Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Displaying items by tag: Middle Sea Race

If you know it's going to be a light airs Middle Sea offshore race, you'd reckon a stripped out and race-proven TP52 would be a good all-round bet, with her ability to comfortably outsail anything smaller, yet with an uncanny capacity to stay within shouting distance of much larger craft.

It's something which is being demonstrated very clearly at the moment as the mono-hull leaders struggle slowly over the leg from Pantelleria to Lampedusa. For although the Volvo 70 I Love Poland continues to lead on the water in the light southeast winds, having finally put Lampedusa astern, back at the previous turning point of Pantellaria the corrected time leader was Russian skipper Vadim Yakimento's TP52 Freccia Rossa, which was just 22 minutes on the water astern of Eric de Turcheim's NMYD 54 Teasing Machine from France, but The Machine's higher rating mans that, not for the first time, it's a Russian boat leading the Mediterranean's premier event.

Russian-owned TP 52 Freccia RossaA reliable thoroughbred – the Russian-owned TP 52 Freccia Rossa currently leads the Rolex Middle Sea Race

The conditions make it particularly demanding to get a competitive performance out of a well-appointed cruiser-racer such as the Marten R-P 72 Aragon from The Netherlands, but aboard her Nin O'Leary and his shipmate have shown they've the patience and persistence required, as Aragon is currently lying fifth overall.

Middle_sea_courseThe 606-mile course uses turning marks which are directly drawn down from an episode of Inspector Montalbano……

As for the defending champion, the First 45 Elusive 2 raced by the Podesta family of Malta, they are currently first in Class 4, but at Favignana were lying sixth overall, one place behind Aragon.

Ferguson celebrates in Valetta

Meanwhile, in Valetta there's socially-distanced celebrating with the crews of the big trimarans Maserati and Mana, as Maserati took line honours, but Mana – with round Ireland record 1993 veteran Brian Thompson and Mikey Ferguson of Belfast Lough on the strength – pipped her by four minutes for the corrected time multihull win.

The celebrations are both socially-distanced and decidedly muted, as the crews, having flown in from a mainland Europe already starting to close down even further, are now wondering if they're going to have a longer stay than planned in Malta's warm Autumn sunshine.

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

Maserati Multi70 (ITA), skippered by Giovanni Soldini, crossed the finish line of the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race at the Royal Malta Yacht Club to take Multihull Line Honours at 20:41:31 CEST on Monday 19th October in an elapsed time of 2 days, 08 hours 31 minutes 31 seconds.

Mana (ITA), owned by Riccardo Pavoncelli, and with Belfast Lough sailor Mikey Ferguson onboard, finished fifteen minutes behind after a closely fought battle around the course.

Ferguson's handicap win

Ferguson & Brian Thompson (Lakota round Ireland record 1993) on Mana have won the Middle Sea Race Mocrra Division on corrected time by 4 minutes 23 seconds.

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

Nice one, Nin. With a sailing rockstar recruited into your crew, it's reasonable to expect a 22-carat gold rockstar introduction to the on-stage performance. And Crosshaven super-helm Nin O'Leary certainly came up with the goods at the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in Malta yesterday, when he sliced out of the harbour in one single uninterrupted port tack with the Dutch-owned R-P/Marteen 72 Aragon, getting clear first into open water when others further down the line in the classes coming along later saw some time-consuming experiences of zig-zagging in the in-harbour flukey winds.

Although the organisers were still looking at 71 starters from 21 countries a week ago, as the start approached and the COVID-19 shutters came down with increasing severity in Europe, there were drop-outs. These included the famous Lombard 45 Pata Negra on charter to Andrew Hall of ISORA and Pwllheli, and in the end the Royal Malta YC did well to get just under 50 boats from 15 countries heading away on the 606-mile course anti-clockwise round Sicily and assorted islands.

Rolex Middle Sea Race CourseThe Rolex Middle Sea Race Course has everything except – for the moment – record-making wind strengths

They are doing it in a weather pattern of lightish winds which has already ruled out any possibility of a new record, but has nevertheless given the small but select Irish representation at the front of the fleet their time in the limelight. For in addition to the O'Leary talent on Aragon, the MOD 70 trimaran Mano, with Mikey Ferguson of Belfast Lough on board, was leading the multi-hulls.

