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The Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) has confirmed that the Notice of Race for the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is now available (downloadable below) and yachts may already register their participation.

Last year’s race attracted 114 yachts, a remarkable achievement given the ongoing backdrop of a global pandemic. This year looks no less difficult with the situation in the Ukraine creating further uncertainty, but the RMYC is hopeful another impressive fleet will gather. The 2022 race is scheduled to start on Saturday, 22 October 2022.

In issuing this release, the RMYC acknowledges the unfortunate controversy surrounding the implementation of the alternative finish line for safety reasons, and the impact on the overall results of the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race. Following an internal review, the RMYC has taken and continues to take steps to ensure the rules and regulations surrounding the 43rd race are fit for purpose. In parallel with the internal review, the club has sought feedback from competitors and guidance from the RMYC’s longstanding race partners, including the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC).

The Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet negotiate the passage close to Strombolicchio lighthouseThe Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet negotiate the passage close to Strombolicchio lighthouse

As a result of these actions, the Race Organisation has been strengthened, with the most significant change comprising the appointment of Chris Stone, the RORC’s Racing Manager, as Race Director. A proven professional sailing administrator, he has 20 years of experience managing events such as the Rolex Fastnet Race, RORC Caribbean 600, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and Volvo Ocean Race and Clipper Round the World stopovers. “The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a major event in the international sailing calendar. It attracts a diverse fleet from around the world which expects and deserves the very best in race management,” said Stone. “The primary objective is supporting the RMYC and its people in making race management robust and keeping the reputation and standing of this great race in good stead.”

A second appointment of note is Mufti Kling’s promotion to Chairman of the International Jury. Kling’s offshore jury experience is considerable and notably includes the Rolex Fastnet Race. Along with Stone, Kling has been party to a rigorous review and re-drafting of all race documentation to make sure issues are identified and corrected. The overall approach has been progressive and modern. For example, the alternative finish line provision will remain in the Sailing Instructions for safety reasons, but close attention will also be paid to the course length and potential impact on results.

David Cremona, Commodore of the RMYC, is confident that the way the club has faced up to circumstances of 2021 will lead to an improved experience for all competitors: “The 42nd edition should have gone down in history as one of the most spectacular races ever. We had an incredible weather system matched with an incredible fleet. The last thing it should be remembered for is the frustration provoked. We have learnt from it and have redoubled our efforts to ensure all competing crews finish the 2022 race wanting to come back.”

Notice of Race

Last year’s fleet ranged in size from 30 feet (9 plus metres) to 140 ft (42.56m) and included some of most powerful monohulls and multihulls competing on the international racing circuit. Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo was first home. The American trimaran took advantage of a once in a lifetime weather window to post a finish time that lowered the outright race record by an impressive 14.5 hours, completing the race in 33 hours, 29 minutes and 28 seconds.

The 43rd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 22 October 2022.

Published in Middle Sea Race
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Tom Kneen, Skipper of Sunrise says he is in contact with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, World Sailing and the RYA to gain their support in overturning the "unfair and ill-conceived decision" by Middle Sea Race organisers last month to score the race at Comino, a decision that cost Kneen the overall win.

The GBR skipper says there has been a lot of rumour and hearsay about what happened in Malta. He wants to put the record straight and is arguing for his result to be reinstated. He has issued a statement on the matter which we reproduce in full here

Statement from Tom Kneen, Skipper of Sunrise

First and foremost, on behalf of the Sunrise crew please can we extend our congratulations to every competitor who completed the Rolex Middle Sea Race this year. It was certainly the toughest offshore race in which we have ever competed, and we have enormous respect for everyone who took part. Congratulations to Comanche & Argo for winning their respective line honours and their race records, the class winners and especially to Jangada for winning the doublehanded class. This race was tough when sailed fully crewed so to come out on top double-handed is an inspiration.

Secondly, the crew of Sunrise would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has shown their support for our plight both directly and via social media - it has really been overwhelming. We are also aware that there has been a lot of rumour and hearsay surrounding what happened so to set the record straight this is our official statement of the events and our position.

We don’t go sailing to win watches and trophies. We go sailing because we love the sport, the adventure and building memories with special people. This year's Rolex Middle Sea Race certainly did not disappoint when it came to building memories. Sailing the boat at 28 knots from Stromboli to Ustica is something I’ll never forget. We also achieved our second conclusive class win of 2021 and built new friendships with members of the Dawn Treader crew with whom we raced the Rolex Middle Sea Race and are sure to share more adventures in the future.

Thomas Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise Thomas Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise

The race was also unforgettable for the wrong reasons and the chain of events that unfolded after we finished the race were extremely upsetting. I am usually not a fan of sharing my thoughts in the public domain however on this occasion time is not proving to be a healer and I find myself increasingly troubled by what has happened. Given the astonishing level of support we have received from the wider sailing community and the potential impact that events in Malta could have on a sport with which I am infatuated, I feel that it is important to make a formal statement on behalf of the Sunrise team. I believe that what the young crew of Sunrise has achieved this year is nothing short of astonishing. Winning the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race in the same season really is a once in a lifetime achievement and I believe to have it taken from us in the way that it was is totally unacceptable and fundamentally wrong. Therefore I want to make it clear that we want the Race Committee and the International Jury of the RMYC to reopen our hearing and to give redress to all the boats in the fleet whose results were adversely affected through no fault of our own, but by the decisions made by the Race Committee. It is not too late to right this wrong and I implore the Commodore, of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Race Committee and International Jury of the Rolex Middle Sea Race to rectify the error that was made and put things right. I ask this not for the benefit of Sunrise, but of the RMYC and of the Rolex Middle Sea Race but especially for the benefit of the sport of sailing which this incident has certainly affected detrimentally. If you act now you will receive the respect of the entire sailing community and you will salvage the reputations of both your club and one of the world’s greatest offshore races. Failure to act will leave a cloud over the event which will undoubtedly threaten its future.

The Story So Far...

At 13:23:12 local time on 26th October 2021 Sunrise crossed the finish line of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in Marsamxett Harbour, Malta, beating the IRC corrected time set by Comanche, a 100ft Maxi by 16 minutes. Following our finish, so began a now familiar period of tension to see if some of the smaller boats still racing could beat our corrected time under IRC. We were especially worried about Foggy Dew and Jangada, which with the right conditions could have finished with quicker corrected times. But it became increasingly evident that our time could not be beaten. On the evening of 26th October we discussed with a member of the race committee when we would be given the overall winner’s flag and who from our crew would accept our winners trophy at the prize-giving. At this point we could not be beaten on corrected time we were unquestionably the overall winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Then at 1600 on 27th October 2021, nearly 27 hours after Sunrise had finished a notice was issued to all competitors that the race committee had decided to use an alternative finish line. This caused us no concern as we would always expect the race committee to act in the interests of safety. However the notice also informed us that the race would now be measured over the 593 miles to Comino rather than the full 606 miles to Marsamxett Harbour. The decision to use the alternative finish line must have been made long before this announcement was made to competitors because at 1319 on 27th October I received a text message from Georges Bonello DuPuis, a RMYC committee member saying “Afternoon Thomas. Nothing to worry about, but we’re just recalculating the results using the alternative finish line”. But then when the new results were later published six of the boats in the top 10 positions had changed. Most significantly and unbelievably Sunrise was now ranked as 2nd overall rather than 1st overall. Georges and other members of the race committee tried to reassure us and said on several occasions to follow the process and they would make it right.”

