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Conor Doyle's XP 50 Freya from Kinsale Yacht Club in County Cork returns to the Rolex Middle Sea Race next month as the sole Irish entrant in the 606 nautical mile classic that features entrants from 25 countries.

Plans for a second Irish boat in the 2023 race have not materialised as the Howth Grand Soleil 44 Samatom is up for sale.

As regular Afloat readers know, Doyle's Freya raced to success in 2022, claiming the ORC Three division prize, so he will be out to retain this trophy or better.

The start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, 2021 Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoThe start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, 2021 Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The start of the 2023 Race is just under four weeks away. When entries closed on Friday, 22 September, 109 yachts had entered with entries including Kazakhstan, San Marino and Israel – all three thought to be attending for the first time. Once again, the Royal Malta Race is demonstrating its global appeal and ability to motivate participation from countries not regularly seen on offshore start lines elsewhere.

The race is scheduled to get underway from Grand Harbour, Valletta on Saturday, 21 October. Should anyone still wish to join the competition and adventure, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has reserved the right to accept late entries up until Friday, 29 September.

The fleet facts are as follows: 107 monohulls, two multihulls, largest yacht: Stephane Neve’s Spirit of Malouen X at 32.55m, smallest yacht: Muttley – BDM Audit at 9.76m, most entries from Italy with 23 followed by Malta with 12, furthest travelled entry: El Oro from Australia, and six double-handed entries, which include Luca Bettiati’s Muttley and Murat Abdrakhmanov’s Jenis from Kazakhstan. The multihulls include Alexia Barrier’s MOD 70 Limosa (ex. Mana), with a top class crew, and Aldo Fumagalli’s all-carbon Rapido 40 trimaran Adamas, designed by high-performance gurus Gino Morelli and Pete Melvin, and sporting a rotating wing-mast and C-foils.

The monohull fleet promises plenty of intrigue and interest, with a mix of Corinthian and professional crews harbouring different levels of ambition, but sharing the same course. All those racing under IRC Time Correction are in with a shot at the race’s main prize – the splendid Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy awarded to the overall winner. This magnificent, sculpted piece, created by Emanuel ‘Emvin’ Cremona for the first race in 1968, has been undergoing a period of restoration after 45 years of being held aloft by its ecstatic recipients.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy Photo: RMYC/Alex TurnbullThe Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy Photo: RMYC/Alex Turnbull

Among the yachts that will be hoping to lay their hands on the trophy this year are a clutch of boats that performed very well in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race. Maximillian Klink’s 15.85 metre Caro from Switzerland was overall winner at the RORC’s flagship event. If prevailing the weather suits her size and class, Caro must be a strong prospect. It will not be straight-forward, Chris Sheehan’s Warrior Won from the United States finished third at the Fastnet and fourth at the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart, just 10 minutes behind Caro on corrected time. Philippe Frantz’s French entry Albator finished fifth at the UK’s top offshore race, just ahead of Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky (ex. Rambler) and James Neville’s Carkeek 45 Ino Noir, on its debut 600 mile offshore race. They will no doubt be happy that last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race winner, Teasing Machine, is not returning to defend her title.

The American yacht Warrior Won at dawn off the Irish coast during the Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoThe American yacht Warrior Won at dawn off the Irish coast during the Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Other yachts to look out for in this section fleet include Red Bandit, winner of the 2023 Rolex Giraglia, François Bopp’s Swiss Chocolate 3, Marton Jozsa’s Hungarian Wild Joe (third overall last year) and Guido Paolo Gamucci’s Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X (fifth in 2022) from Italy. A special contest may ensue between two Carkeek 47s. Stortebekker (ex. Black Pearl) from the Hamburgischer Verein Seefahrt e.V in Germany under the leadership of Katrina Westphal, while Optimum S – Samos Steamship (ex. Indian) from the Kalamaki Nautical Club in Greece is led by Nikos Lazos and Periklas Livas. Lazos and Livas are celebrating 30 years of the Optimum Yacht Racing Team. It will be their eighth race, although first with the current boat.

Famed for winning the 2004 Rolex Middle Sea Race with the Farr 52 Optimum 3, Livas and Lazos are only too aware of the challenge ahead. “We are on a steep learning curve in terms of getting to know the modes of Optimum S,” says Livas. “In this second season, we feel more confident to push harder and achieved third overall under IRC (first in Class 1) and first overall in ORC in Aegean 600 in July this year. We eagerly join Rolex Middle Sea Race to measure ourselves and our weapon, racing alongside more than 100 serious entries from all over the world.”

