Elusive 2 retains Rolex Middle Sea Race crown
Maltese entry Elusive 2 becomes the first yacht since 1980 to win the Rolex Middle Sea Race on corrected time in successive years:
Elusive 2 is owned and skippered by Aaron, Christoph and Maya Podesta (@ Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)
Elusive 2 became the first yacht to be crowned overall winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race for two successive years since 1980, back when Nita IV won the crown for the third straight time (1978-80). Almost 12 hours after Elusive 2 crossed the line in Valletta, organisers confirmed that none of the remaining yachts at sea could better their corrected time.
A locally-owned Beneteau First 45, Elusive 2 is skippered by Aaron, Christoph and Maya Podesta, whose late father Arthur was a race icon, competing in the annual race since 1968. However, he was never able to win the race, something his children have done twice.
Christoph, who has now competed in 19 editions, said: “It is a huge achievement to have won this race in back-to-back years. It’s really hard to win the race at the best of times, so winning it twice in a row is massive and something we’re all going to be very proud of for a long time to come. We’re sailing with our family boat, with a family team and I’m struggling to find words to describe the feeling!”
The Elusive crew are a tightknit group, with the Podesta siblings and navigator David Anastasi so tightly bound that they even considered not racing at all if one of them fallen ill before the start. However, the typically detailed preparation of their boat was made more complicated this year by the need to consider social distancing and maintain family bubbles.
Like all the boats, Elusive 2 had to manage light conditions for much of the race
Ashore after nearly five days at sea, Maya said: “The race means a lot to us. We worked really hard preparing the boat, but we were juggling so much between work and family that we almost didn’t have time to think properly about the race. Nothing comes easily and we worked very hard for it, pushing, pushing, pushing. It is quite surreal that we have managed to tick all the boxes to top the podium again.”
Aaron said light winds for a large part of the race made the event more of a mental struggle than last year. “Generally, a Rolex Middle Sea Race is a mix of physical and mental toughness, and last year was a good mix of the two. This year, the light conditions made it mentally very challenging,” he said.
“Physically it was pretty straightforward – there was no battling with oilskins while the boat pounds and heels or getting in and out of a wet bunk. Mentally, though, it was super-draining. You could not relax for one minute. There were wind holes everywhere and every corner of the race had a park-up. We had to really plan how we were going to get out of the holes as quick as possible.”
Christoph agreed with his brother. “We normally have a really heavy weather piece of the race that takes it out of us. This year, I think all that energy was channelled into patience and calmness, keeping the boat going fast, trying to understand the weather patterns and strategic positioning on the course.”
The Ker 46 Tonnerre De Glen, pictured passing Marettimo, one of the Aegadian Islands, had looked a potential overall winner until Elusive 2 finished and bettered their corrected time
As well as being first overall in the IRC fleet, Elusive 2 were also the first Maltese boat home on the water, which Aaron called the ‘cherry on the cake’.
Anastasi, the navigator, said: “This year was really interesting tactically and navigationally because of the relatively small size of the fleet and our class. Some of our usual competition did not make it, so we lacked boats to gauge ourselves against. Last year we could see our gains. This year, we made our decisions based upon where we were on the course rather than looking at other boats.”
Christoph said he was learning more about the 600nm course each year and is looking forward to his 20th participation. “Every year, I keep adding new tricks and pieces of the puzzle to the notebook of the race. Hopefully I’ll use them in the future to make sure we don’t get stuck or lose valuable time for a silly mistake,” he said.
“We’re clearly quite addicted to the race. I’ve no doubt we’ll start joking between us about modifications and improvements, picking up upon weaknesses we found with the boat and ourselves. I’m sure we’ll keep on building on all the hard work.”
The next challenge is to match Nita IV’s three titles in a row.