We believe that this will be the first time in any major offshore sailing event where actions of the Race Committee have had such a monumental impact on the results, especially when applied retrospectively after 75% of the fleet had finished. We appreciate that the sailing instructions for this race do include a description of how this alternative finish may be used in the case of severe weather preventing boats from entering Marsamxett Harbour. However, never in yacht racing is a course shortened after competitors have already finished, certainly not more than a day later. And shortening the course of an offshore race is an odd practice in any case – surely it should be up to competitors who feel they are unable to complete the course either to retire or to wait until conditions abate?

Nowhere in the Rolex Middle Sea Race SIs does it say that should the alternative finish be used that the race would be scored over a shortened course, nor does it mention at what point it can be implemented – sure not after any or indeed the majority of the fleet has finished? It should be noted that over the period the RMSR race committee changed the finish line, Marsamxett Harbour was never officially closed to marine traffic. Indeed after the finish line was changed to the Comino Channel, all but one boat still successfully sailed into Marsamxett Harbour.

It is impossible to criticise the RC committee for making a decision in the interest of the safety of their competitors. However the committee did make a number of other decisions which had a devastating impact on the race.

The Technical Bit...
The rules under which our sport is governed are very clear on how sailing instructions should be written and how they are to be used in parallel with the racing rules of sailing (RRS). RRS 86 allows changes to the rule governing shortening a race - RRS 32. However Appendix J, RRS J2 states that any such change SHALL (translates as MUST) be included in the race documentation. In other words, the sailing instructions can amend the rules, but this must be done very specifically.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race Committee documentation DID NOT change RRS 32 and Sunrise firmly believe that it was therefore still in force. This means that if the race organisers wanted to use the shorter course then they could, provided they shortened it before the first boat finished.

Whilst Sunrise understands and appreciates that the race committee acted in the interest of the safety of the smaller boats, we believe that the actions taken breached the RRS. Unfortunately it seems the Race Committee found themselves between a rock and a hard place with no way for them to act in the interests of safety while also remaining compliant with the RRS.

When Sunrise became aware of the notice from the race organisers they approached the Race Officers who were surprised that the change in course had affected the results. They suggested that Sunrise filed a request for redress and that the appointed international jury would resolve the issue. The race organisers had already reported to the media by this point that Sunrise was winning the IRC overall race. These posts have now been removed from their website and social media channels.

In a bizarre turn of events that has astounded the yachting community and media around the world, the international jury ruled in ours, and several other requests for redress, that the race committee had used an alternative finishing line, which is not in conflict with, and is independent of, RRS 32”.

Shortly after the decision to this hearing was published, Sunrise racing team was flooded with messages from the yachting community, including umpires and judges at the very top of our sport and rules experts from national governing bodies. They urged Sunrise to point out that if this was an “alternative finish line” (a term used nowhere in the rules for our sport) then why was the final mark of the course, a fairway marker at the entrance of the harbour, omitted from the course? If this is the case then surely nobody sailed the correct course, as they would still have had to round that final mark and then sail on to the alternative finish. Most people agreed that this was clearly not the intention of the notice and the international jury had made a mistake. To highlight this, Sunrise lodged another request for redress on the premise that she had not been able to sail the correct race course and a separate protest against the new winner for the same reason. Tom Cheney, the navigator from Sunrise spoke to Mitch Booth, skipper of Comanche, on the phone to make it clear that Sunrise was not trying to imply any wrongdoing by Comanche.

"At the prizegiving, the Sunrise crew received a three-minute standing ovation which was overwhelming" 

In a further surprising decision from the Jury. They concluded that the race committee did shorten the course and used the term “new, shorter course” twice (see Decision 6, Conclusion 3), however they continued to deny our request for redress.

Despite bringing this to the attention of the international jury, chaired by international judge and former RYA Racing Manager, Gordon Stredwick, two requests to re-open the original request for redress were denied. They declared that Sunrise did not provide evidence of significant error by the protest committee. The other members of the international jury were David Pelling (CAN), Jim Capron (USA), Mufti Kling (GER) and Zoran Grubisa (CRO).

RMYC Principal Race Officer, Peter Demech, then approached the Jury with a suggestion on how to restore the scores for the 69 boats that completed the full course and grant redress to the 29 boats that were finished at Camino. The jury did not act on this request.

What Happened Next...

Soon after our second request to reopen our request to redress was denied by the international jury, the RMYC announced Comanche as the overall winner on IRC over the shortened 593-mile course. Comanche and Argo were also awarded race records over the 606-mile course. The outcry from the international sailing community to this decision, given that the race course had been shortened in our case but apparently not in theirs, was very public. In fact the support for Sunrise has been second to none. At the RMSR prizegiving, the Sunrise crew received a three-minute standing ovation from the competitors which was overwhelming.

In response to the reaction by the wider sailing community RMYC published a statement on 2nd November 2022 stating:

"The RMYC is sympathetic to those competitors and followers of race that feel aggrieved by the eventual outcome. It recognises that, in this instance, in writing a sailing instruction related to safety it inadvertently, but seriously, impacted the race results. The RMYC will take action to make sure that a similar situation does not arise again. It will do its utmost to ensure that the rules and regulations surrounding future editions of the race are fit for purpose. In this regard, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has already sought guidance from appropriate authorities within the sport.”

This is encouraging for future races but in my opinion, does not go nearly far enough to correct the injustice that I feel we have suffered.

Putting Things Right...

We will never criticise a race committee for making a decision in the interests of safety. However, doing the right thing does not mean the committee did not act improperly. The consequence of using the alternative finish line was to create a shorter course and have a detrimental impact on the results of several boats through entirely no fault of their own.

Due to the protest committee being an international jury, there is no process within the governance of our sport to appeal this decision. However, a protest committee has the right to reopen a hearing at any time and we are determined not to give up on getting what we feel is the right result. We are in contact with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, World Sailing and the RYA to gain their support in overturning this unfair and ill-conceived decision to score the race at Comino. Our proposal is simply that the results for the 69 boats that finished the race in Marsamxett Harbour are reinstated and that the 19 boats which finished the race in the Comino Channel are given redress for the last 13 miles of the course. We believe this is the fairest way to score the race in the circumstances.