François Bopp’s Swiss Chocolate 3, a Farr 52,  will compete in the 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoFrançois Bopp’s Swiss Chocolate 3, a Farr 52,  will compete in the 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Two other sisterships to consider are the Cookson 50s: Franco Niggeler’s Kuka 3 (Switzerland) and United States sailor Robert Pethick’s chartered Testacuore Race. Pethick has secured some impressive results in the 2025-mile Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii, winning his division in 2021, placing third in 2019 and second in 2013 in the biennial ocean racing classic. Niggeler is a past winner of the RORC Transatlantic Race and the Dhream Cup (Grand Prix de France Course au Large). The 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race witnessed a Cookson 50 one-two as Mascalzone Latino took the IRC victory head of the Cippa Lippa 8.

Franco Niggeler’s Kuka 3, a Cookson 50, that competed in the 2022 Round Ireland Race, competes in October's 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoFranco Niggeler’s Kuka 3, a Cookson 50, that competed in the 2022 Round Ireland Race, competes in October's 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The talent on display does not diminish greatly as one heads down the entry list and plenty of boats around the 40 foot mark have taken the overall win in the past two decades. Most notably, perhaps, the crew of Artie guided by owner Lee Satariano and Maltese legend Christian Ripard, about to embark on his 33rd race – only one shy of the current record set by another local hero, Arthur Podesta, who sadly passed away in 2015. Artie has won the race on two occasions in 2011 and 2014, on Satariano’s previous boat a J/121. The current HH42 is a step up in performance potential, but a second in class last year is encouraging.

Lee Satariano's HH42, Artie III, will compete in the 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoLee Satariano's HH42, Artie III, will compete in the 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The Podesta family meanwhile maintains its extraordinary connection with the race. The three siblings - Aaron Christoph and Maya – are preparing for yet another lap on Elusive II, with which Malta’s most recent triumphs at the race were achieved, the back-to-back wins of 2019 and 2020.

Elusive II achieved back-to-back wins of the Middle Sea Race in  2019 and 2020 Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoElusive II achieved back-to-back wins of the Middle Sea Race in  2019 and 2020 Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

One of the first time entrants to catch the eye is Chione from the United Kingdom. According to its skipper Bill Farrant the Grand Soleil 43 has been extensively upgraded under the project management of Josh Hall, a class winner at the Transat Jacques Vabre and Vendee Globe finisher. On board will be Sir David Hempleman-Adams, the first person to reach the geographic and magnetic North and South Poles among many other feats of exploration. Farrant and crew member Dr Ros Smith took part in the double-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race on Chione. Farrant has many connections to Malta, including his Maltese wife of 33 years, Anita; he is also a long standing Royal Malta Yacht Club member. “We will be dedicating Chione’s race entry to my father-in-law, Evarist Saliba, who will be well known to many on the island for his public service in government,” says Farrant. “Evarist, now 95 years old, would have loved to have been able to watch the start of the race but due to ill health will be unable to attend. As a young boy in the early 1940s he can recall observing a very different tableau unfolding in the Grand Harbour - a reminder to us all how privileged and fortunate we are to be able to participate in such a wonderful event as the Rolex Middle Sea Race.”

JPK 1180 Cocody at the start of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoJPK 1180 Cocody at the start of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The last time a sub-12 metre or 40 foot yacht won the Rolex Middle Sea Race was in 2018 when the JPK 1180 Courrier Recommandé picked up the main prize. The year before it had been the JPK 1080 Bogatyr, offering plenty of encouragement to the quarter of the fleet that fit beneath that overall length. There are two JPK 1180s this year – Per Roman’s Garm from Sweden and Richard Fromentin’s Cocody from France. Cocody was fourth in class and 18th overall at this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race. Garm was doing well in the same race until the Swedish crew infringed a Traffic Separation Zone taking a scoring penalty in the process. No doubt one or both these crews will be looking to achieve more in October. Among the smallest entries, Dusko Tomic from Croatia sailing the Sun Fast 3300 Munjek RS from Croatia has plenty of experience of the course, as does the J/109 JYS Jan from Malta, with its crew of young sailors led by Claudia Bugeja, a graduate of the Jarhead Young Sailors Foundation, and on his fifth race.

Whoever comes out on top in the battles to be fought in October, one thing looks certain: another great chapter looks set to be written in the rich history of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

The 44th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 21 October 2023.

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With the news that last year’s monohull and multihull line honours winners have entered, entries at the 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race have shifted gears again. The Dutch 30 metre (100 foot) Leopard 3, skippered by Chris Sherlock and which delivered new owner Joost Schultz his first silverware, returns to renew old rivalries and perhaps create some fresh. Alexia Barrier was skipper on Riccardo Pavoncelli’s MOD70 Mana in 2022 when it beat immediate rival Zoulou across the line by 56 seconds.

