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Gentlemen, start your engines

by David Schmidt on 23 Oct 2010
For the fortunate few, these are heady, exciting times. We’re not talking about the AC or the Volvo here folks, but we are talking about a big, notorious Mediterranean distance race that has spelled the demise of more than one yacht over the years. For the lucky 81 skippers and crews who will be on this Saturday’s starting line for the Rolex Middle Sea Race, this event is not only a big adventure, but it’s also one of the most important Mediterranean regattas of the year.

The course, which runs from Grand Harbour in Valletta, Malta, takes the fleet through 606 'interesting' nautical miles involving seven distinct 'legs' that lead the fleet back to the finishing line near Marsamxett Harbour, Malta. Boats travel from far and wide to attend, and this year’s fleet is no exception, with entries including Super-Maxi’s, Volvo Open 60’s, mini Maxi’s and other hardware exotica.

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'The forecast that we have for Saturday’s start is for wind from the southeast – the sirocco – so the first leg should be a fast delivery to Messina,' says Piero Paniccia, the skipper and owner of the canting-keeled Cookson 50, Calipso IV. 'For us it’s a good forecast because the boat will be fast in those conditions. I think the crew is okay and we have the opportunity to do a good result.'

Meanwhile, in the Velux 5 Oceans Race, Brad Van Liew and Polish solo sailor Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski are engaged in an interesting dogfight. 'You know in the movie Top Gun when Tom Cruise’s character Maverick goes to Top Gun and dog fights with the old, salty war-proven pilot Viper?' ponders Van Liew. 'Viper’s trying to take Maverick out nice and easy but Maverick won’t let go, and Viper thinks ‘damn this kid is good’. That’s kinda the way I feel about Gutek. I’m like ‘where the hell did he come from?’ It’s awesome. I didn’t come here to mess around so if he wants a boat race let’s get it on.' Big words, but from an ocean racer as decorated as Van Liew, gentlemen, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve got a sailboat race on our hands.

Our Editor at Large Richard Gladwell has been busy on the AC front, he caught up with Iain Murray after the recent Paris meeting where there was a larger than expected crowd to hear about the serious and somewhat complex campaign ahead.

Another case of Gentlemen, start your engines!.

May the four winds blow you safely home,
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