We, therefore, implore the RMYC to appoint an arbitration board of experts to investigate whether the rules of our sport have been correctly applied in this instance. This will avoid the need to lodge this case with CAS and start to repair the reputational damage suffered by all parties involved. Should the arbitration board conclude that the international jury and race committee ruled correctly, then so be it. However, should this group determine that our proposal is a more reasonable resolution, or indeed propose a different solution, the race committee could take control of their race and put things right.

Finally, we hope that the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club will act to ensure that future editions of this great race will be run fairly and to prevent massively damaging incidents like this from happening again. We would very much like to return in 2022. 

The Sunrise Racing Team is a group of friends and family that are very good, predominantly amateur, sailors. The crew for the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race was:

  • Tom Kneen
  • Ed Bell
  • Theo Bell
  • Dave Swete
  • Tom Cheney
  • Tor Tomlinson
  • Mark Spearman
  • Angus Gray-Stephens
  • Calum Healey
Published in Middle Sea Race
Tagged under

Would Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise have still won the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 if it had been sailed on the old course, with Plymouth rather than Cherbourg as the finish? Imponderable it may be, but it's a question of renewed interest as the row rumbles on about the in-race shortening of the recent Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021.

This course shortening was done in view of a developing northeasterly storm which soon made the harbour-mouth finish dangerously impossible for smaller boats still at sea. But as everyone is now well aware, it meant that Sunrise – already finished and in port along with two-thirds of the fleet – had to make do with second overall, after looking for a while as though she was about to achieve the magnificent double of Fastnet and Middle Sea overall victories in one season, achieved with such style that it would all have been done and dusted within the space of three months.

But the unhappy outcome instead caused an almighty row, and some of us sought shelter in trying to analyse it from a different point of view. The affable but very keen and obviously extremely effective Tom Kneen is a loyal member of the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth, and he happily admitted that in the RORC members' poll about the change to the Fastnet course, he had voted in favour of the traditional finish in Plymouth rather than race the extra 90 miles to a new big-scale welcome in Cherbourg.

The traditional Fastnet finish at Plymouth and the 2021 version with the finish at Cherbourg. It's possible that the extra 90 miles to Cherbourg gave the Plymouth-base Sunrise her overall win.The traditional Fastnet finish at Plymouth and the 2021 version with the finish at Cherbourg. It's possible that the extra 90 miles to Cherbourg gave the Plymouth-base Sunrise her overall win.

Ironically, it may well be that the extra 90 miles "imposition" gave Sunrise her clearcut win. She had been reasonably well-placed but not winning at earlier stages, thus it was the lengthened final stage after the Bishop Rock and up the middle of the English Channel in a private breeze – a feat repeated with almost equal success by Ronan O Siochru's Desert Star from Dun Laoghaire – which saw Sunrise get so clearly into the Glitter Zone.

But having been given a portal to overall success by the long-planned extension of the Fastnet Race, Sunrise then found the door to a Middle Sea repeat slammed shut in her face by the sudden imposition of a course shortening. Some may raise their eyes to heaven and say: "The Lord Giveth, the Lord Taketh Away". But the more grounded have raised – not for the first time – the question of whether well-meaning amateurs should have ultimate control of the running of any major event in which the combined long-term expense of involvement by a huge fleet – whether amateur or professional – is a figure running into tens and probably hundreds of millions of euro.

The crew of Sunrise celebrating what looked like becoming a remarkable double at their finish of the Middle Sea Race 2021 in Malta. Photo: North SailsThe crew of Sunrise celebrating what looked like becoming a remarkable double at their finish of the Middle Sea Race 2021 in Malta. Photo: North Sails

Instinctively, many of us will incline to the support of the enthusiastic amateurs. But the harsher judges will quote Damon Runyon who, on enquiring about the activities of one of his Manhattan acquaintances, was told that: "He is doing the best he can", to which Runyon responded that he found this to be a very over-crowded profession.


The voluntary race administrators in the Royal Malta Yacht Club came in for huge flak and this week issued what is in effect a mea culpa and a promise to do better in future. But it's going to rumble on like the Palme volcano for some time yet, and just yesterday Peter Ryan, the Chairman of ISORA, suggested they should now declare two sets of results as though they'd been running two races of different lengths in parallel all along, which if nothing else would lead to dancing in the streets in the Silversmiths' Quarter in Valetta.

And there have been suggestions that the RORC "should consider its position in relation to the Middle Sea Race", which is polite-speak for saying that the RORC should at least think about withdrawing its active support from what is essentially the Royal Malta YC's premier event. But nothing happens in a vacuum, and people making this extreme proposal are failing to take note that there's a turf war (ridiculous to have a turf war at sea, but there you are) going on between the ORC and the IRC measurement systems.

One of the starts from the harbour in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021. The wind was already from the northeast, and a severe storm – which caused fatalities in nearby Sicily – made the harbour entrance extremely dangerous by the time the smaller boats were finishing.One of the starts from the harbour in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021. The wind was already from the northeast, and a severe storm – which caused fatalities in nearby Sicily – made the harbour entrance extremely dangerous by the time the smaller boats were finishing.

The IRC is very much identified with the RORC, while the ORC has its own setup. And even as quiet territorial expansions are taking place on various fronts with new events emanating from both camps - the interesting Finnish-connected RORC race in the Baltic is one example – a proposed marriage between the World Championships of both systems appears to have resulted in the IRC being left stranded at the altar without a word of explanation.

In this febrile atmosphere, were the RORC to dump on the Royal Malta, it's always possible that the ORC's organisation might step into the breach, for the Middle Sea Race now has a momentum and vitality of its own, and it will happen each year regardless of politicking ashore.

A public spat online was inevitable, and in time we'll be persuaded that it has cleared the air, for that's the way these things happen even if various waters are temporarily muddied. But in global sailing, however big the row, it will only have been in the ha'penny place by comparison with the controversies which are now in the DNA of the America's Cup, which has been a joy and delight for m'learned friends ever since the original hand-written Deed of Gift – inkily scratched on parchment in 1857 – went on to become a Protocol in 1882 which was then revised in 1887.


In Ireland, we may well be suffering from Protocol Fatigue these days, but regardless of our feelings, the long-awaited Protocol for the next staging of the America's Cup – AC37 – will be revealed on Wednesday, November 17th by defenders Team New Zealand and the Challenger of Record, Royal Yacht Squadron Racing Ltd.

Doubtless, there'll be many bumps in the road between now and then, just as there have been bumps to the point of chasms in getting to where they are now. It's an uneven progress, with the professional/amateur divide still involved to such an extent that when the New York Yacht Club recently announced that they were "passing" on direct club participation this time around, in a subsequent statement the New Zealanders described the NYYC Commodore as a "Corinthian".

The New York Yacht Club's summer base of Harbour Court, Rhode Island. The Kiwi's description of the Commodore as "Corinthian" did not quite seem to have the usual complimentary intent.The New York Yacht Club's summer base of Harbour Court, Rhode Island. The Kiwi's description of the Commodore as "Corinthian" did not quite seem to have the usual complimentary intent.

