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2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race: pre-race report

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Rolex Middle Sea Race
Rolex Middle Sea Race

Following a uniquely beautiful and challenging course, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, is mentioned in the same breath as the top Rolex Fastnet, The Rolex Sydney-Hobart and Newport-Bermuda. It typically attracts a varied fleet of boats and many distinguished sailors many of whom keep returning. It remains on the bucket list of many a sailor.

As the start of the 37th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race approaches the fleet that is building up for this annual challenge is looking as impressive as ever. The usual mix of production boats optimised for the race by their Corinthian crews are set to sail alongside top racing boats manned by professionals. Following a global rise in interest the presence of high performance multihulls is growing too.

Twenty five countries will be represented at the start line on Saturday 22nd October, with neighbouring Italy, as in past years having the greatest presence. Strong growth has been registered by Russia, whilst third placed United Kingdom has seen a slight increase from the previous year.  The Rolex Middle Sea Race will be welcoming back Denmark and Ukraine who have not made an appearance in the last five years whilst Sweden will be returning after an absence of two years.  With boats from faraway countries like Australia and the United States also present the fleet has become truly global...

Looking through the crew list one can see a number of well-known sailors with an impressive CV to their names including Adrian Stead, Vincenzo Onorato, Flavio Favini, Branko Brcin, Ian Moore, Giovanni Soldini, Pierre Casiraghi and Mikey Muller.  RORC Racing Manager Nick Elliot will be taking part in his first big offshore race on Gemervescence and old faithful Beppe Bisotto is back with Atame for the 11th consecutive year. Local sailors Timmy Camilleri, Aaron, Christoph and Maya Podesta, Lee Satariano and Christian and Sebastian Ripard will be at the start too while Royal Malta Yacht Club Committee Member Jamie Sammut will be taking part this time in the demanding double handed class.

Among top monohulls George David’s Rambler 88 will be back after having won monohull line honours in 2015. The current course record unbeaten since 2007 was set by George David himself with a previous Rambler. Winner of the 2015 Monohull Line Honours, George David will be returning and prepared to better the course record he still holds.

Also returning are Cippa Lippa and Mascalzone Latino are the two Cookson 50 boats who are no strangers to this race, with Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino narrowly missing out to B2 for the coveted IRC win in 2015. A good challenge is also expected from the two TP52s Audax Energia and Team Van Uden Performance from Spain and the United Kingdom. From the Open 70 class Green Dragon and Turkish Airlines Racing Team Black Betty are back have been on the starting line before too. The rest of the monohull fleet includes some competitive boats such as the Xp-44 while the popular and successful J boats are out in full force out to produce some good results. Worthy of mention is Maltese boat Artie, a J122 yacht who brought the Rolex Middle Sea Race trophy home in the 2011 and 2014 editions – definitely a force not to be underestimated

Multihulls have showed a marked increase in popularity. Following substantial development put into producing high level performance and increase in speed, this category has become a highly competitive one.   In 2015 the category included Lloyd Thornburg’s Phaedo 3 which took multihull line honours and Peter Aschenbrenner’s MOD 70 Paradox winning on corrected time.   This year the race will welcome four multihulls.  MOD70 trimaran Phaedo 3 sailing under the now familiar colours of lime green and chrome will be making a welcome return to the course and hoping to retain their 2015 Multihull Line honours title.   The trimaran Maserati Multi70 will make its first appearance in this race. This Maserati is a cutting-edge, very high performance trimaran capable of making extremely fast speeds and can rise up off the water on her rudders and foils, significantly reducing her wetted surface area to the benefit of performance. The Maserati Multi70 is skippered by Giovanni Soldini who has his sights firmly set on the Rolex Middle Sea Race and RORC Transatlantic Race.    A Multi 50s – Ciela Village will be entering the fray for the first time in Malta.  Ciela Village’s skipper Thierry Bouchard won the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2008 on Spirit of Ad Hoc a Beneteau 40.7.   The R-Six is the fourth multihull to take part and is a 2016 built cruising catamaran.

 

Seven boats will be vying for the Swan Mediterranean Challenge Trophy – T’ala, Montrachet and Lunz Am Meer have all competed in this race various times and will be returning once again.  Digital Alpha, skippered by Valentin Zubkov is a Club Swan 42, a fast growing one design racing class.

Maltese Boats

A distinct fleet of local boats will be proudly flying the Maltese flag. Seven of the eight boats are returning crews.  Lee Satariano’s J/122 Artie, overall winners of the 2014 edition, will be returning once again with strong determination.  Although in 2015 they sailed well to win their class, light wind conditions prevented them from making a repeat victory. Artie will be joined by another J/122 – Otra Vez skippered by the Gatt Floridia brothers. In 2015 although present for the race, the Gatt Floridias formed part of an American crew on the USA Ker 43 namesake. The Podesta siblings, Aaron, Christoph and Maya will keep the family legacy going with the participation of their Beneteau First 45 Elusive 2 BOV whilst Jamie Sammut will be crewing his Solaris One 42 Unica in the double handed class.  Timmy Camilleri, veteran of many international races will join the XP-Act crew whilst David Pizzuto’s IMX40 Geisha and Jonathan Gambin’s Ton Ton Dufour 44P will also make a welcome return. Sean Borg’s XP44 Xpresso will be making its debut on this famed course and will be completing the Maltese fleet.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday 22nd October at 11:00hrs.  Race starts will take place in the Grand Harbour. The best viewpoints for the start will be on the Valletta waterfronts, Lower and Upper Barakkas, and Senglea peninsula.  

More information about the 37th Edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race can be found on www.rolexmiddlesearace.com