In 2023 Barrier is back this time as skipper and owner of the multihull, now named Limosa. The Swiss Botin 52 Caro, owned by Maximillian Klink and overall winner under IRC of the Rolex Fastnet Race (and with Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle onboard), will be looking to add a second win in an ambitious trifecta of offshore races that includes the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC), which founded the race in 1968, would like to remind prospective participants that entries officially close on Friday, 22 September, although the club reserves the right to accept late applications up to 29 September.

Alexia Barrier’s The Famous Project is a new racing team whose ultimate ambition is an all-women Jules Verne record attempt on the 32 metre Idec Sport. Taking over Mana after last year’s epic contest, the multihull has been renamed Limosa, after a small bird that holds the record for a non-stop migratory flight. According to Barrier, “This remarkable feat of endurance and navigation is a testament to the incredible capabilities of these birds. I hope that we can be equally enduring and efficient during our upcoming flights in the MOD70!”

This year’s crew will look very different to last year. Barrier will no longer be the lone woman, with Dee Caffari, Elodie Mettraux, Marie Riou and Sara Hastreiter joining her in a mixed team. “Taking the helm as both skipper and owner is an exhilarating shift in status,” advises Barrier. “I am relishing the newfound responsibility and control. Our goal is the highest level of multihull sailing and I’m looking forward to this opportunity to train with the crew and continue our progress.”

“I really love the Rolex Middle Sea Race, first of all because the Mediterranean is my playground,” says Barrier. “This will be my fourth time. The first two were truly wild on a Class 40. I can’t wait to find out what conditions we will face this year.”

In the monohull line honours contest, Leopard 3 is currently up against BlackJack, Spirit of Malouen X and Pyewacket 70. This illustrious group is expected to be joined by Lucky, the former Rambler 88 which holds the record for being first to finish in five consecutive races between 2015 and 2019, as well as the Wally Bullitt, which made its debut last year.

Beyond the headline acts, the core constituents of any Rolex Middle Sea Race are to be found in the lower orders of the multinational fleet. One such entry is first-time participant Simon Xuereb owner of the Maltese entry Spirt of the Winds, a Dufour 40. “I have known about the race for years,” explains Xuereb, whose introduction to sailing came some decades ago when David Anastasi (a two-time winner of the race with the Podesta family’s Elusive 2) took him for a trip in a dinghy in the North Comino Cannel. “It was a real baptism, but an experience which stuck with me and two of my great friends since that time, Chris Tonna and Robert Cassar, both of whom are in the crew. Over the years, we have talked about doing the Rolex Middle Sea Race, but this is really the first opportunity.” Xuereb is quick to admit he and his friends are a competitive bunch, but realists. “Our aim is to complete the race but, moreover surpass the expectations of our wives!” he laughs.

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Though there are no confirmed Irish entries so far, at least two Irish big boats, one from Dublin and one from Cork, are expected to compete in this year's 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race organised by the The Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC).

Last year's race attracted 118 yachts, another exceptional achievement for a race that always draws an impressively international fleet. 

As regular Afloat readers know, Conor Doyle's XP 50 Freya from Kinsale Yacht Club raced to success in 2022, claiming the ORC Three division prize

The RMYC is looking to attract another varied participation and to challenge the record number of entries, 130, set in 2018. The 2023 race is scheduled to start on Saturday, 21 October, from Grand Harbour, Malta.

Always seeking to build on the previous year, the RMYC has announced it is employing a new registration system, which forms part of an updated race management backend suite geared to improving the experience of owners, crew, fans, media and the race team itself.

Several crews have already indicated their intention to compete, including familiar names and some less well-known ones, in the context of the 606nm Rolex Middle Sea Race. One of two headline boats is the Stephane Neve skippered Wally 107, Spirit of Malouen, racing as Paprec Sailing Team and representing France. The Judel/Vrolijk designed yacht (ex. Open Season, ex.Hamilton), built by Green Marine and will be the second Wally yacht to take on the Mediterranean's most challenging offshore race following the successful participation of Bullitt last year. Despite her formidable 32.55 metre / 107 foot length, the record for the largest yacht remains with the 43m / 140ft Skorpios. Neve previously took part in the race in 2021 with a TP52 finishing a day behind the first monohull home, Comanche, which set a new course record.

Another newcomer is Pyewacket 70 from the United States. The Pyewacket name was first made famous in the yachting world through the series of boats owned by the avid ocean racer Roy E. Disney, a nephew of Walt Disney and who passed away in 2009. His son, Roy P. Disney, is a hugely experienced offshore racer in his own right and continues the Pyewacket legacy with this latest iteration. Originally designed by Juan K and launched in 2011, Pyewacket 70 (ex. Black Jack, ex. Telefonica), is a modified Volvo 70, sporting a taller rig and deeper, lighter keel. Overall and Line Honours winner at the 2023 RORC Caribbean 600, the Pyewacket team's next challenge begins on 1 July at the 2023 Transpac. Despite some well-founded attempts, no Volvo 70 (modified or not) has won the Rolex Middle Sea Race on handicap. I Love Poland did, of course, take line honours in 2020.

