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Hyde Sails 2022 Wuzzos - LEADERBOARD

2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race: Confronting the challenge

by Quinag 30 Oct 2021 13:20 PDT 23-30 October 2021
An international fleet of 114 yachts from 25 countries are contesting the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race © Kurt Arrigo / Rolex

For the 114-strong international fleet, the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race proved a true examination of seamanship.

The challenges presented offered a test for even the most prepared crews. Organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club since 1968 the race has been partnered by Rolex since 2002.

The 42nd edition of the race was dominated by an exceptional weather window that offered fast downwind sailing virtually the entire way around the course. Despite a determined effort by smaller, less powerful but exceptionally well-sailed yachts, the maxi Comanche was declared the overall winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race on time correction. The 100-ft (30.48m) yacht completed the 606-nautical mile (975 kilometre) racecourse in a time of 40 hours, 17 minutes and 50 seconds, setting a new monohull record, seven and half hours inside the previous best. Comanche became only the third yacht in the history of the race to claim the triple crown of line honours, monohull race record and overall victory.

Mitch Booth, the skipper, confirmed that despite high-class opposition the situation favoured his boat:

"The Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the premiere events in offshore racing and to come away with the triple is very rare. This weather window was perfect and we were lucky to get around the corners at just the right time. We had everything thrown at us - strong winds, rain, lightning, huge waves sometimes. It was really challenging."

For Tom Slingsby, a crewmember of Comanche as well as a former Rolex World Sailor of the Year and skipper of the Australia SailGP Team, a first Rolex Middle Sea Race appearance proved hugely memorable:

"To set a new (monohull) race record is very humbling. The race track is beautiful, going around islands in changing conditions with a lot of geographical factors at play and then finishing back where we started is new for me. I will definitely be coming back."

Meanwhile for the predominantly Corinthian crews, the weather and sea state were brutal. In the threatening winds, the need to balance prudence with performance was critical. Experienced sailors, like 31-time race participant Christian Ripard competing on the Maltese yacht Artie agreed:

"At night we were doing up to 28 knots. You need to be careful. With our crew's experience we are able to push the boat hard. There is that element of racing where you want to win, but you are on a tightrope. You need to make sure you stay on that line."

A quartet of maxi multihulls were also able to take full advantage of the conditions, with Jason Carroll's MOD70 Argo (USA) powering around the course in a time of 33 hours, 29 minutes and 28 seconds, setting a remarkable outright race record.

The 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race will be remembered as the year records fell and one where Corinthian sailors demonstrated guile, grit and determination. Their resilience and human accomplishment are two of the qualities which have long bound Rolex and the sport of sailing.

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