This is normally a term of approval, but there was a distinct feeling that approval was not the intention in this case. In addition to the increasingly complex legalities, it made things personal, and that is not a good place to be in a situation like this.

But then this "situation" has become a world of its own. So much so, in fact, that the America's Cup legalities have provided the makings of its own department in the University of Auckland, and it has already graduated its own PhD in the shape of Dr Hamish Ross, who published his latest findings this week. You've probably read it already, but even so, it's a good browse for a November Saturday morning:


In eleven days' time, the Protocol for the 37th America's Cup is due to be revealed, eight months after Royal Yacht Squadron Racing Limited filed a notice challenge under the Deed of Gift.

What can we expect and what is likely to be left unanswered?

Sources close to the Defender indicate that the all-important venue selection is yet to be made and may not be announced until as late as March 2022. This will not be welcome news to the Challenger of Record, who will be getting impatient. It has a right to fall back onto the Deed default match terms if relations become strained, which will likely result in a commercial black hole.

Given the selected venue may impact the yacht to be raced, publication of the Class Rule may be similarly delayed, although it was at least agreed last March, that it would be in the AC75 class used in Auckland. There are always refinements to be made. If there is a meaningful push towards costs savings, as has been announced, look for more supplied or common design elements in the same way as the foil systems were supplied for AC36 in Auckland.

Unfortunately, the Deed requirement that the competing yachts must be "constructed in the country" of the respective competing yacht clubs puts the brakes on what could be achieved. In the past, this requirement has sometimes been interpreted rather liberally focusing on the hull, but many would agree that the Deed probably only requires an assembly of components, which can be sourced from anywhere, to create a yacht.
The "construction in-country" term of the Deed has never been fully tested in a court or jury, although the issue was on the table at the end of the 2010 match. Expect sailing restrictions and launch dates to remain to limit the advantages of well-funded competitors.

Dr Hamish Ross took his PhD at Auckland University in America's Cup law.Dr Hamish Ross took his PhD at Auckland University in America's Cup law.

Commercial rights will likely largely remain as they have been since Valencia 2007. Will there be a profit-sharing mechanism between competitors as in 2007 and 2013, if there is a financial surplus? It would seem a major venue financial windfall would be unlikely in the current economic climate.

Timing of the match, and the preceding challenger series may be difficult to fix without a venue having been decided. Don't expect to see firm dates yet. The Deed has hemisphere restrictions limiting the times when a match can be held in each hemisphere. There are seasonal weather and oceanographic factors to be considered at any venue.

Additionally, there is the timing of other events to consider. Few would want to take on a head-on commercial and media clash with the Olympics or the Football World Cup, which traditionally sucks out a lot of sports fan eyeballs and commercial sponsorship from the sports sponsorship market.

A profitable venture – the America's Cup 2007 at Valencia. Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson was on the management team, and the event showed a profit.A profitable venture – the America's Cup 2007 at Valencia. Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson was on the management team, and the event showed a profit.

What other events will be held before the start of the challenger series? Expect a warmup regatta or two. There may be a concessionary warm-up regatta in Auckland on the table to try to calm local waters. But these regattas all cost money, a loss of valuable time and never raise enough money for them to be self-funding when an effort is said to be made to reduce costs.

More chance they will be held in the selected venue than holding a global circuit like Sail GP. A defender will always want an opportunity to check-in against the challengers before the match to try and limit any surprises. Expect Sail GP to actively look into holding an event or two in Auckland during the America's Cup match, if Auckland is not the selected venue!

What will prospective challengers be looking for? When will they see the Class Rule? How long will they have to design, build and test a yacht? How much of a design head start have the Defender and the Challenger of Record given themselves? What will it cost them to compete? Can they hire the design, boatbuilding and sailing talent needed?

This will put the nationality rule into sharp focus– can they get approvals from the Defender as an "emerging nation"? Where will it be held? Don't expect billionaires to line up for an unattractive venue with security risks. What advertising space on the yacht do they have to sell to their sponsors and what space will be taken by the event and in what product categories? Will Prada or Louis Vuitton return as a sponsor? Above all, is there a chance to win or is it simply too stacked up against us?

Expect entry fees to remain the same or increase. US$3,350,000 plus a bond of US$1m was the cheapest entry last time. Expect the challenges to again contribute towards the costs of the challenger selection series unless a sponsor agrees to fund it as did Prada last time.

Finally, who gets to amend the Protocol and the Class Rules? Can anyone competitor block a change? Will there be a tyranny of the majority or simply a Defender and Challenger of Record dictatorship?
Drafting a Protocol involves a delicate balance of many issues both sporting and commercial. Get it wrong and it could be 2007-2010 all over again. Nail it, and it will be back to the big America's Cup heydays of Fremantle 1986-87 or Valencia 2007.


For the top end of the international sailing world, the next ten days will be extremely interesting, as we can only guess at the global wheeling and dealing and drafting going on behind the scenes. And when the AC37 Protocol is published, we can be quite sure there'll be controversy, which is meat and drink to the communications industry in all its forms.

In fact, controversy is the gift that just keeps on giving. For even after you've agreed a settlement on whatever is causing the current high profile controversy, you can then go on to have a controversy about how the word "controversy" should be properly pronounced… 

Published in W M Nixon

The Royal Malta Yacht club says it is only too aware that the outcry over the finish of its 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race has damaged the reputation and legacy of its most important race, something it is committed to rectifying.

The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race, which started on Saturday 23 October 2021, had the hallmarks of being a spectacular success. The make-up of the fleet and the weather forecast suggested records would fall and that yachts would have wind throughout the course area making for an exciting contest.

Late on Tuesday 26 October, the weather situation changed. A severe north-easterly gale was predicted to hit the east coast of Malta some time on Wednesday 27 October. The Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) Race Committee recognised it as a danger to those crews still to complete the race. Crossing the finish line at the entrance to Marsamxett Harbour in such circumstances would be extremely hazardous. An Alternative Finish Line at South Comino Channel is designed to address this possibility and all yachts are required to take their time at this point in the race, irrespective of whether the line is in use. The Sailing Instructions are clear and unequivocal on this point.

When invoking the Alternative Finish Line, the Race Committee acted with the safety and wellbeing of those still sailing in mind. The decision was not influenced by the possibility that other boats, safe in harbour, might find their result materially affected.

The RMYC is sympathetic to those competitors and followers of race that feel aggrieved by the eventual outcome. It recognises that, in this instance, in writing a sailing instruction related to safety it inadvertently, but seriously, impacted the race results.

The RMYC will take action to make sure that a similar situation does not arise again. It will do its utmost to ensure that the rules and regulations surrounding future editions of the race are fit for purpose. In this regard, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has already sought guidance from appropriate authorities within the sport.