The 44th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 21 October 2023.

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In 2022, a fleet of 118 yachts from 24 countries had to negotiate extremely light winds in the 2022 Middle Sea Race, requiring crews to demonstrate supreme patience and perseverance to maximize every opportunity to maintain momentum. It was a race in which Ireland's Conor Doyle and his Kinsale crew won their ORC division on the Xp50, Freya.  

Eric de Turckheim's French yacht Teasing Machine was the overall race winner, a just reward after coming close to victory at several Rolex-partnered offshore races in recent years.

Watch the full feature below!

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Having been in contention for a top three place in IRC 4 at several points of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Kinsale Yacht Club's Conor Doyle was rewarded for his Mediterranean exploits with the ORC Three title in Valetta Harbour, Malta on Friday evening.

As Afloat reported earlier, Ireland's only entry in the race 600-miler ended up fourth on IRC Four rating after a tough battle with French and Maltese yachts. 

The Ireland Freya crew skippered by Conor Doyle from Kinsale at the finish of the 2022 Middle Sea Race in Valetta harbour, includes Kelvin Harrap, Rory Harrap, Will Byrne, Barry Hurley, Nick Jones, Malcolm McCormick, Cian Guilfoyle, James Lyons, Conor Doyle and Nin O'Leary

Malta’s past and present combined today at the Rolex Middle Sea Race final prize giving. Held, as is now tradition, in the 16th century former-Sacra Infermeria overlooking Grand Harbour, scene of the start one week ago, the story of the event was all but completed, just as the finishers conclude their own story as the cross the finish line.

This year’s edition, the 43rd in the long and illustrious history of the Mediterranean’s most demanding and renowned 600 mile offshore race, will be remembered for light winds, dogged determination and the remarkable imagery from the racecourse. Its character, so diametrically opposed to last year, it is hard to imagine the two races took place over the same track at the same time of year.

The principal success stories of the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race recognised at the prize giving included:

  • Teasing Machine – overall winner under IRC and recipient of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy
  • Mana – multihull line honours winner and recipient of the Captain Morgan Trophy for victory under MOCRA
  • Leopard 3 – monohull line honours winner and recipient of the RLR Trophy
  • Wild Joe – ORC Category winner and recipient of the Boccale del Mediterraneo Trophy

David Cremona, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club paid tribute to all crews that had taken part, reserving special mention for the overall winner, Eric de Turckheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine from France, but also the handful of boats still to finish the 606nm race. Cremona also thanked the volunteers of the club that make up the Race Committee and its small permanent staff for their hours of selfless work in preparing for the race. He also took time to record the club’s deep appreciation of its 20 year relationship with title sponsor Rolex, as well as the support of other race partners, such as Yachting Malta and the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and government bodies, such as the Malta Tourism Authority, for their important contributions.

In addition to participating crews, the occasion was attended by several distinguished guests, in particular the Italian Ambassador, Fabrizio Romano, and the President of Malta, George Vella who gave a short address. “This historic building provides the most fitting venue for this ceremony with its connection to the seafaring Knights of St John,” said President Vella. “As well as drawing the best sailing talent to our country, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has come to symbolise Malta’s maritime history. Each year it brings the island’s historic grandeur back to life.” Malta’s Head of State also referred to the global appeal of the race. “One of the race’s most impressive elements since its inception in 1968 is its multi-cultural and multi-national aspect,” he said. “So many diverse backgrounds and languages sharing a common love for the sport of sailing. For the past days you have demonstrated resilience, determination and patience. Your accomplishments would not have been possible without a strong team spirit. The image of endurance the Rolex Middle Sea Race offers each year is an example and encouragement to those of us ashore and a source of great inspiration.”

The Principal Race Officer, Stefan Kunstmann, also took a moment to reinforce the thanks for the volunteers and staff that had delivered the race and to congratulate the competitors. “I admire each and every one of you – finisher, retiree or those still racing – for the sportsmanship, the patience, the acceptance of nature and the determination you have shown. These qualities are as much a part of our sport as sailing ability.”
The 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race now passes into legend. It was an exceptional race for very different reasons to last year, and a reminder that tough conditions include light and fickle winds as well as fast and furious.

The 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 21 October 2023.

