Closing the Mediterranean sailing season with gusto, the 34th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is destined to mark an important chapter in the history of a popular offshore event.
The race is in a period of ascendancy. Over one hundred international yachts have registered for the 606-nm contest commencing and finishing in Malta, and comprising a challenging anticlockwise circumnavigation of Sicily. There is every indication that the number of competitors will comfortably surpass last year’s record of 82 race starters. First held in 1968 and organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, the race has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.
The appeal is clear: first-rate competition, a largely Corinthian atmosphere, a fascinating racecourse – which includes views of Stromboli and Etna, two of Europe’s active volcanoes – and a uniquely Maltese flavour to the shoreside welcome. The start from Valletta, scheduled for Saturday 19 October at 11:00 CEST, is one of yachting’s most dramatic; cannons fire from the Saluting Battery overlooking Malta’s magnificent Grand Harbour as an enthusiastic public cheers the fleet on its way.
The 2013 entry is diverse and international. The 100-ft Esimit Europa 2, line honours winner of the past three editions, will make history if she claims a fourth straight triumph. Perhaps holding more appeal for owner Igor Simcic and his pan-European crew is breaking the race record that has stood since the extreme conditions of 2007 when American George David’s 90-ft Rambler finished in an elapsed time of 47 hours, 55 minutes and three seconds. This benchmark is capable of being bettered by the high-tech maxi racer, but the racecourse has a deserved reputation for being complex and the wind is never straightforward. Hasso Plattner’s 86-ft Morning Glory from Germany, an overall race winner in 2006, will provide Esimit Europa’s stiffest competition.
In any race of this type, the most coveted prize is for overall victory. Along with Morning Glory two other recipients of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy are in attendance. Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard’s J/122 Artie ended a near ten-year wait for a Maltese victory in 2011, and become the sixth local boat to win the race. Andres Soriano led his British Mini Maxi Alegre to overall triumph in 2009, following line honours success in 2008. Soriano returns with a new, 72-ft Alegre fresh from impressive performances at the Giraglia Rolex Cup and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
A continuing trend that gives the organizers immense pleasure is the number of returning yachts and the spread of nations. Some twenty countries will be represented, with Italy providing the largest contingent. The Swan 56 Clem from Spain, the 42-ft Kuka Light from Switzerland and the Marten 49 Speedy from Germany are just a few of those taking part again.
Yachts representing nine countries have won the race during its 45-year history with South Africa joining the list in 2012 following Eddie de Villiers win with Hi Fidelity. With size of fleet assembling this year, few would bet against a tenth nation being added to the roll.
Rolex Middle Sea Race
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6:01 PM Wed 2 Oct 2013GMT
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