The 34th edition of the 606-nm Rolex Middle Sea Race will commence tomorrow, October 19th, with nearly 100 yachts from almost 20 countries expected to contest. 'We hope to make 100 starters which would represent a race record, beating the 82 competitors last year,' explained Godwin Zammit, Commodore of race organizers Royal Malta Yacht Club.
The scale, diversity and pedigree of the fleet points to 2013 becoming a vintage edition; from the battle to be the first boat home to the quest to win the competition overall. Line honours, in particular, is wide open. Igor Simcic’s 100-ft Maxi Esimit Europa 2, fastest boat during the last three editions, was forced to withdraw due to technical issues leaving the door open for a host of impressive crews.
Morning Glory, an 86-ft Maxi from Germany, boasts an all-star crew comprising Chris Nicholson, Robbie Naismith and navigator Andrew Cape. 'This is one of the blue water classics,' explained Cape. 'It has a lot of short legs, each one is different meaning it’s a challenging race. We’re aiming for line honours and believe the weather forecast could point to a race record.' The current race record stands at the 47 hours, 55 minutes and three seconds set by American George David’s 90-ft Maxi Rambler in 2007. 'We should see about 10-15 knots of wind at the start, how we progress through the Messina Strait will be a critical point in the race,' continued Cape.
Andres Soriano has winning experience in Malta having claimed line honours in 2008 and outright victory in 2009 with his former 68-ft Mini Maxi Alegre. The new Alegre, launched this year, will enjoy an interesting tussle at the head of the fleet with fellow 72-ft Mini Maxi Robertissima III, formerly Niklas Zennstrom’s all-conquering Mini Maxi Rán 2, now predominantly Italian crewed and skippered by Vasco Vascotto. Robertissima III is expected to be one of almost 30 Italian starters and Russian interest – confirmed by an impressive 15 entrants – is also fervent.
Local flavour will be provided by a highly competitive fleet of 13 Maltese boats including Christian Ripard and Lee Satariano’s J/122 Artie, overall race winner in 2011 and fully determined to reclaim her crown. 'It’s a tactical race,' explained Ripard, 'therefore it’s rewarding for the crew when you do well because a lot of hard work goes in. Last year we made over 80 sail changes. It’s like a round the cans race for nearly 700 miles!' Arthur Podesta will maintain his unique record of sailing in every single Rolex Middle Sea Race, skippering the First 45 Elusive II. Georges Bonello Dupuis, former Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, will sail alongside Shaun Murphy on Escape, one of 16 double-handed entrants.
Six separate start sequences will be conducted from Malta’s impressive Grand Harbour. 'The start is spectacular because of its location surrounded by high bastions with many good vantage points. We might be looking at a spinnaker start,' added Zammit. The first start is scheduled for 11:00 CEST. The fleet then embarks on a 606-nm anticlockwise loop around Sicily, the Aeolian and Egadi Islands, around Pantelleria and Lampedusa, before finishing back in Marsamxett Harbour, Malta.
Rolex Middle Sea Race
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4:41 PM Fri 18 Oct 2013GMT
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