IRC Overall & winner Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy
Teasing Machine, Eric de Turckheim, FRA

IRC Class Winners
IRC 1 Spirit of Lorina, Jean-Pierre Barjon, FRA
IRC 2 Teasing Machine, Eric de Turckheim FRA
IRC 3 Ino XXX, James Neville, GBR
IRC 4 Albator, Philippe Frantz, FRA
IRC 5 Tevere Remo Mon Ile, Gianrocco Catalano, ITA

Monohull Line Honours & winner RLR Trophy

Leopard 3, Chris Sherlock, NED

Multihull Line Honours & Malta Tourism Authority Trophy (First Foreign Boat)
Mana, Riccardo Pavoncelli, ITA

MOCRA Overall & Captain Morgan Trophy
Mana, Riccardo Pavoncelli, ITA

ORC Category Overall & winner Boccale del Mediterraneo Trophy

Wild Joe, Marton Jozsa, HUN

ORC Class Winners
ORC 1 Wild Joe, Marton Jozsa, HUN
ORC 2 Daguet 3 – Corum, Frederic Puzin, FRA
ORC 3 Freya, Conor Doyle. IRL
ORC 4 Tevere Remo Mon Ile, Gianrocco Catalano, ITA

First Boat with Maltese skipper & majority Maltese crew -Transport Malta Trophy
First Maltese Boat under IRC & Arthur Podesta Trophy
First Maltese Boat under ORC & Teddie Borg Trophy

Artie III, Lee Satariano & Christian Ripard, MLT

Yachting Malta Nations Cup (Country with three best corrected times)
France – Teasing Machine, Spirit of Lorina & Arobas 2

Italian Ambassador’s Trophy for Sportsmanship
Arobas2, Gerard Logel, FRA

First Italian boat under ORC & winner Federazione Italian Vela Trophy
Tevere Remo Mon Ile, Gianrocco Catalano, ITA

At the time of writing, 44 boats had finished, 13 are still racing and the rest have retired.

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Year on year, the Rolex Middle Sea Race features a myriad of skirmishes right through the fleet. If you dream of winning one of the classic 600 nm offshore races overall, you must have the determination and commitment to first win your section of the IRC category. At the 43rd edition, some of the class wars have been intense affairs to the finish, while others have appeared walkovers as the competition missed catching the wind train or suffered other injustices in the fickle winds. At least one such battle is still ongoing and is unlikely to finish for many hours.

Ireland's sole entry in the race, Conor Doyle's XP50 Freya from Kinsale, finished on Friday evening, taking fourth in IRC 4 division and 26th overall and rewarded with an ORC division win as Afloat reports here.

In IRC 1, the eventual gap between the first and second boats on time correction was 50 minutes, and the fight remained unresolved until the finish line. The two boats, Spirit of Lorina (FRA) and Wild Joe (HUN) had been in contention since the start, and were locked together until Stromboli. Halfway across the north of Sicily a gap started to appear, and Marton Josza’s Hungarian crewed Reichel/Pugh 60 managed to stretch away from Jean-Pierre Barjon’s French-crewed Botin 65. At the Favignana transit (the nominal halfway point) the gap was 40 minutes in the favour of Wild Joe.

The Botin 65 Spirit Of Lorina competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race's Class 1 Photo: Kurt ArrigoThe Botin 65 Spirit Of Lorina competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race's Class 1 Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Races can turn in an instant as Wild Joe explained: “We caught the fisherman’s net in the evening hours on the approach to Pantelleria. Luckily, we spotted it straightaway and were able to get free quite quickly and didn't get too entangled.” All the same by Pantelleria, the positions were reversed with Spirit of Lorina holding a 40 minute advantage on corrected time. Despite a concerted effort by Wild Joe on the Lampedusa – Malta leg, the gap could not be closed. According to the Wild Joe navigator, Andras D’Albini, “To do well in this race you need a favourable weather forecast, and some luck especially in the windless areas. This is our best ever result, so we are very happy. We had an accurate weather forecast ahead of the race. The team is very experienced, and we kept hitting our polars. It was great to be here. Really nice to see two other Hungarian teams. We hope to be back.”

Teasing Machine’s victory in IRC 2 was comprehensive by the finish, Eric de Turckheim’s French NMYD54 beating Red Bandit by more than two hours. It was not always so. A 20 year old Farr 52, Chocolate 3 (the former Optimum 3 overall winner in 2004) now representing Switzerland, although mainly crewed by young Bulgarian dinghy sailors, was right at the top of the standings until Stromboli. “We had a very good start,” said owner François Bopp. “We were first in the rankings going into the Messina Strait, and then we blew a jib. We lost a lot of time because it was ripped in two. We missed the first train there, and then again at Stromboli where we had boats less than a mile away from us going superfast while we were stuck.” Bopp continued: “The two extremes of last year and this year prove that this race is fascinating. The landscape is beautiful, the winds can change, the result is not predictable, and that is all it needs to be great race.”

