18th Palermo-Montecarlo

Monday 21st August 2023. Barely 24 hours to go before the start of the Palermo-Montecarlo offshore race, the big event of the summer in the Mediterranean. Ahead of them 500 nautical miles from the Gulf of Mondello to the Principality of Monaco with an obligatory passage gate off Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Weather-driven tactics, teamwork and perfectly executed manoeuvres are the secret to success. Organised by Circolo della Vela Sicilia in partnership with Yacht Club de Monaco and Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, under the aegis of the Italian Sailing Federation, UVAI (Unione Vela d’Altura Italiana) and the IMA (International Maxi Association), this is the 18th Palermo-Montecarlo, confirming its status as an offshore race that attracts big names in sailing, with 12 nations on the start.

Sicily is proud

This year again, the Palermo-Montecarlo is back in what has become a tradition and without a doubt shines a spotlight on the city as the regatta is important for tourism. So thank you to the Circolo della Vela Sicilia for their involvement as one of the three major club organisers of the competition,” said Palermo Mayor Roberto Lagalla at the press conference. “I am delighted to be with you on the eve of this particularly well attended edition. We are approaching its 20th anniversary and every year we see more and more well known figures, sailing champions, talented owners and boats with a glorious past. The attention shown by institutions and long-time partners encourage us to keep on improving. This year, many foreign friends as well as Italian participants have a chance to see the extraordinary art on display in the club to celebrate sailing as a sport and culture.  And it’s wonderful for us to experience this with young students from the sailing school who are our future,” added Agostino Randazzo, President of Circolo della Vela Sicilia.


Nicola Vernuccio, Director General of Palermo which supports the event, Captain Fabio Rottino, second in command of western Sicily’s Maritime Department and Donatello Mellina from the Italian Sailing Federation also attended the conference.

Two other speakers of note who are close to the Circolo della Vela Sicilia were Matteo Plazzi, one of the most experienced all-round Italian sailors, longtime member of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team, and Alessandro Torresani, a young offshore sailor preparing for his first mini Transit who spoke of the Palermo-Montecarlo as being a source of inspiration for many young people. Short interviews with some skippers, owners, tacticians and personalities concluded the press conference, followed by a skippers briefing by this year’s Race Director, Fabio Barrasso from Liguria.

In the starting-blocks

The start is at 12 noon Tuesday 22nd August and there will be live commentary broadcast on YouTube and Saily TV. Tracking is available on the official website so people can follow the progress of the 44 boats competing. An impressive fleet which looks set to have favourable conditions for the first hours of racing with a north-north-west wind giving the fleet good headway upwind. Variable conditions are forecast thereafter with a potential boost from the Mistral in the Strait of Bonifacio where tacticians must be on top of their game to choose the best option, while maintaining a good average speed.


Record still to beat

The Palermo-Montecarlo record set by Esimit Europa 2 in 2015 of 47 hours 46 minutes 48 seconds remains unbeaten. Now renamed Black Jack the boat is competing again and is an obvious favourite, weather permitting, to win and set a new record.



Up for grabs are trophies including the Angelo Randazzo Trophy for the winner in corrected time and the Giuseppe Tasca D’Almerita for the Line Honours (real time) winner, and Emanuele Bruno Trophy for the first to cross the line from the Sicilian club. Australian Peter Harburg, with Brad Butterworth on tactics, Joao Signorini at the helm and Alex Nolan are on Black Jack, their main adversary being another Maxi, Claudio Demartis’ Shockwave 3 Prosecco DOC with Roberto Ferrarese and two young sailors from Circolo della Vela Sicilia, Max Maneschi and Orazio Fatta della Fratta.

The other Maxis in the race are the VO70 I Love Poland, former The Ocean Race boat skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski. The sailing boat has an impressive track record winning the Transatlantic Care, the Maxi Cup and Middle Sea Race, 2nd in the RORC 600 Caribbean and 3rd in the Fastnet. Eight boats are also competing in the “Per 2” (double hander) version of the race.

Other champions are headlining this edition such as Mauro Pelaschier on Elo II one-off from Yacht Club Italiano, Marco Guerra on the Class40 Imagin’Act, the former Indulgence of Andrea Fornaro; Monegasque Thierry Leret on Loic Pompée’s Grand Soleil 48 Le Joy, Yacht Club de Monaco member; the Australian Olympic legend Mitch Booth, tactician on the Cookson 50 Kuka 3 of Franco Niggeler which also has Pietro D’Alì on board; the French woman Caroline Petit, skipper of the first all-female crew in the race’s history on the Dufour 34 Moogli; and Dominique Tian who is returning as a title defender with his Ker 46 Tonnerre del Glen, overall winner of the 2022 edition, and who as tradition dictates returned the Angelo Randazzo Challenge Trophy to the club. And a disabled skipper, Alessio Bernabò, who runs the association ‘Divermente Marinai’ and is preparing an oceanic campaign, with Andrea Pendibene alongside, a former Mini Transat sailor.

Sleep an overrated asset?

During the race, on the Circolo della Vela Sicilia-flagged Shockwave 3 Prosecco DOC, five sailors and two helmsmen will be wearing special wristbands to monitor their sleep when racing. The initiative is part of a study by student Livia Gonzi, daughter of the owner who has competed in many of the editions. Her thesis is entitled “Intermittent sleep in racing: basic or overrated?” for her Sports and Health Sciences degree. The results will be announced after the Palermo-Montecarlo.