Over the years, the RMYC has prided itself on the hospitality and the welcome it shows to all participants. It has put huge effort into making sure visiting crews become the most effective ambassadors for the race. The last thing the club wanted was the frustration, disappointment and anger provoked by the circumstances of the 2021 race.

The 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is scheduled go ahead next October. The club hopes that those who enter will see that changes have been made and will trust it to continue to apply all rules fairly and correctly to all those who participate regardless of size, nationality or ambition.

Further Background

The Royal Malta Yacht Club traces its roots back to 1835. It is a volunteer-run club promoting all aspects of sailing from its junior programme to its pinnacle offshore event, the Rolex Middle Sea Race. The club exists to serve the sailing community of Malta and all visiting sailors including those who participate in its most famous race. It has a membership of 700.

The Middle Sea Race was launched in 1968 to offer a course in the Mediterranean that would match the Newport Bermuda Race, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the Fastnet Race in distance and challenge. The time of year was chosen because of the increased likelihood of strong winds ensuring a worthy test of ability and seamanship.

In its early years the race caught the attention of many of the world's most respected crews. Then, from 1984 to 1995 the race dropped out of the calendar following a decline in interest.

In 1996, a group of RMYC members decided to reinstate the race. It was not without difficulty. Some of those involved are still active today and have watched the race grow from a fleet of 20 yachts to consistently over 100 with 25 countries represented.

Although the Race Committee is entirely volunteer, it is regularly reminded that it is running an elite level competition that demands the highest standards. A plan was already in place to review and streamline the race documentation at the end of the 2021 race and to improve the registration experience.

The Race Committee is also aware that its obligation is to the entire fleet, not just the top one or two, or even top ten. Its obligation is to be impartial and to apply the rules as they are written. It accepts that it may be protested by a competitor, and for the rules or their application to be tested. A properly constituted, independent International Jury is in attendance for that purpose. Once the decision to use the Alternative Finish Line was made, all yachts had to be scored for the purposes of time correction (handicapping) at South Comino Channel. Submitted times, verified by the tracking system, were uploaded to the results programme. It was a very real shock that the reduction in the 606nm course length by 12nm would have such a significant effect on the first two boats - one 30.48m/100ft and one 11.80m/39ft.

Since making the decision, the RMYC has had its conduct and integrity, and the competence of its race management, questioned. It is only too aware that the outcry has damaged the reputation and legacy of its most important race, something it is committed to rectifying.

Sailing instructions

Results of all Jury Hearings

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The 30.48m/100ft Maxi Comanche (CAY) has been confirmed as the overall winner of the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race. Skippered by Mitch Booth, the exceptional crew of 23 included in its ranks the likes of Will Oxley, as navigator, Tom Slingsby, Kyle Langford, Shannon Falcone, Hugo Rocha, Justin Slattery, Willy Altadill and Luke Molloy. Victory under IRC time correction is added to the monohull line honours and monohull race record secured in a contest dominated, initially at least, by what many have described as a once in a lifetime weather system.

Round the race winner Justin Slattery of Cork was on board the record breaking Comanche for her Middle Sea Race winRound the race winner Justin Slattery of Cork was on board the record breaking Comanche for her Middle Sea Race win

Comanche finished the race on the morning of Monday 25 October and was in pole position until the arrival of the JPK 1180 Sunrise on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 October. The race narrative then altered in the early hours of Wednesday 27 October, with some 23 boats still on the racecourse. A serious and adverse change to the weather forecast led the Royal Malta Yacht Club Race Committee to invoke the alternative finish line, as per the sailing instructions.

“The decision to invoke Sailing Instruction (SI) 11.3, was made after careful consideration of a changing weather pattern and the potential danger to those yachts that were still racing, when approaching the finish,” explains Peter Dimech, Principal Race Officer of the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) for 12 years. “First and foremost, the RMYC has to consider the safety and wellbeing of those participants that are still at sea. SI 11.3 enables the Race Committee to use an alternative finish line in the South Comino Channel if severe weather conditions make it unsafe to enter Marsamxett Harbour. The rule was written specifically in anticipation of the forecast severe north-easterly, which would have made Marsamxett Harbour extremely dangerous to enter. For that reason, we made the call, which was announced to all competitors whether finished or racing, in accordance with rules.”

According to available records, this is the first time in the 53-year history of the Rolex Middle Sea Race that the alternative finish line has had to be used. 19 yachts have been able to finish the race using this line.

As a consequence of the decision, all yachts taking part have been scored for the purposes of time correction using the alternative finish line. Competing in IRC Class One, Comanche’s corrected time to the alternative finish line of three days six hours 30 minutes and 20 seconds has proved just over an hour faster than second placed Sunrise (IRC Class Five) and almost four hours ahead of Daguet 3 – Corum in third (IRC Class Two). No one left racing is able to meet the time required to change this result.

Comanche has achieved the trifecta of overall winner, monohull line honours and a monohull race record. Comanche’s race record of 40 hours, 17 minutes and 50 seconds is based upon the full course distance of 606nm. Two boats have previously achieved this monohull triple crown: Robert McNeil’s 22.86m/75ft Zephyrus IV in 2000 and George David’s 27.5m/90ft Rambler in 2007.

Jason Carroll’s MOD 70 trimaran Argo (USA) also completed a triple crown winning the Multihull Class under MOCRA time correction, taking multihull line honours and setting a new outright race record of 33 hours, 29 minutes and 28 seconds.

Some 89 yachts of the 114 that took part in the race have so far finished with 25 officially retiring.

The 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race prize giving takes place on Saturday 30 October at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, the former Sacra Infermeria built in the 16th century by the Order of St John.

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The Rolex Middle Sea Race Organisers are recalculating race results for this week's 600-mile race in which the Fastnet Race overall winner looked set for a unique double win and while some competitors are still at sea. 

At 1700 CEST today, a note to competitors issued to all race entrants said it had put into effect the provisions of Sailing Instruction 11.3, Alternative Finish Line.

11.3 states: 

In the event that severe weather conditions prevent boats from entering Marsamxett Harbour to finish, the Race Committee reserves the right to have all boats finish by crossing an alternative finish line in the South Comino Channel formed by the following coordinates: - Cirkewwa Point 35˚ 59.50’ N 14˚ 19.80’ E Comino Island Point 36˚ 00.30’ N 14˚ 19.50’ E If the alternative finish line is being used, the Race Committee will make every effort to advise boats by VHF Channel 72 or other means, such as SMS to the registered mobile phone.

Organisers also stated that "Results for the race are being recalculated accordingly, this will take some time".

A competitor told Afloat this pm: "The weather closed in here, so an alternative finish line was used in the Gozo channel, it has caused big changes in results"

Currently, provisional results on the site (at 1745 hrs) show the 100-footer Comanche as having won the 2021 edition of the race as opposed to the earlier situation that saw British entrant JPK 1180 Sunrise as the clubhouse leader.