Marton Jozsa's RP 60 Wild Joe competing in IRC Class 1 of the Rolex Middle Sea Race's Class 1 Photo: Kurt ArrigoMarton Jozsa's RP 60 Wild Joe competing in IRC Class 1 of the Rolex Middle Sea Race's Class 1 Photo: Kurt Arrigo

The Chocolate afterguard this year included serial round the world yachtsman Bouwe Bekking. “It was a very, very, very slow race. We predicted four and a half days, and it’s taken us over six. There are a lot of young sailors onboard, and motivation was always high, the crew was always eager. They got a great experience and kept fighting to the end. It was probably an eye-opener.” Bekking continued: “The Rolex Middle Sea Race gives you everything. You don’t have any better starts anywhere else in the world than Valletta. Then the whole ambiance, going around corners, seeing Stromboli letting smoke go, it is just a fantastic course. Kudos to the Royal Malta Yacht Club.”

Francois Bopp's Farr 52, Chocolate 3 an IRC Class 2 competitor in the Rolex Middle Sea Race's Class 1 Photo: Kurt ArrigoFrancois Bopp's Farr 52, Chocolate 3 an IRC Class 2 competitor in the Rolex Middle Sea Race's Class 1 Photo: Kurt Arrigo

One of the most anticipated duels was in IRC 3, a rematch between Lee Satariano’s Artie III (MLT) co-skippered by Christian Ripard and the RORC Commodore James Neville’s Ino XXX (GBR). Ino XXX beat Artie III by 10 minutes on IRC corrected time in 2021. The Artie team though has won the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall on two occasions in a previous boat. While both boats are both high performance HH42s they are not identical. The drive and will to win, though, is an even match.

“We have a strong team that has been working together for about five years and we have done a lot of 600 mile races,” commented Neville. “During this race we were constantly changing sails; always ready to keep the boat moving. The navigation was also absolutely critical.” Locked together for much of the race, as Ino and Artie approached Pantelleria the wind started to fade again. “As the wind died, we took a gybe west,” explained Neville. “It was only about a half a mile detour, but that converted to a sixty mile lead because it kept us in the breeze, while the wind just disappeared behind us.”

Thumbs up from the HH42 Artie skippered by Lee Satariano/Christian Ripard, a competitor in ORC: Class 2, IRC: Class 3 in the Rolex Middle Sea Race Photo: Kurt ArrigoThumbs up from the HH42 Artie skippered by Lee Satariano/Christian Ripard, a competitor in ORC: Class 2, IRC: Class 3 in the Rolex Middle Sea Race Photo: Kurt Arrigo

“The Rolex Middle Sea Race is always a fantastic race, but before this one we knew there would be parts of the race with very light winds,” commented Satariano. “Up until Favignana we were very happy with our performance. At Pantelleria, we missed the breeze by a matter of minutes. We were becalmed for over 20 hours. At that moment you feel devastated, but we did our best and we are really happy with the performance of the boat and the crew. You have to move on because we could not have done anything better to avoid it.”

For co-skipper Christian Ripard, who has done many Rolex Middle Sea Races: “It was a typical race. A lot of unexpected things happened. Very testing conditions, very testing psychologically.” “You ask any sailor, the highest skill you need is to sail with no wind,” Ripard continued. “It is very important to keep everyone pulling the same rope, and not just giving up. The whole crew has to give it their all. Luck may have been against us, I don’t know, but we enjoyed it!”

Ino XXX, sailed by James Neville in IRC Class 3 of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Photo: Kurt ArrigoIno XXX, sailed by James Neville in IRC Class 3 of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Photo: Kurt Arrigo

After Pantelleria, Ino XXX never looked likely to relinquish the lead and sailed away to win IRC 3 by 11 hours. The reward for Artie’s perseverance was to finish top Maltese boat winning the Transport Malta Trophy, the Arthur Podesta Trophy and the Teddy Borg Trophy.

In IRC 4, for a long time the First 45 Elusive 2 entered by the Podesta siblings from Malta looked likely to repeat their successes of recent years. By Stromboli Elusive held a tenuous lead of 17 minutes over Philippe Frantz’s NMD 43 Albator (FRA), but was sailing very well. However, at Favignana, Albator had reversed the deficit turning it into a 3 hour advantage. At Pantelleria, the lead was six hours on IRC time correction. Rounding Lampedusa, the southernmost mark of the course, 18 hours ahead on the water the higher rating Albator was 13 hours in the lead. The French crew finished the race on Friday morning just before 1000 CEST. At 1800 CEST, Elusive was closing in on the finish having made up substantial ground, but not enough.

Philippe Frantz's NMD 43, Albator a competitor in IRC Class 4 of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Photo: Kurt ArrigoPhilippe Frantz's NMD 43, Albator winner in IRC Class 4 of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Photo: Kurt Arrigo

“We have done this race four times,” advises Frantz. ”The image we have in mind is mostly heavy weather. Quite calm to Messina and then windy all the rest. We had no idea this race can be so quiet, with light winds all around Sicily. The biggest discovery was that this race could take six days, when our previous average was three to four days.”