It was a frustrating business getting along Sicily's East Coast and through the Straits of Messina, and out ahead among the multis the leader after putting Stromboli astern was Maserati with Mano third, while in IRC the Volvo 70 I Love Poland was the front runner.

The Belgian Swan 50 Balthasar was overall leader at MessinaThe Belgian Swan 50 Balthasar was overall leader at Messina

However, on corrected time at Messina, the IRC leader was the Swan 50 Balthasar (Louis Balcaen, Belgium), but the Podesta family of Malta's defending champion, the First 45 Elusive 2, was well in touch in third, just 20 minutes being the Belgian boat on CT.

And of the biggies, Aragon was doing best - she was sixth overall, on Corrected Time, close behind two boats with strong Round Ireland Race links, Eric de Turckheim's Teasing Machine and Tonnere de Glen, the former Piet Vroon Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens

There's no "ocean racing" course quite like the Middle Sea, and in the current weather setup, there'll be plenty of frustration and placing upsets before they finish. But at least this very special race is up and running, and taking part in it is just about the healthiest thing that those involved could be doing.

Published in Offshore

Day One: (17.00 CEST) Even with a reduced fleet, half the size of recent years, it was hard to not get sucked into the emotion and atmosphere of today’s Rolex Middle Sea Race start. The 41st edition got underway, as planned, on schedule and, most importantly, all clear. Seven starts and 50 yachts. Given the backdrop of a global pandemic, it marks a remarkable achievement for the organisers, the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and its highly professional volunteer team. As we go to press, the main body of the fleet is streaming across towards Capo Passero on the south eastern tip of Sicily. Impressively, the leading multihull, Maserati (ITA), was abeam the lighthouse on Isola di Capopássero at 1445 CEST, a mere 2.5 hours after its start.

Middle Sea Race competitors emerge from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta’s capital VallettaMiddle Sea Race competitors emerge from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta’s capital Valletta Photo: Kurt Arrigo
Meanwhile, the VO70 I Love Poland, skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski, leads the monohull fleet on the water, passing Capo Passero just after 1600 CEST. The VO65 Sisi-Austrian Ocean Race Project, skippered by Gerwin Jansen was approximately 20 minutes astern with Marton Jozsa’s Hungarian RP60 Wild Joe behind.

It was a glorious day to start a yacht race. Valletta’s golden limestone bastions, rising boldly from the waters of Grand Harbour, bathed in bright sunshine. The force 4 north-westerly, creating a whitecap strewn vista beyond the breakwater, was sufficient to allow crews to clear the line with relative ease. The pin end at the foot of Fort St Angelo was understandably favoured with Valletta casting a wind shadow over section beneath the Saluting Battery, where the race committee was located. The early starts were close fought affairs with teams keen to press home an advantage on their immediate opposition.

Class 1 Start 

The most powerful monohull start, and the penultimate in timing, took a while to wind up. Aragon (NED), the biggest in the fleet, belted across the start with the smaller Wild Joe on her hip and just to leeward. The arguably more powerful I Love Poland and E1, together with Sisi-The Austrian Ocean Race Project were slow to power up in a diminishing wind. Aragon held position and nerve to exit on one tack. Once on the wind, I Love Poland took control overhauling both Aragon (with Nin O'Leary aboard) and Wild Joe by the turning mark at St Julian’s. If conditions do as predicted, the Polish crew will have their work cut out to protect the lead overnight. Many of the Polish crew on E1 are doing the race for the first time. Sailing skipper and helmsman Rafal Sawicki was enthusiastic ahead of the start: “We’re a mainly amateur crew, and we are very happy we can do this 600-mile race even with all the problems around the world. It is really good that the organisers have managed the race and we can take part. It is a must do race.”

Multihull Start
The six-boat multihull class was an extraordinary sight. Reminiscent of a Klingon battle fleet (for anyone that remembers Star Trek from the 1970s), five racing trimarans set up their timed start-line runs from deep within Grand Harbour. Poor Asia, the Outremer 55 Light, more cruising than racing in this company, looked like a startled rabbit in the headlights as she tried to keep clear and find her own lane. Riccardo Pavoncelli’s MOD70 Mana (with Mikey Ferguson aboard) crossed at speed edging Maserati and leaving Antoine Rabaste’s larger Ultim’Emotion in her slipstream. Mana only arrived in Malta yesterday evening. Brian Thompson commented ahead of the start: “We are very excited about this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race. It is probably the best multihull fleet we have had and, this year, the racecourse looks as challenging as ever.”

