SPORT — ICAP Leopard takes line honours in Rolex Middle Sea Race

SPORT - ICAP Leopard takes line honours in Rolex Middle Sea Race

On Monday, October 19 at 11:59 CET ICAP Leopard crossed the finish line in Valetta, Malta to take line honours in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. The 100ft super-maxi racing yacht, owned by Helical Bar PLC Chief Executive, Mike Slade, completed the complex 606nm course in an elapsed time of two days, 29 minutes and 33 seconds. 

Having already finished first in the Rolex Fastnet Race, she will now head to Australia in search of a classic sailing treble that concludes with the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

In an unusually stormy edition of this annual rock-strewn sprint around Sicily, ICAP Leopard seized the lead shortly after the start but was pushed hard by her lighter rivals all the way to the Straits of Messina.

High winds and punishing squalls saw several high-profile competitors suffer race-ending damage heading around the top of the island but Slade’s experienced crew on his well-travelled maxi revelled in the difficult conditions to keep their steed at the head of the pack.

Rounding the northwest corner of Sicily on Sunday evening, ICAP Leopard stretched her lead over her rivals, but frustratingly unpredictable winds saw the overall course record slip away.

With the crew working tirelessly throughout the second night, ICAP Leopard took line honours on Monday morning, narrowly missing out on the record by some 34 minutes.

The yacht will now relocate to Sydney, where she will attempt to become the first boat ever to take line honours in the Rolex Fastnet, Middle Sea and Sydney Hobart Races in the same calendar year.

Slade said: “It’s fantastic to have finished this tough race! The record was tantalisingly close but the important thing is that we achieved our goal of getting line honours and bringing the boat home in one piece, despite the difficult conditions.

“The crew were fantastic and our reception in Malta has been amazing — what a wonderful event,” he said.

Boat captain, Chris Sherlock said: “This race was really about thirds. The first third was fast and fun, the second was tough and arduous, with lots of squalls and a confused sea, and the final third was frustrating and unpredictably light. However, we are very pleased with the outcome.

“Apart from some minor sail damage the boat is in great shape and we are delighted that we can head to Sydney with the treble still firmly within our sights,” he said.