“I’m proud of my crew,” said the quietly spoken Frantz. “They were always on deck doing everything to sail the boat as fast as we could. There were no points where we could have done anything better. It is a good crew for efficiency and teamwork. I’m really proud of that.” “For us, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is a high point of the season. You can get light winds, then strong winds which makes it so interesting. Keep on running this event, it is a beautiful race. The most beautiful I know.”

With only one boat managing to complete the course, so far, in IRC 5 and only one boat still racing Gianrocco Catalano’s First 40 Tevere Remo Mon Ile (ITA) is the runaway winner. Their victory is a victory over circumstance as much as the opposition. “This is our third race. It was very hard, very different to the previous ones,” remarked Catalano. “Last year was difficult because there was so much wind. This year was difficult because there was no wind.” Tevere was first to reach every turning mark of the course, the first to wiggle free of the windless zones. “The passages around the islands were very hard,” continued Catalano. “We had a very good crew, able to read the water and find the breeze to keep us moving. The boat has been prepared specially for offshore races. We have had good results here previously. It was our ambition to do well, and we have fought hard. Having bigger boats around us kept the concentration high and motivated us to continue.”

“The preparation for a race like this is hard. You have to work a lot just to bring the boat here, but when you finish you have a lot of powerful emotions. During the previous edition, which was very tough, I had moments when I thought I don’t want to do this anymore,” admitted Catalano. “But as soon as I finish, I started thinking about the next edition. It is like I fill my storage of good feelings which help me live better at home and work for the rest of the time.”

No one has yet finished in IRC 6 – out of respect to those still racing, the full story can wait until another day. In the meantime, Massimo Junis’ JPK1080 Colombre (ITA) continues to lead on the water and under IRC time correction. The only competitor to have rounded Lampedusa, Colombre is 80nm from the finish, and 25nm ahead of Ludovic Gerard’s JPK 1080 Solenn for Pure Ocean (FRA) racing double handed and Sebastian Ripard’s J/99 Calypso (MLT).

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At the Pantelleria transit in the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Philippe Frantz’s NMD 43 Albator (FRA) held a seven-hour advantage over, currently, second-placed Esentia (POL), the Grand Soleil 44 entered by Marcin Sutkowski.

Conor Doyle’s Xp50 Freya (IRL) is in third on the water (and fourth in IRC four division) abeam of Pantelleria, while the Podesta’s Farr 45 Elusive 2, for so long leading the class on time correction, has just reached the isolated island.

Light winds have seen 50 of the 118 competing yachts in this year’s 606-mile offshore retire.

The situation in this class will become clearer once both are through the transit. IRC 4 yachts stretch back to San Vito Lo Capo, where Maks Vrecko’s Elan 450 Karpo (SLO) is last boat on the water in class.

With 131 miles left to sail, the Kinsale yacht – the sole Irish entry in the race – is expected to finish on Friday teatime after a six-day race

Overall the race has been won by France's Eric de Turckheim's French NMYD 54, Teasing Machine, with an Irish highlight of this edition being Tom McWilliam's line honours win as part of Chris Sherlock's Leopard 3 crew.

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On Wednesday, 26 October, the winner of the 43rd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race was announced as Eric de Turckheim's French NMYD 54 Teasing Machine.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club has confirmed that none of the remaining yachts still racing is able to better Teasing Machine’s corrected time under IRC.

“It is a huge emotion winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race,” said de Turckheim. “It is our first 600 (nm) race overall, after making several podiums around the world. On top of that, it is certainly our favourite 600nm race because of the complexity of the course, the complexity of the winds.”

“I have a passion for the 600nm races,” he continued. “It’s like running a marathon. It’s a mixture of being competitive 24 hours after 24 hours, and having the resistance and the teamwork. It was our seventh race and experience counts a lot.”

Teasing Machine Crew: Eric de Turckheim, Laurent Pages, Christian Ponthieu, Quentin Le Nabour, Tony Brochet, Gabriele Olivo, Betrand Castelnerac, Paco Lepoutre, Aleandre Degrival, Jerome Teillet, Quentin Bouchacourt

The Royal Ocean Racing Club Vice Commodore, Eric de Turckheim, is a force to be reckoned with in any offshore race. Teasing Machine’s record at the Rolex Middle Sea Race was already exceptional before this overall win. A class winner and third overall in 2017, on the NMYD 54’s debut, was followed up with second in class in 2019, third in class in 2020, and second in class in 2021.

Teasing Machine is the fourth French yacht to have won the Rolex Middle Sea Race, following in the footsteps of Antares (1981), Spirit of Ad Hoc (2008) and Courrier Recommandé (2018).

