Rolex Middle Sea Race : The Odyssey Begins
Sunday, October 22, 2017 10:32 AM
104 yachts from 30 different nations have started the 38th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Watched by thousands of well-wishers lining the historic Grand Harbour and thousands more via a live link, the 606-mile Mediterranean classic offshore race got off on time, at 11.00CEST this morning.
Over a thousand sailors are taking part in the Rolex Middle Sea Race, sailing in a huge variety of yachts. For the custom-built ocean-going maxis, such as Rambler 88, Leopard 3 and CQS, a 48-hour race is possible, threatening the race record that has stood for ten years. For the Corinthian sailors, just finishing the race is the first goal and, looking at the feisty weather forecast later in the race, there will be many stories to tell. Since the first edition in 1968, this race has always been full of surprises. The overall winner will be decided by IRC time correction (handicap rating) and, this year, the field appears wide open with changes of fortune expected throughout the fleet.
The start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is nothing short of spectacular. Flash, smoke and noise from the 32-pounder artillery pieces at the Saluting Battery, herald each start and the ancient bastions of Valletta resonate with the power. Grand Harbour is transformed into a gladiatorial arena and there is action right from the off as yachts jostle for position. Several boats were caught out, misjudged their timing in the rush to get underway and were forced to restart.
“All in all, it was a good start.” commented Principal Race Officer, Peter Dimech. “Ten knots of breeze, just south of east. It is always satisfying to see the fleet get off so well and it looks like the sailors will settle into the race on the reach to Capo Passero. The Royal Malta Yacht Club race management team will be monitoring the teams, day and night, until the last boat is accounted for.”
Four hours after the start the fleet was well on its way to Capo Passero, the most southeastern point of Sicily, about 55 miles from Malta. Rambler 88 was leading and expected to make the Sicilian Coast, just six hours after the start. The majority of the fleet are expected to follow around dusk.
For the first night, fickle winds and tricky currents will form the first complex conundrum of the course, the situation complicated by Mount Etna, the first volcano of the course, which has its own weather system. The goal in this period of the race is to make good speed to the Messina Strait, the fabled two-mile channel separating Sicily from the Italian mainland.