Multihulls sprint away from the start Photo: Kurt ArrigoMultihulls sprint away from the start Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Maserati had cut their arrival time even finer, reaching the Valletta Fairway Buoy at 0800 CEST this morning and starting the race without setting foot on Maltese soil in an effort to avoid a period of isolation when they return to Italy after the race. It was quite a sight as Maserati chased Mana through the fleet after exiting the harbour, eventually overhauling them 10nm after the laid mark at St Julian’s.

Class 2 Start
The five-boat group is many people’s favourite to provide the overall winner under IRC. Eric de Turkheim’s Teasing Machine (FRA) has form at this race-winning her class in 2017 and finishing third overall. Vadim Yakimenko’s Russian TP52 Freccia Rossa has won the Rolex Giraglia and is reckoned to be a demon in the light conditions predicted to lie ahead. These two led from the line with Freccia Rossa breaking free of the harbour confines ahead of Teasing Machine.

Class 3 Start
A fight for the favoured pin end caused several teams to suffer a less than perfect start. Maksim Nemchenko’s Farr 45 Favorit plus, stayed out of trouble and perfectly executed towards the middle of the line. Dominique Tian’s French Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen adopted the same tactic. Favorit plus led the class out of Grand Harbour, much to the delight of the team whose home port is Kotor, Montenegro. At 1700 CEST Kito De Pavant’s Class 40 Made in Midi was leading on the water.

First 45 Elusive 2 (left) and Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso Photo: Kurt ArrigoFirst 45 Elusive 2 (left) and Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Class 4 Start
Right from the gun, two Maltese yachts locked horns in a battle that is set to continue around the 606nm course. Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso and First 45 Elusive 2, skippered by Christoph, Aaron & Maya Podesta, both made a great start. While Xpresso was the first boat in class to leave Grand Harbour, after rounding the Fairway Buoy, Elusive 2 soon took up pole position on the water.

Class 5 Start
Jonathan Gambin’s Maltese Dufour 44R Ton Ton Laferla judged their approach to the start to perfection and found good breeze to win the exit from Grand Harbour with the crew stacked high on the windward rail. Also starting well were Paul Debono’s Elan 410 Bait in their first race, Jonathan Camilleri Bowman’s Maltese Falcon II, Alexey Moskvin’s J/122E Buran and Max Muller’s German Luffe 4004 Prettynama2. Towards the back was Italian entry Mia. The owner, Luigi Stoppani, is taking part in not just his first ever Rolex Middle Sea Race, but his first race ever: “Last year I bought my boat, and decided I needed to get to know myself and my boat better. So I took the chance to participate in this race. There are many difficult parts, but we are prepared: the boat, the sails, and the crew, we are ready to start.”


Class 6 Start
The Grand Soleil 40 Aziza, sailed by a Latvian crew and skippered by Ilgonis Balodis, started on port tack at the pin end and pulled off a stunning start. Starting well too was the young Maltese team on J/109 Jarhead, skippered by Lloyd Hamilton. Another J/109, Chestress from Italy, also put in a good start. The owner, Leonardo Petti, is on his second Rolex Middle Sea Race: “We have not sailed as a crew since the race last year. We wanted to, but it has not been possible,” Petti announced. “I think this is one of the most beautiful races I have ever done. The course is fantastic. It is wonderful to see volcanoes, to experience hard conditions. It’s tough.” One of the smallest yachts in the race had the honour of leading the class out of Grand Harbour: Jean-Francois Nouel’s French Sun Fast 3200 Hakuna Matata. At 1700 CEST, Jean Luc Hamon’s French JPK 10.10 Raging Bee was going well.

Seven teams are racing Double Handed, front runners on the water are three Italian boats: Marco Paolucci’s Comet 45 Libertine, Natale Lia's Mylius 14 Zenhea Takesha and Alessio Bernabui’s Akilaria 40 Crossing Routes – Vaquita. Going well after time correction is the French J/109 Jubilee, sailed by Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas.

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

Mikey Ferguson from Bangor on Belfast Lough was looking forward yesterday (16th) to getting going on the MOD70 Mana in the 41st Edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race which started today from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta's capital Valletta. In light of the global pandemic, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has put in place special protocols and arrangements to ensure the safety of competitors, ashore and at sea.