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Farr 100 Leopard 3 (NED), with Joost Schultz at the helm, crossed the finish line of the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race on Tuesday, 25 October to take Monohull Line Honours in an elapsed time of 70 hours 34 minutes 29 seconds.

As Afloat reported earlier, In blazing sunshine, the massive spinnaker bearing the unmistakable logo of the famous maxi was lowered at the Fairway Buoy. The international crew hit the rail for the short beat to finish. This is the third time Leopard 3, skippered by Chris Sherlock, has participated in the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the second time it has been the first monohull home, winning the RLR Trophy.

The crew on this occasion comprised Chris Sherlock, Joost Schultz, Laura de Vere, Matt Lester, Curtis Blewett, Ireland's Tom McWilliam, Will Best, Stefano Nava, Gian Ahluwalia, Guy Filabozzi, Michael Pammenter, Samuel Wright, Murray Goodsell, Richard Bouzaid, Tim Marsh, Dennis Frederikson, Giles de Jager, Ian Budgen, Steve Booth, Guillermo Altadill, Ronald Bunders, Mitch Booth, and Gerry Mitchell.

“It is emotional to take Line Honours after three days and nights of racing,” commented Joost Schultz taking part in his first Rolex Middle Sea Race. “There have been lots of ups and downs and surprises, and now I understand why the Leopard crew have been very careful about predicting anything. This race has a lot of twists and turns around every corner, including getting caught in fishing nets and ripping sails.”
“On the first night it was really light winds, we could not see the dolphins around the boat, but we could hear them breathing through their blowholes. We were lucky enough to go around Stromboli in the daytime and we could see the lava rolling down the mountain. The sea was so blue and reflecting in Leopard’s hull. Many times, during the race, we felt like we were at one with nature.”
Leopard 3 made a superb start in Grand Harbour and led the monohull fleet all the way to Capo Passero and through the Messina Strait, where it experienced strong winds over 20 knots. However, on the leg to Stromboli, a broken sail and an entanglement with a fishing net cost Leopard 3 the lead, as Andrea Recordati's Wally 93 Bullitt (ITA) raced past. It took Leopard 3 until just after Palermo to catch up with Bullitt, when San Vito lo Capo then entered the game with its high cliffs proving a barrier to the wind from the south. Bullitt came to a standstill, Leopard stayed out a little more and edged clear first, breaking into the solid southerly breeze to regain the lead. Leopard 3 had caught its prey and kept a vice-like grip to the finish. Bullitt was the second monohull to finish the race just under an hour behind Leopard 3 on elapsed time.
“Even this year with light winds it is physically and mentally tiring, but for me to do this race with a very good professional crew  is a real honour,” explained Schultz. “I have a technical background, so I am very interested in all of the technical aspects of sailing. What I also learnt is how the crew set up the boat, how to look at the sails. We were not always leading the race and it is never over until you cross the finish line.”
From a tactical and navigational perspective, the race played out as expected by Will Best and Mitch Booth, who confirmed that the forecasts at the start of the race came to pass. There were localised moments of strong conditions, such as during the Messina Strait and at the Egadi Islands but, overall, it was a light wind race. The conditions from Lampedusa to the finish were better than expected and made life a little easier on the run to the finish. Leopard 3 was able to maintain a loose cover on Bullitt offering no passing opportunities and not over stretching crew or equipment. 

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With 215 nautical miles still to sail to the finish of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, the sole Irish boat in the race, Conor Doyle's XP50 Freya stays in fourth position in the 23-boat IRC Four division on Wednesday morning.

The Kinsale Yacht Club is 30th on IRC overall and the leader in the 12-boat ORC3 division. Light winds are predominating over the 660-mile Mediterranean course.

As of last night, the IRC Four leaders were heading for Pantelleria. The NMD 43 Albator (FRA) has made significant gains over the class on the leg from Stromboli to Favignana. Albator has since sped away south towards Pantelleria. Second in class, 26nm behind is Elusive 2 (MLT). Christoph Podesta reported in from Favignana: “The wind is very light, and it is very difficult to round Favignana because of a strong adverse current. The forecast tonight is not looking good, but we are making the most of the wind that we have.” Ranked third is the Grand Soleil 44 Essentia (POL). Freya has also rounded Favignana and is heading south for Pantelleria.

On board Freya – the sole Irish boat in the race – is a high-powered crew that includes Kelvin Harrap, Rory Harrap, Will Byrne, Barry Hurley, Nick Jones, Malcolm McCormick, Cian Guilfoyle, James Lyons, Conor Doyle and Nin O'Leary.

The race started last Saturday, with Freya estimated to finish in Valetta Harbour, Malta, this Friday morning.

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