The latest provisional results also show Sailplane (sailed by Ireland's Kenny Rumball and Barry Hurley) as finishing 16th in her class as opposed to second as Afloat reported this morning.

However, there appears to be some confusion over the current position with one entrant telling Afloat: "We don’t know if new results are now correct".

The full notice is below: 

The text below is a Notice to Competitors issued to all race entrants at 1600 CEST on Wednesday, 27 October 2021 by the Race Committee. No further press releases will be issued today.

Notice to Competitors
Competitors are advised that the Organising Committee, earlier today, put into effect the provisions of Sailing Instruction 11.3, Alternative Finish Line.

Results for the race are being recalculated accordingly, this will take some time.

Results will of course still be provisional as some boats are still racing.

Race Committee

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Irish sailors on board the Matt 12 Sailplane have taken second in IRC Class four of the Middle Sea Race and a win on ORC. 

Based on provisional results for the 21-boat class, the Robert Bottomley skippered 12-metre yacht now adds the Meditteranean result to the fifth overall scored in August's Fastnet Race. 

From Cork Harbour, Barry Hurley and Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball were on the Sailplane crew for the 600-mile race.

Racing continues in Malta today where the JPK 1180 Sunrise, the 2021 Fastnet winner, holds the clubhouse lead on IRC overall.

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1700 CEST 26 October: Tuesday was yet another day of extraordinary tales and adventure. The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race continues to live up to its billing as a blockbuster thriller. Overnight the list of finishers had lifted from seven to 18 by 0900 CEST and is now up to 31 as more boats filed across the line. Some 40 or so crews are on the leg from Lampedusa to Malta and will be relieved to be on the last stretch home. The weather is predicted to throw another curveball in the next 12 hours. Winds are forecast to build substantially from the north-east thrashing the northern coast of Malta and the seas down to Lampedusa. The clubhouse leader has already changed. The British yacht Sunrise, winner of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, sits atop the standings.

After Rambler ended her sixth rounding of Sicily on Monday morning, it was another 14 hours before the Volvo 70 I Love Poland, skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski and winner of 2020 monohull line honours, reached the finish. The Polish boat has been adopted by the Royal Malta Yacht Club Sailing School. The crew generously spending time with the student sailors – some as young as six years old - before the race, taking them sailing on their ocean-going maxi and then joining in some dinghy racing in Marsamxett Harbour. Lithuanian entry Ambersail 2 and the Slovenian yacht Way of Life (formerly Morning Glory, overall winner of the race in 2006) were next to finish.

With just a few miles to go, according to a hard to read race tracker, Kinsale yacht Freya is the next boat to finish. After the XP50, it appears ISORA campaigner Andrew Hall's Pata Negra, a much lower-rated boat will be next home. And then Sailplane with Kenny Rumball aboard, so it looks like a lot of the Irish sailors will finish together tonight.


Repelled Attempts

The excitement really began with the arrival of Daguet 3 – Corum, which at one point looked a contender to topple Comanche. In the end, the localised weather system spinning its way from Lampedusa to Malta, on Monday, put paid to the effort. That same system is the one about to drive the ferocious winds. Its unexpected part in the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race overall result should not be underestimated. Frederic Puzin’s crew ended their assault at 0520 CEST and holds an unassailable lead in IRC Class Two, with Teasing Machine (FRA) in second.

James Neville and Ino XXX, second overall in the Rolex Fastnet Race, may have harboured thoughts of going one better. Like many others, the British yacht had a hair-raising ride from Stromboli to Trapani. She also squeezed through the transition zone south of the Egadi Islands in better shape than some, holding the lower-rated, near-sistership Artie III at bay. In the end, it was not to be. Ino XXX is secure in first place in IRC Class Three, but just off the podium overall. “It has been an incredible experience. A phenomenal race and a lot tougher than expected,” said Neville, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club. “A major part was the leg from Stromboli. We tried a big kite for about an hour, but we could not hold it, broaching a couple of times. We then had some bad luck at Favignana, where we got shut down losing quite a few hours. Winning our class and maybe fourth overall on our first visit is a top performance for us. We look forward to coming back”

Artie III co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian RipardArtie III co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard

The first Maltese boat home on the water is always an excuse for the local sailing community to celebrate. When co-skippers, Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, brought Artie III to the finish this morning the breakfast guests at the Royal Malta Yacht Club cheered their local heroes. A mere 11 minutes off top spot in IRC Class Three, after time correction, will be Artie III’s best result ever. It is someway short of the two overall victories secured by the Satariano/Ripard combo in 2011 and 2014, but this was still one to remember. “We prepped the boat really well this year,” advised Satariano. “The race was the one we were hoping for, one that pushed us to the limit all the time. The crew were exceptional, we kept the boat intact and really enjoyed it.”
Impressive Effort

With the six best boats in this year’s 695nm Rolex Fastnet Race on the start line, competition for the podium places was guaranteed to be fierce. It looks, however, that one boat may have comprehensively outwitted the other five Rolex Fastnet boats and the entire Middle Sea Race fleet. Sunrise had been sailing a race two classes above its own, pretty well since the Messina Strait. Despite a tricky final few miles to and through the South Comino Channel, the JPK 1180 has squeezed into the overall lead of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race and is on the cusp of a remarkable double. Needing to finish by 1338 CEST on Tuesday to beat Comanche, nearly three times her waterline length and rating almost twice as high, the British yacht passed Race Control at Tigné Point at 1323 CEST, to grab a 16-minute lead in the overall standings. Some 50 yachts are still competing for IRC Time Correction silverware, so it is a nervous wait for Tom Kneen and his crew.

“My ambition when I enter any race is to win my class,” said a clearly impressed Kneen, as he stepped ashore. “There are some really competitive boats in that class, Juno for example, and Rossko Racer another JPK 1180, who are very, very good. So, mission accomplished from my perspective.” The result is even more remarkable since Kneen had not planned to enter until Edward Bell (the owner of another JPK 1180, Dawn Treader) had agreed to share the burden of entering a race of this calibre. “Four of the people on board are Dawn Treader crew,” explained Kneen. “We sailed together for the first time on Friday afternoon for an hour. It is testament to how people pull together and how much effort we put in.”

Arguably all nine Sunrise crew were key individuals, but one stands out. Dave Swete has twice raced around the world winning the Hans Horrevoets Award for young sailor of the race on his first lap and was a Rolex Middle Sea Race winner with Lucky in 2010. Kneen was quick to pick out the critical part Swete played in ensuring the team stayed focused and motivated: “He absolutely worked his butt off, kept the crew together, kept the boat going fast and without him we would have been nowhere.”

