight, with multiple lead changes on the headsail reaching leg to Ragusa made between several Club Swan 42’s – Renzo Grottesi’s (ITA) BE WILD, Tomas Dolezal’s (CZE) DARING SISTERS, Aivar Tuulberg’s (EST) KATARIINA II, Valentin Oeru’s (ROU) SETSAIL and Nicola De Gemmis’s (ITA) MORGAN V – as well as Stergios Leontaridis’s (GRE) Farr 40 ELLINIX FARR AWAY and Ermono Galeati’s (ITA) Grand Soleil 43 REVE DE VIE.
Tommaso Chieffi, tactician on Claudio Terrieri’s (ITA) Swan 45 BLUE SKY, said this race will be complicated due to the initial windy conditions followed by light air shifting to the east and southeast tonight.
“We will first try to not break anything when its windy,” he said. “Then as wind gets lighter towards Ragusa and on the way back towards Gozo this will become a more tactical light air downwind race. We need to remember to pace ourselves and keep our team rested to perform at their best. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”