Mikey is part of an Irish line up in the 70-boat fleet, as described by WM Nixon on Afloat today (17th October) here

He was hopeful of a good result on the multi-maestro Brian Thompson skippered Italian Mana, entered by Riccardo Pavoncelli. "We should do battle for line honours. The weather looks challenging and avoiding wind holes which will litter the course will the main aim. It's easier when its daylight".

Famed for its magnificent offshore race course and revered for the scale of the challenge it presents, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the most prominent events on the international yachting calendar. Mikey is excited to have another Italian entry, the near sistership Multi 70 Maserati, to race against. She set the multihull record in 2016 with a time of 49hrs 25m 1s and now Giovanni Soldini and Maserati are back.

Mikey added, "There will be stiff competition too from the French 80 ft tri Ultim'emotion 2". She is entered by Antoine Rabaste and was winner of the Cape2Rio Race as LoveWater in January. He concludes "It could be a long slow race but hopefully we will avoid separation from the other big Tris and are in the mix at the end for line honours".
You can follow the race on the tracker here 

Published in Belfast Lough

People have been unobtrusively getting on with sailing in many places during the pandemic, determinedly maintaining social distance afloat and ashore, reducing their interaction with outsiders to such a minimum it's almost non-existent, and doing it all thoughtfully, with properly-located face coverings.

Where racing has been held, it has been kept low key, and the traditional après sailing became so restrained that many folk, having got in their evening race or mini-cruise or whatever, simply decided to go straight home rather than use the carefully-planned compliant catering which the clubs have worked determinedly and with vision to provide.

Amongst club officials meanwhile, the central thinking is that each club should keep to itself, each boat should keep to itself, and each sailing family should stay within family limits. It's the complete opposite, in other words, of the Hockey Union, which seems to have been penalising clubs because some team members have refused for health reasons to travel to matches at other clubs.

Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening raceThe sense of well-being and feelings of good health induced by evening racing like this is beyond measure. Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening race of Thursday, July 9th 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

Who got Covid-19 through sailing?

Fortunately, the nature of our sailing is such that a comparable situation doesn't arise. The result is that the sailing community has managed to maintain such a high level of good health that incidences of COVID-19 within it seem very rare indeed, often to the point of non-existence. But instead of making such sweeping assessments based on personal observation and hearsay, Afloat.ie would like to put the record on a more substantial footing, so if you know of anyone in sailing who currently has, or has experienced, COVID-19, then please let us know.

Of course, we don't want names – that would be a gross intrusion on privacy, and probably illegal. But if we could get some sort of ballpark figure (if it exists), it would give substance to the arguments of many club officers, who feel that the National Authority has gone too far in declaring that even the humblest club racing is now verboten, and who feel instead that our beloved and exceptionally healthy sport – of which club sailors are the backbone – deserves much the same treatment as that meted out to golf.

The problem, of course, is that while sailing is a peaceful and often solitary pursuit without paying spectators, it is a high visibility activity. Even the smallest boats popping out for a quick race in the bay will be seen – albeit with scant genuine attention – by very many people. And if one sector of the population is finding its activities restricted in the severest possible way, it's only human to strike out and make sure that everyone else has to endure the same restrictions, and preferably worse.

Dun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough ReeDun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough Ree. Casual observers will not be aware of the details of sailing, but they'll certainly know it's going on. Photo: Cathy Mac Aleavey

Despite all this, we've had a truncated but interesting sailing season in Ireland in 2020, and at the time of writing this it's still developing, with Pam Lee and Cat Hunt in the process of setting a new women's two-handed round Ireland record (Record established in a time of 3 days 3d 20h 29m 28s subject to ratification - Web editor). Looking ahead, if allowed there are also prospects of late Autumn and early Winter leagues among people who have come to a fresh realisation of just how much sailing means to them.

It's all controllable within a very defined club bubble, but special challenges arise when a major international event comes up on the agenda, and those involved think they can just about run it provided the countdown and the participants have all been careful beyond diligent in preparing themselves and their crews.

Middle Sea Race's impressive turnout

Today's Royal Malta Rolex Middle Sea Race really has bent over backwards to be pandemic-fit. But even in Malta, there are Middle Sea-proven boats and crews who wouldn't dream of taking part. Despite that, the entry of 71 boats with crews from 21 countries is an impressive turnout, and there seems to be a basic underlying feeling that the race must take place as scheduled at 11 o'clock local time today (Saturday), not least for the morale of Malta and the good of world sailing.

