Momentum gathering for the 2017 Rolex Middle Sea Race
Friday, August 18, 2017 12:29 PM
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is an event in the ascendancy. With a little over two months until the start of the 38th edition on 21 October, 53 yachts from 20 countries have confirmed their presence for this compelling race. The race is often referred to as taking place at the ‘Crossroads of the Mediterranean’ due to its geographical location; while the course has been described by cognoscenti as the “most beautiful in the world”, with its spectacular seascapes, rugged islands, active volcanoes and raw beauty.
Each year, more and more crews recognize the challenges and opportunities presented. Past experience suggests the number of entrants is set to rise significantly before registration closes on 6 October and the final list may challenge the record of 124 starters set in 2014. “We are delighted with the diversity of yachts already committed to taking part in this year’s race,” explains Royal Malta Yacht Club Commodore, Godwin Zammit. “The Rolex Middle Sea Race is an event which continues to entice owners and sailors from around the world. It’s a challenging, scenic, unpredictable race married to the warm hospitality of Malta, a country overseas competitors love returning to.”
The ‘big boat’ element of the 2017 fleet is shaping up nicely. The largest entrant is the 100-ft Maxi Leopard, a perennial offshore race campaigner over the past decade, although returning to Malta for the first time in seven years. In 2009, Leopard missed setting a new race record by just under 35 minutes and in 2010 she was second on the water to the eventual line honours winner, Esimit Europa 2. Two highly-competitive Maxi 72s will also be in contention as fastest finishers. Dieter Schön’s Momo took line honours at June’s 243-nm Giraglia Rolex Cup and will have George Sakellaris’ Proteus for close company as they chase round Sicily.
The race record at the Rolex Middle Sea Race has survived for nearly a decade. George David’s 90-ft Rambler set a blistering time of 1 day, 23 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds in 2007. David is returning to the race again this year with Rambler 88. Eclipsing his own record is a tantalising prospect and the crew of Rambler 88 will gain confidence from their recent monohull line honours at the Rolex Fastnet Race. Improving the benchmark time has proved notoriously difficult despite improvements in yacht and sail design over the years. It has only been broken five times since the founding race in 1968.
Once again, the international element of the race is impressive. Swedish sailor Jonas Grander, owner of the 44-ft Matador, is enjoying a busy year of offshore racing. Over the past twelve months he has already completed the Rolex Sydney Hobart and Rolex Fastnet, finishing the former race despite only stepping foot on his yacht a few days before the Sydney start. Joseph Mele’s Swan 44 Triple Lindy from the USA is another to be seeking to complete the triumvirate of offshore 600-milers. Another North American entrant is the J/133 Blue Jay III from Canada. The significant array of British yachts includes race enthusiast Alex Thomson sailing double-handed on the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss and the distinct Infiniti 46R Maverick, third finisher overall last year on IRC handicap. Coming from furthest afield is the 35-ft New Zealand entrant Crusader, another recent Rolex Fastnet finisher.
Three of the past four winners of the race have come from Italy. Perhaps no surprise given the Rolex Middle Sea Race course comprises the anticlockwise circumnavigation of Sicily and a significant tactical stretch through the Strait of Messina. Ten Italian entrants are currently in contention. Perhaps Pietro Moschini’s Endlessgame will have more reason to believe than most. Last year a fellow Italian Cookson 50 won the race in the shape of Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino. Other countries and territories represented include Austria, Bulgaria, the Cayman Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the Ukraine.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race starts on Saturday, 21st October 2017 and the final Prize Giving ceremony will be held on Saturday, 28th October 2017.