by Louay Habib
Rolex Middle Sea Race 2014 - Organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on the 18th October in the spectacular Grand Harbour opposite the Saluting Battery in Valletta, Malta.
Start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race - International Fleet bound for 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race Malta
The 606-mile yacht race takes place in the heart of the Mediterranean and covers one of the most beautiful courses in the world. Starting and finishing in Malta, the route includes the deep azure waters around Sicily including the Aeolian and Egadi Islands, as well as Pantelleria and Lampedusa. One of the most stunning vistas is Stromboli, the active volcano which is a course mark. Last year, a record 99 yachts took part and with less than two month to the start of the 35th edition, 69 yachts have already entered from 17 different nations.
Royal Malta Yacht Club - International Fleet bound for 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race Malta
'The entry level so far is very encouraging, we expect to have about the same number as last year but the club would love to see the entry list past the 100 mark for the first time, since the first edition of the race in 1968.' commented Godwin Zammit, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. 'The quality of the entrants seems to be going up every year, amongst them we have sailors from all over the world; world champions, top professionals, as well as corinthian sailors. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is the highlight of the year for the Royal Malta Yacht Club and all of the competitors will be made very welcome at our clubhouse during the event.'
The Line Honours favourite for the Rolex Middle Sea Race is Igor Simcic's Maxi, Esimit Europa 2, skippered by multiple Olympic and America's Cup winner, Jochen Schümann. The 100ft canting keel maxi has taken line honour victories in the years from 2010 – 2012, becoming only the second yacht in the history of the Rolex Middle Sea Race to take it three times in a row. Last year, Esimit Europa 2 damaged their mast on the way to the race and was unable to compete but the Slovenian yacht, with a world class international crew is returning with the goal of taking Line Honours for an unprecedented fourth occasion.
The battle for the overall win after time correction is already developing into a fascinating competition. Niklas Zennström's Team Rán have won numerous blue ribbon offshore events and world championships but an overall win in the Rolex Middle Sea Race, has eluded them on three separate occasions. Niklas Zennström's latest Mini Maxi, Rán 5 will be competing in October and their immediate rivals on the water will include Roberto Tomasini Grinover's Mini Maxi Robertissima. Several other world class Mini Maxis are also expected to be competing.
A Cookson 50 has won the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Rolex Fastnet Race and the RORC Caribbean 600 but the canting keel flier has yet to win the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall. This year, three Italian Cookson 50s will attempt to change that statistic. Guido Paolo Gamucci's Cippa Lippa and Germana Tognella's Cantankerous have raced before but Vincenzo Onorato's Mascalzone Latino will be making their first appearance with Volvo Ocean Race winner, Jules Salter on board as navigator.
Three of the fastest yachts in this race should have a fascinating battle on the water. This August, Jens Kellinghusen's German Ker 51, Varuna was the overall winner of 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race and class winner for the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart. Varuna is being shipped to Malta especially for the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Round the world yachtsman, Guillermo Atadil will be navigating the German entry. Jascha Bach and Toni Guiu, Spanish TP 52 Balearia is en route from Barcelona, hoping to emulate last year's overall winner, TP52, B2. German Carkeek 47, Black Pearl will be making its debut at the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Skippered by Stefan Jentzsch, the all carbon flyer will have a stella crew including, Marc Lagesse, James Carroll, Peter van Niekerk and Luke Molloy.
Royal Malta Yacht Club member, Finis Pit will be racing his German Ker 53, Dralion with just two crew, already six yachts will be racing in the IRC Double Handed class including race veteran, Beppe Bisotto who will be racing his Venetian Fast 42, Atame.
Six majestic Swans will also be taking part this year, including Grey Goose of RORC sailed by Tobias Koenig. Eddie Craighill's Swan 65, Rebel Jaguar, will be skippered by Franck Petitgas. Dmitriy Samohin, President of the Russian Dragon Class will be racing Swan 60, Petite Flamme with Olympic and America's Cup helmsman, Andy Beadsworth as part of the crew. Monaco's Paul Basson will be racing his elegant Swan 46, Foreign Affair Two Handed. James McGarry's Scottish Swan 45, Eala of Rhu will be sailing to Malta having competed in the Swan 45 World Championship in Sardinia. Chris Frost's elegant Swan 36, Finola was launched in 1968, the fourth Swan ever built is still very competitive, having won class at the 2013 Swan European Championship, winning every race.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race attracts a variety of yachts including timeless classics such as the classic yawls, Tomahawk and Stormy Weather. Tomahawk was designed by Sparkman and Stephens as an ocean racer in 1938 and was sympathetically rebuilt to her original design by the present owner, Jamie Abdy Collins. Stormy Weather of Cowes was designed by Olin Stephens in 1934. In 1935 she won both the Newport-Bergen Transatlantic race and the Fastnet race. Stormy Weather has been owned by Christopher Spray, from the UK, for the past nine years. Tarquin Place, from Tasmania is the boat captain.