This may all sound a bit high-flown for a specialised sporting event, but the Middle Sea Race can happen with no detrimental effect on preventing the spread of COVID-19, it will further improve the health of those taking part, and it will do us all no end of good simply to know it's taking place.

The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2 on her way to winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2019. Photo Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

So we find every bit of Irish interest that's going. Even the defending champion. the Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2, has a tenuous connection to us. The late Arthur Podesta, the father of the remarkable Podesta siblings Maya, Christoph and Aaron, took a best result of third overall in the Middle Sea Race with the first Elusive, which was an earlier First 45 – a sister-ship of Cormac Twomey's Sarah J which won the Dingle Race in 1997 and 1999 – which had originally been taken out to the Mediterranean by John Sisk of Dun Laoghaire.

Thus we need to claim a bit of Elusive 2, as our key offshore sailors in Malta - Barry Hurley and Brian Flahive who have many outstanding offshore achievements between them - are sitting this one out, though they have been getting in a spot of sailing by both being at the sharp end of SB20 racing in Malta.

Another serious contender that rings a bell is the hugely individualistic Lombard 45 Pata Negra, the vehicle of dreams for many Irish offshore successes. She's chartered this time round by Andrew Hall of Pwllheli and the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association.

Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday, and placed third overall Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday and placed third overall

And though Honorary Irish Sailor Jean-Pierre Dick (he was up at The Park, don't y'know) put down a marker for line honours with his JP54 The Kid in Wednesday's 30-mile Malta Coastal Race, the formidable talents of Nin O'Leary of Crosshaven have been shipped aboard the Dutch-owned Maxi 72 Aragon, a Reichel-Pugh design. And there's nothing Nin enjoys more than making a luxury performance cruiser sail much faster than anyone thought possible.

So there's an Irish lineup of sorts, and doubtless once the fleet finally crosses the start line, we'll find that there are others of us among the crews, for there's also representation in the multi-hulls with northerner Mikey Ferguson crewing on the MOD 70 Mana

Nin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender AragonNin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender Aragon - her CV already includes winning the RORC Transatlantic race.

Vendee Globe in November

The pace is then ratcheted with the Vendee Globe getting underway in November. Theoretically, it’s the perfect lockdown event, as it's all about isolation. But there is the problem that if anything happens to one of the contenders, they might have to put into some remote little island which would be just rife for infection from all sorts of novel viruses and bacteria. But that’s an unlikely enough scenario, and either way we can be sure that Marcus Hutchinson, much involved in recent days with the Magenta Project Female Two-Handed Round Ireland Record, will be right in the thick of things in Les Sables d’Olonne, even if they are going to try and run the legendary village oo socially distanced lines.

 The hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiThe hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Sydney Hobart holds out

Beyond that, the focus will swing to the southern hemisphere, where the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia are determinedly holding out on being able to stage the annual Sydney-Hobart race on December 26th. If it does happen, defending overall ace is our own Gordon Maguire, and the likelihood of top navigator-tactician Adrienne Cahalane – originally of Offaly – being in some key role in the fleet can be taken as read.

America's Cup selection stages

Meanwhile, December will see the first selection stages of next year's America's Cup being raced in New Zealand. New Zealand has of course been the poster-girl for national avoidance of COVID-19, so the anti-viral tests which boats and crews being shipped out to Auckland have had to pass are of the most demanding and rigorous type.

New Zealand has been under almost total outsider-exclusion for quite some time now. Thus the chink of light which may be allowed in by the America's Cup is surely welcome, as the prolonged period of virtually total isolation seems to have resulted in the distinctive Kiwi accent becoming even more different from English as she is spoken elsewhere than it was already. Unless some outsiders get in there quite soon, it's only a matter of time before there won't be anybody who can understand a word they say……..

Auckland, the City of a Thousand SailsAuckland, the City of a Thousand Sails, where the total pandemic isolation of New Zealand is resulting in the development of a strange new dialect of English

Published in Vendee Globe

Famed for its magnificent offshore race course and revered for the scale of the challenge it presents, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the most prominent events on the international yachting calendar.

The 41st edition of the race is scheduled to commence from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta’s capital Valletta on Saturday, 17 October, and, in light of the global pandemic, the RMYC has put in place special protocols and arrangements to ensure the safety of competitors, ashore and at sea.