JPK1180 SunriseJPK 1180 Sunrise
Tom Cheney, the navigator, summarised the race: “From a navigational point of view, I think it was just chaos really.” Everything went as planned for the first part. A quick exit at Messina, on the last of the positive current, set Sunrise up for the leg to Stromboli where they stayed well clear to avoid any wind traps. The wild ride west started with apparent abandon before prudence and conservatism took hold just as the confusion took a grip. “South of Ustica, and completely unexpected to me, we had a complete 180 in the wind direction during the night,” said Cheney. “Then it was light and fickle around the Egadi Islands, and I had very little faith in our weather forecast. Even the last fetch from Lampedusa to Malta, we were left praying for a lift.” Whatever the final result, the young navigator leaves with some key takeaways. “It’s made me want to learn more about meteorology!” he quipped, before adding “I found it very stressful, and I did not sleep very much. I think it was fun, and I think it was worth it.”

On Wednesday we should know if the sun is shining on Sunrise.


Comanche (CAY)
Rambler (USA)
Skorpios (ESP)

Daguet 3 – Corum (FRA)
Teasing Machine (FRA)
Lisa R (ITA)

Artie III (MLT)
Phosphorus II (GBR)

Elusive 2 (MLT)
Sailplane (GBR)
Ton Ton Laferla (MLT)

Sunrise (GBR) (Finished)
Joy-Spartivento (ITA)
Noisy Oyster (USA)

Jangada (GBR) (Double Hander)
Foggy Dew (FRA)
Calypso (MLT)

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In one of the most superb high speed offshore racing competitions, three of the world's largest and fastest racing maxis yesterday morning arrived back in Valletta, first monohulls home in the Rolex Middle Sea Race, first event of the International Maxi Association's 2021-22 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge.

They covered the race's 600-mile anti-clockwise lap of Sicily at record pace.

In 2007 American George David and his original Rambler 90 had established the benchmark Rolex Middle Sea Race record time of 47 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds. Despite numerous attempts in his subsequent Rambler 100 and Rambler 88, the tenacious David never managed to improve upon his time in the intervening years.

Since the Royal Malta Yacht Club's classic 600 miler started on Saturday there has been a prolonged battle for the monohull lead between the line honours favourites, the tried and tested, now Russian-owned, VPLP-Verdier 100 Comanche and Dmitry Rybolovlev's ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, only launched at Nautor's yard in Finland late this spring. After a close race, it was Comanche that prevailed, crossing the finish line at the entrance to Malta's Marsamxett Harbour at 04:27:50 yesterday morning in an elapsed time of 40 hours, 17 minutes and 50 seconds. This represented a monumental improvement over the previous record of a 7 hours 37 minutes and 13 seconds or 16%.

Skorpios finished 1 hour 26 minutes astern while Rambler 88, outgunned by the sheer waterline length advantage of her rivals finished mid-morning. With an elapsed time of 46 hours 20 minutes and 25 seconds David bettered his 2007 time and under IRC Rambler 88's elapsed time corrected out to 3 hours 20 minutes ahead of Skorpios, but short of Comanche.

Behind the lead trio this evening a second wave of maxis were having a harder time of it, past Lampedusa and on the home straight back to Malta, but in headwinds. This group included the Gašper Vinčec-skippered 100ft Way of Life and several VO70s and VO65s led by the Grzegorz Baranowski skippered VO70 I Love Poland (ex-Puma). Marton Jozsa's Reichel/Pugh 60 Wild Joe was just past Lampedusa.

The 2021-22 IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge continues next year with the Regata dei Tre Golfi, 151 Miglia-Trofio Cetilar, Rolex Giraglia and the Palermo-Montecarlo.

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With seven yachts in harbour, and no more expected until much later tonight (Monday) or the early hours of Tuesday, one might be excused for thinking the Rolex Middle Sea Race is over. Far from it. Close to 100 yachts of the original 114 remain at sea and there is plenty left in a race that has so far delivered on its early promise. The weather pattern over the racetrack is in flux. For the smaller monohull yachts, now is the time to press on, particularly if their ambition extends beyond just completing the 606 nautical mile course.

The four large racing multihulls have all finished the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race, leaving only the Italian Neel 47 cruising trimaran, Minimole, on the course. Jason Carroll’s Argo, the American MOD70, is in the box seat having wrapped up the outright race record, multihull line honours and, for the moment, top of the leader board after MOCRA time correction. Carroll was understandably delighted: “It was an awesome race. It had a little bit of everything. We love the event, we love the course and, obviously, we are super excited to have broken the record and won line honours this year.” Argo’s elapsed time was 33 hours 29 minutes and 28 seconds, obliterating the previous race record of 47 hours 55 minutes and three seconds, set by the monohull maxi, Rambler, in 2007.

The three most powerful monohulls are also home and hosed down. The 30.48m/100ft VPLP/Verdier designed Comanche (CAY) led by Mitch Booth is the clubhouse leader, having taken monohull line honours, set a new monohull race record and outplayed their immediate opposition under IRC time correction. Booth was emphatic in his praise for this year’s race: “The Rolex Middle Sea Race has always been one of the pinnacle offshore races and the top guys love coming here. The line-up was great. It was a real honour to race against Skorpios and Rambler.” Comanche’s elapsed time of 40 hours 17 minutes and 45 seconds was also well inside the previous best.

The 30.48m/100ft VPLP/Verdier designed Comanche (CAY) The 30.48m/100ft VPLP/Verdier designed Comanche (CAY)

Brian Thompson, one of the Argo afterguard offered some insight into their apparent clean sweep and mesmerising finish time. “We were very cautious at the start but got away cleanly,” he advised. “It was then great racing with Maserati and Mana. We were very evenly matched to Syracuse, when we just got into a lead, before Maserati got a bit of an edge on us through the Strait. We were then absolutely level at Strombolicchio.” At this point, it looked as though Maserati had made a key gain. “We were very impressed with the way they were sailing,” said Thompson, “They made a seven mile gain in the 22-knot downwind leg.” However, there was another twist to come.

“Just before dawn on Sunday, we were going through the middle of the Egadi Islands. Ideally, we wanted to be further offshore,” explained Thompson. “On the weather models you could see there was a wind hole behind Sicily. If you got too far south you could run out of the corridor of wind blowing from the north-east.” This is where Argo’s apparent disadvantage became an advantage. “We could see what was happening,” said Thompson. “When Maserati slowed, we knew they were getting into the light air. It happened really fast. The wind dropped. Maserati carried on a bit further, while we gybed and that got our seven miles back.”

It still was not over. “There was so much going on,” commented Thompson. “A line of squalls came across and we suddenly had 43 knots. We went into it with a full main and gennaker. We had to go head to wind to get down to just a double reefed main. Then as the wind dropped, we had to get the same sails back up again.”

It remained super tricky all the way past Pantelleria. Argo tried to cover while Maserati sought new breeze closer to Africa. “In the end, we both got the wind at the same time, and held our lead. It was 25 knots downwind and more locked in,” he said. Despite some hair-raising moments on the final leg and a 30-knot passage through the tight Comino Channel, the race was now won. For Thompson, it had been a “once in a lifetime weather opportunity.”

