Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021 – Kiboko Tatu


A Mediterranean Adventure

Click here to read the article in Swedish >>

Can you sail an offshore race, one of the big iconic ones that are on some people’s bucket list, with a boat that has never participated in a race before? Well, if that boat is an Arcona 380, the answer is yes!

The American flagged Kiboko Tatu is an Arcona 380 – the predecessor to the Arcona 385: the two have the same hull shape.

Kiboko Tatu was delivered to its owner in 2020 and was meant to participate in a number of races during the season but the COVID-19 pandemic put a spanner in the works. With a Swedish/American crew she completed the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021. The yacht competed in both the IRC 6 and ORCi 5 classes. This is the crews’ story…

To sail over 600 nautical miles with a crew that have never sailed together before as a team might sound completely crazy, but that is what we did. Perhaps we should mention that many of us have sailed together in different constellations, during many and demanding races. The boat taking us around Sicily that was set to be our home for a few days – an Arcona 380 owned by George Greer, an American.

To get up to speed for the competition we felt like it might be a good idea to do some practice, and what better race practice is there than to sail an actual race? So, in the days prior to the Middle Sea Race we participated in a smaller race, unfortunately it ended with a DNF for us but the hours in the boat were priceless.

On Saturday 23rd October we found ourselves in Valetta’s grand harbour, it felt like we were in a gladiator arena. The starting signal fired at 11.20 from a cannon that has defended the fortress and harbour for centuries. We had a great start, and it didn’t take long until we were at the top of the fleet of 27 in our starting group. At the second rounding mark we were clearly in the lead, and the upwind race to Sicily began.

After an unusually dark night we reached the infamous Messina Strait, known for its strong currents and finickity winds. There is also a traffic separation zone at the the narrowest part of the strait which could only be crossed in certain ways. The rules were many and complicated, we’ll spare you the details. When it was time for us to cross the zone at a 90-degree angle we had the Italian Coastguard hanging on our heels so closely it felt like we had extra crew members. As it turns out we were a little bit off in our angles, but they let it slide and didn’t sink us. This didn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the fleet who followed in our wake like a row of ducklings. It felt pretty cool to be the trailblazer.

As we were closing in on the volcanic Stromboli island the wind kept increasing, as did the numbers on our log. Despite finding ourselves in a live action movie where the numbers on the wind instrument matched those of the log in some surfs: 20 m/s and knots respectively, with a reefed main and small jib, our thoughts went to the iconic 1950 movie Stromboli with Ingrid Bergman. But the conditions weren’t the only thing that gave us a surge of adrenaline – the waves that came crashing down over the cockpit also brought us two squid! Unfortunately, our free passengers were a bit too small for us to cook for dinner.

The night that followed treated us to a mighty drama as we surfed toward Palermo and the westernmost point of Sicily. There was a magnificent thunderstorm hovering over the island that lit everything up in a spectacular manner. When we came too close to land the wind dropped significantly and we were forced to gybe back out north again and again. It seemed to pay off: as we monitored the plotter we could see that we were gaining on the rest of the fleet. So much so that we were in the lead of the ORCi 5 class and the level of excitement and elation rose onboard.

During our third night onboard we were sailing a fantastic downwind with the big kite hoisted. The sea state was pretty messy; after all we were pretty far south in the Mediterranean with Tunisia as the closest mainland. Then something that can’t happen happened – We get the worst hourglass anyone in the crew has ever seen. To add insult to injury the sail got twisted around the forestay, with the lift and halyard in a tangled mess. Never had the night felt so long, nor the wait for daylight so painful. But as it always does, a new day arose and with it enough light that we could sort out the chaotic mess. The consequence: we lost our 1stspot in the class and the chance of a good overall result.

We are now licking our wounds, and it will probably be a while before we stop thinking “if only”. But when we do, we will surely have fond memories of the adventure that was 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race. A race where both the mono and multihull records were smashed by Comanche and Argo respectively.

The Kiboko Tatu crew: Olof Granander, Håkan Grönvall, Per Tängå, Noel Barkelius, Mikael Stamming, Mattias Molin, Thomas Blomborn, Roland van de Ven & owner, George Greer.

Despite the mishap Kiboko Tatu crossed the finish line in Valetta as second in her class ORCi 5, however the Race Committee decided to shorten the race 24 hours after the then overall IRC winner Sunrise finished the entire course. A controversial decision criticised by many as most of the boats had finished the entire course when it was made, and it affected 6 of the top 10 results in the overall IRC result.

“The Arcona 380 is an extremely well-rounded boat that likes all conditions, and it has proved itself on the racecourse on numerous occasions. Kiboko Tatu is no exception, it performed well in both ORCi and IRC which is testament to a well-designed and balanced boat. The handicap systems show no mercy when it comes to poor design. It is worth noting that no modifications or changes were made to this yacht prior to the race. This is the Arcona 380 you would get delivered from the yard.” confirms Jimmy Hellberg, yacht designer and professional sailor, who competed against Kiboko Tatu during the race.

Congratulations to the owner and crew on a successful and exciting race. And it doesn’t stop there… The Royal Ocean Racing Club together with the Ocean Racing Alliance have just announced a new offshore race practically on Arcona’s doorstep. Taking place 21st July 2022, the RORC Baltic Sea Race is open to boats racing under IRC, MOCRA, Class40 Rules and other class associations.

The race of approximately 630 nautical miles will start and finish off Helsinki in the Gulf of Finland. The course will incorporate the Swedish island of Gotland, located approximately 250nm southwest of Helsinki.

Who’s in? Email and let us know!

Find out more:

Find out more about the new Arcona 385.

Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021 – Kiboko Tatu


Photos with thanks to Mikael Stamming & Crew.