Malta Middle Sea RaceThe Royal Malta Yacht Club Middle Sea Race course

Entry numbers for the anticlockwise circumnavigation of Sicily have been on an upward trajectory over the past decade, with more than 100 yachts from 20-plus countries regularly on the start line. This year may have fewer participants, but the attraction of the 606-nm racecourse – unique in offshore yacht racing as it starts and finishes in the same place – remains strong. The Mediterranean course’s competitive, historical, cultural and geological allure is perhaps without equal. Contested on waters where empires have risen and fallen and that form the setting for Homer’s Odyssey, the race takes in the active volcanoes of Etna and Stromboli and a myriad of islands. It is an epic adventure that stirs strong emotions and a sense of accomplishment in all who take part.

Maltese yacht Elusive 2 won the race last yearMaltese yacht Elusive 2 won the race last year

Crews comprise both professional and Corinthian sailors, veterans and debutants. The transfer of knowledge and the passing on of tradition from the experienced to the less-experienced are among the race’s great legacies. When Maltese yacht Elusive 2 won the race last year, the co-skippers were siblings Maya, Aaron and Christoph Podesta. They had served their apprenticeship under the guidance of their late father Arthur Podesta, himself a 35-race veteran and crew member of Josian, which won the inaugural event in 1968.

Middle Sea Race competitors emerge from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta’s capital VallettaMiddle Sea Race competitors emerge from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta’s capital Valletta

Two Rolex Testimonees have fond memories of taking part. US sailing legend Paul Cayard says: “Nothing prepares you for the beauty of the course. The race is truly a classic, with incredible drama and breathtaking backdrops.” Brazilian Robert Scheidt, a five-time Olympic medallist, agrees. “While it is one of the most beautiful races in the world, it is also very tough. When I competed, we faced strong winds and the heaviest sea I’ve ever witnessed in my career. At the finish line we were exhausted, but felt a profound sense of achievement.”

The race takes in the active volcanoes of Etna and Stromboli and a myriad of islandsThe race takes in the active volcanoes of Etna and Stromboli and a myriad of islands

The Middle Sea Race is a test of endurance, even for crews on the fastest yachts. The race record of 47 hours, 55 minutes has not been broken since 2007 and line-honours times in recent years have regularly exceeded 60 hours.

Brazilian sailing legends Robert Scheidt (left) and Torben Grael racing in the Middle Sea RaceBrazilian sailing legends Robert Scheidt (left) and Torben Grael racing in the Middle Sea Race

This supreme test of seamanship comes from the prevailing conditions and the shape of the course. October can be a difficult month in this part of the Mediterranean, bringing strong winds and brutal seas, interspersed with flat calm. As the fleet rounds Sicily, the numerous corners break up the race into distinct sections, each with its own characteristics and obstacles to overcome. The navigational and tactical conundrums stretch even the most experienced sailors. “The race is relentless,” adds Scheidt. “There is no time to rest on your laurels. Your opposition is often within sight and there is constant pressure to be in the best position to take advantage of the next wind shift.” 

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

The buildup to the 41st edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Offshore Race from Malta on Saturday (October 17th) continues in Valetta in muted style in line with pandemic restrictions, and while yesterday's traditional preview event, the Yachting Malta Coastal Race, may have been staged in idyllic conditions, it was with a smaller fleet than normal. This had already been expected in the circumstances, but numbers were further reduced by some Middle Sea Race participants being delayed by a storm on their way to Malta.

In conditions which showed the storms are well cleared for the time being, PRO Peter Dimech chose a race of approximately 30nm, starting from outside the Royal Malta Yacht Club, with the fleet rounding the island of Comino before returning to Marsamxett Harbour.

"It was champagne sailing," commented Dimech. "12-15 knots from the southwest building to 18 knots later in the day. There was about a metre of swell on the west coast of Comino, but flatter seas on the east coast."

In the first start, Timofey Zhbankov's Russian JPK 10.80 Rossko got the best start and went on to win their class and place second overall. In the second start, the Podesta family racing Maltese First 45 Elusive 2, the Middle Sea Race Overall winner in 2019, showed the way with great pace out of the harbour, going on to win the race overall after IRC time correction. Rossko was second and Jean-Pierre Dick's French JP54 The Kid – which took line honours - placed third overall on IRC.

round the world races veteran Jean-Pierre Dick's JP54 The Kid Multiple round the world races veteran Jean-Pierre Dick's JP54 The Kid took line honours in yesterday's Malta Coastal Race. He will be sailing his second Middle Sea challenge on Saturday with a Czech crew.

