by Louay Habib
The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) has been a supporter of the Rolex Middle Sea Race for more than fifty years and the 35th edition of the race has a record entry of over 111 yachts. For the first time the 606-mile race, starting and finishing in Malta, is included in the RORC Season's Points Championship and a number of boats are attending the event with the aim that their results could affect the final standings.
Derek Saunders’ CM60, Venomous
'The Royal Ocean Racing Club were co-founders of the race with the Royal Malta Yacht Club in 1968 and the Rolex Middle Sea Race is an important event in our calendar. Therefore the RORC Committee concluded that it should be included in the Season's Points Championship,' commented RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen.
This, the last race of the RORC Season's Points Championship, could affect the results in two IRC classes. Derek Saunders' CM60, Venomous, is currently lying second in IRC Zero for the season but a good result in the Rolex Middle Sea Race could see the British boat secure the class ahead of the current leader, Harm Prins' Dutch Volvo 60, Pleomax.
Two production yachts have made the long journey to Malta from the Solent to take part in the race. RORC Admiral, Andrew McIrvine's First 40, La Réponse, and past RORC Commodore, Peter Rutter racing Grand Soleil 43, Trustmarque Quokka. Whilst neither yacht will be able to overtake Géry Trentesaux's Courrier Vintage to win IRC Two they have a chance of taking second place overall. The two boats have enjoyed a close rivalry over many months and the final score will be settled in Malta.
The overall winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is decided by the best corrected time under IRC and currently 96 yachts will be racing in four classes using the Spinlock IRC rating system.
One of the favourites to win the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall under IRC could be Andres Soriano's Mills 72, Alegre. This innovative and latest Mini Maxi to be launched will be taking part in its first long distance offshore race. Alegre's navigator Will Best explained why an overall win is so difficult to achieve.
'We will have a hard enough time just winning our class,' commented Will. 'Hugo Boss will be difficult to match off the breeze in more than 15 knots and Esimit Europa 2 could get away in the light and possibly into another weather pattern. Nobody can predict the overall winner, there are many well sailed boats in other classes and they can have a totally different weather scenario. The ideal conditions for Alegre would be a stable weather pattern, where we all get the same conditions on the course. We just hope we get the right conditions for Alegre and we sail the boat as well as we can but racing under IRC on this course makes it wide open. Any boat that sails well and gets the right conditions is in with a chance.'
Although the Rolex Middle Sea Race attracts some of the world's top professional teams, the last two editions have been won by Corinthian entries. In 2012 Eddie De Villiers' Royal Cape Yacht Club team, racing Hi Fidelity, was victorious. In 2011 the whole island was celebrating as Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard's Artie-RTFX, with an all-Malta team, were the overall winners. Neither yacht had a big budget campaign and Artie-RTFX is a production J/122 and will be racing again this year, as will over a dozen Maltese yachts.
Rolex Middle Sea Race website