The 30.48m/100ft VPLP/Verdier designed Comanche (CAY)

Monohull Line Honours

The monohull line honours contest had been no less enthralling. Skorpios crossed the line second on the water, six hours inside the old record, but 1.5 hours behind Comanche. Fernando Echavarri, the racing skipper, remarked: “We learnt a lot in the 42 hours, in all kinds of conditions – light winds, strong winds, sail changes. It has been a unique opportunity for the team to grow up.” Despite the disappointment of not repeating their line honours from this summer’s Rolex Fastnet Race, Echavarri could still draw positives: “It was great to line up with boats like this. To do the Rolex Middle Sea Race with such a fleet, including Comanche and Rambler, is just incredible. We are looking forward to the next race against them.”

Ahead of the race, Mitch Booth was confident the race record would be broken. His doubt was how the Comanche crew would perform against the opposition. “One of the key points of the race was going into the Strait of Messina,” he said. “We thought whoever popped out the other end first would have a big advantage with a building breeze on the other side.” Managing to stay close to Skorpios gave the crew confidence. “After passing Stromboli we felt we were in the game with Skorpios.” commented Booth. “We had to sail a smart tactical race to stay in contact. We had a few problems with some sail damage which set us back a bit, but Comanche is really fun to sail especially when the breeze is up and there is a lot of downwind reaching.” Apparently, the new owner just loved every minute of it. “No better way to start racing offshore than the Rolex Middle Sea Race this year,” added Booth.

The navigator, Will Oxley, was keen to share the kudos for a job well done. “We had a very strong afterguard. Mitch Booth, Kyle Langford and Tom Slingsby all contributed to the decision-making of the boat,” he emphasised. He went on to explain the final critical moment in the race came at the north-west corner of Sicily, just as with Argo. “We tried hard to stay to the east of the low pressure system rolling across the racetrack until the western end of Sicily,” he explained. “None of the meteorological models were lining up. There was a lot of thunderstorm activity and a number of large wind holes to be negotiated. We had to make a plan and analyse what we think was going to happen. We used whatever data we could to make sense of it all. It really paid off.” And just as Maserati strayed into the quicksand offering opportunity to Argo, so too did Skorpios. Comanche was well-positioned to take the chance, and rolled into a lead it would never relinquish.

As for Rambler, they sailed their usual polished performance, but were simply outgunned by more powerful opponents. Finishing the race in 46 hours 20 minutes 25 seconds, George David finally beat the time he set back in 2007 at the sixth time of asking.

The Main Body

As for the rest of the fleet, clumps have formed as the transitions between zones of pressure and other factors have begun to impact. The next group expected to finish comprises last year’s line honours winner, the VO70 I Love Poland, two Volvo 65s – Viva Mexico and Ambersail 2 (LTU) – plus the Slovenian entry, Way of Life, all in IRC Class One. They are struggling with a small area of low pressure that established itself off Lampedusa on Monday morning and appears to be slowly tracking towards to Malta. This frustrating scenario has allowed two IRC Class Two boats, Eric de Turckheim’s Teasing Machine (FRA) and Frederic Puzin’s Daguet 3 – Corum (FRA) to make inroads into their lead on the water and time correction.

In line astern, from Lampedusa back to Pantelleria, are some 16 yachts ranging from the Reichel/Pugh 60, Wild Joe (HUN), and the TP 52 Paprec Recyclage (FRA) closest to the southernmost point of the course and the A13, Phosphorus 2 (GBR), which is just past Pantelleria. James Neville’s Ino XXX (GBR), in IRC Class Three, continues its fight with Maltese yacht Artie III, with Lee Satariano, Christian Ripard and Timmy Camilleri in the afterguard. Camilleri called in from close to Pantelleria. “Sunday was fast, exciting, very wet, heavy weather downwind sailing,” described Camilleri. “It was really exhilarating on the helm. The boat was built for those conditions. We hit 28 knots at times, which for a 40-footer is not bad.”

Fortunate to survive the conditions which, when not surfing on top of a wave could see a yacht plough into the bottom of the next, Camilleri sounded relieved by the change in conditions after Favignana. “We have good weather at the moment,” he continued. “We are taking the opportunity to dry out the boat and ourselves. We parked up for a bit at the northwest corner of Sicily, like most of the boats, and lost a bit of time before we got back into the breeze. We are now moving well and clocking up miles pretty quickly.”

Lee Satariano's HH42, Artie IIILee Satariano's HH42, Artie III

Sending It

While the story of the race so far has been the blistering runs of the Maxi Multis and Monohulls, another significant theme is developing. Tucked in among this pack of yachts on the southward leg of the course is the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race winner, Sunrise. Tom Kneen’s JPK 1180 is competing in IRC Class Five. The British crew left their immediate opposition in their wake with a sharp exit from Messina and some daring sailing from Stromboli to Trapani. They left IRC Class Four behind in a windless parking lot at Favignana, which has been the feature of Monday for many competing yachts.

Although not fully aware of their achievement so far, Kneen was in a reflective mood when he took time to report in from Pantelleria. “We did over 30 knots at one point after Stromboli and high 20s consistently. We were properly sending it,” he enthused, before tempering his apparent exhilaration. “It was terrifying if I was being perfectly honest. We were pushing our luck with the A4 spinnaker, likely to break something or someone. We peeled to an A5, fractional spinnaker, and were not much slower.”

Kneen has done the race before and was aware that there was a lot of racing ahead. “I was concerned whether it was possible for us to sustain this effort,” he explained. “It looked likely it was going to be largely downwind, and it was not clear the wind was going to drop. I should have been whooping and excited, but actually was a bit tense.”

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is anything but straight-forward and Sunrise was soon stuck in the hole off the Egadi Islands and working out how to plug through light and variable winds. That the crew has managed to do so and keep up with yachts, on paper at least, more powerful, is testament to its determination and skill in more than just heavy weather.

The IRC Class Four yachts held up at Favignana had started moving by Monday evening. The Maltese yachts Elusive 2 and Calypso, both in contention in their classes at the last transit point, will be happy to be making progress again.

Thomas Kneen's JPK 11.80 SunriseThomas Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise

Comanche led Rambler with Caro the Botin 52 in third, and 70nm from the finish.
Daguet 3 – Corum held the lead from Teasing Machine with Kuka 3 (SUI) in third.
Ino XXX led Artie III and Matador (SWE)
Elusive 2 led from L’Ange De Milon (FRA) with Sailplane (GBR) in third. Maltese yacht Ton Ton Laferla is also in the mix in fourth.
Sunrise led from Rossko Racer (RUS) and Joy-Spartivento (ITA)
The double hander Jangada (GBR) led from Foggy Dew (FRA) and Calypso (MLT). The Maltese double hander Vivace was in fifth place.

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