Christophta, co-skipper of Elusive 2, commented after the race: "Last year we showed our potential by winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall. We know it is a tough race to win and we are not getting big-headed. We hope we can be faster than in 2019 and win our class. But winning overall is dependent on things beyond our control, yet we can sail to our potential and certainly enjoy the race."

Jean-Pierre Dick's JP54 The Kid took line honours in an elapsed time of 2 hrs 47 mins 39 secs, and she will be sailing her second Rolex Middle Sea Race on Saturday with J-P Dick as skipper. A veteran of three Vendee Globe Races, he won the Barcelona Round the World Race in February 2008 with Ireland's Damian Foxall as co-skipper, resulting in a celebratory reception for the dynamic duo at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin with President Mary McAleese and her family.

"We are competing with the same Czech-based crew, this race is a lot of fun and I come from Nice, so I love the Mediterranean," commented Dick. "Today's race was a good test for the boat in racing conditions and to practice manoeuvres and sail changes. Some of the boats did not make it for the Coastal Race because of the storm. However, for the Rolex Middle Sea Race there will be fierce competition. This is a different game to the Vendee Globe, but it is a challenge just the same, and this year the race is wide open."

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

Cork Harbour rockstar helm Nin O'Leary will be racing the Reichel Pugh 72 Aragon in October's Middle Sea Offshore Race if the Royal Malta Yacht Club can successfully maintain its careful progress through the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, something in which the race's own Maltese competitor Dr Maya Podesta, as Afloat reported here, is playing a key role.

O'Leary of Crosshaven who – if all continues according to plan – will be racing on the Reichel Pugh-designed Mini Maxi Aragon, a Marteen 72 which has shown well on the Mediterranean circuit.

Part of the preparation for this month's race is that all the crews are expected to be fully compliant with the COVID-19 restrctions, including infection-free self-isolation before travelling to Malta.

Doubtless, the names of other Irish participants will emerge as the race time comes nearer on Saturday, October 17th. But for now, we keep our fingers crossed that Dr Podesta and her team can continue to keep the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2020 on track through these exceptionally difficult times.

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

Dr Maya Podesta belongs to one of Malta's most noted offshore sailing families. Her late father Arthur (who died in 2015) was a pioneer of the Middle Sea Race – he raced in the first one in 1968, and raced in many thereafter, crewing on the winning boat three times, and taking third overall in command of his own boat Elusive.

With a pedigree like that, Maya Podesta has always been into sailing, and the Rolex Middle Sea Race in particular. With her brothers Aaron and Christoph on the First 45 Elusive, the Podestas are a force to be reckoned with in Mediterranean sailing, and this was underlined in last year's Middle Sea Race, when George David's legendary Rambler 88 may have taken line honours, but Elusive was overall winner.

Thus there was never any question that Elusive would be back as defending champions in 2020. But it has now all come down to whether or not the Royal Malta Yacht Club can successfully maintain its careful progress through the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, something in which Maya Podesta is playing a key role.

The Maltese First 45 Elusive on her way to overall victory for the Podesta family in the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea RaceThe Maltese First 45 Elusive on her way to overall victory for the Podesta family in the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race. Photo: Kurt Arrigo

As 2020's race approaches, she is both an entry as the defending champion, and as a medical professional is the Consultant to Malta's Office of the Superintendence of Public Health. The OSPH is closely monitoring the effects of COVID-19 both in Malta and along the 606-mile race course, and will be giving advice as to whether or not the race should go ahead at the highest administrative level in the final stages before the scheduled start on Saturday, October 17th.

It's all being done on a softly-softly, day-by-day approach, and at the moment it's a case of so far, so good, with 79 boats entered from 21 countries, and all the crews fully informed as to what is expected of them by way of compliance, including infection-free self-isolation before travelling to Malta.

We keep our fingers crossed that Dr Podesta and her team can continue to keep the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2020 on track through these exceptionally difficult times.

Published in Offshore
Tagged under
Page 1 of 8

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Car Brands

subaru sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton dob
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

quantum sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating