Fellow SYC Member Mike Keusgen and myself were very fortunate to have again joined SYC Member Robi Stauber and his team of Finnish sailors to participate in the just completed Palermo-Monaco Yacht Race. The last couple of years has seen some great racing and fun times in Europe as Robi and his Finnish crew (and a couple of Aussies) look to qualify for the 2019 Fastnet Race. This has seen us compete in the Rolex 50th Swan World Cup in Porto Cervo in 2016, the 2017 Rolex Middle Sea Race (from Malta around Sicily and return) and now the 2018 Palermo-Monaco race.
We raced with a crew of 15, which apart from Michael and myself, was predominantly made up of Finns, all very accomplished and experienced sailors. More importantly they are all great guys and fun to be with, however Finnish is not the easiest language to understand when the pressure is on!
The race is approximately 480km in length and sets a course north-west from Sicily to a gate at Porto Cervo, Sardinia then north to Monaco leaving the island of Corsica either to port or starboard. The race is a predominantly light air event however this year the strong nor’west “Mistral” was forecast to arrive a few days in.
Robi had chartered for this year’s race the 70ft Davidson Pendragon VI. Designed for the Transpac race, Pendragon IV was built in New Zealand in 2010 and being of carbon construction throughout is of very light displacement. We were hoping for light-moderate winds, in order to stay in contact with the other big boats including Rambler 88 and the Maxi 72 Lucky (which also included SYC’s Oli Tweddell). Mike and I spent a few days in Paris en-route and then the entire crew got together for some intensive training, both on (and off the water!) for a couple of days before the race.
After much anticipation, the race finally got underway on 21 August 2018 with a fleet of about 50 yachts. We had a good start at the pin and over the next 20 hours had champagne downhill sailing in light conditions averaging about 10knts and on race-record time. However the breeze dropped out completely for a couple of hours about 24 hours in. Unfortunately for Pendragon IV we later experienced a broken batten which led to major tear to our square top main. Despite a repair job, this led to our eventual retirement the next day.
At that stage we were placed third overall and would have likely placed on handicap due to light winds for the remainder of the fleet. We motored to Olbia in Sardinia for some fuel, pizzas and beer and then motorsailed with the J2 to Monaco the remaining 250 miles. Obviously everyone was very disappointed retiring from the race, however a great time was had in Monaco over the next few days, particularly at the Yacht Club de Monaco which has to be seen to be believed.
Thanks Robi – here’s to next year’s Fastnet.