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Middle Sea Race 2021 Registration Opens

11th March 2021
The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 23 October 2021
The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 23 October 2021 Credit: Kurt Arrigo

All being well, the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 23 October 2021. The Notice of Race is available online and yachts may already register to participate. Given the ongoing global pandemic causing so much disruption, there is a long way to go before the starting cannons fire in Grand Harbour. However, the Royal Malta Yacht Club is one of the few organisations to have successfully hosted a blue riband offshore race in 2020. There is, therefore, considerable hope that the club will be able to repeat that success.

Some 50 yachts made it to Malta last year and took on the famous 606 nautical mile race that features two active volcanoes, a myriad of islands and, uniquely, a start and finish in the same location.

The 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race attracted the usual array of international entries, with 14 nationalities representedThe 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race attracted the usual array of international entries, with 14 nationalities represented Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

“We are thrilled to have pulled off such an achievement,” said Commodore David Cremona. “It was a real buzz after so many months of difficulty to welcome the fleet and put on the race. Everyone involved did the Rolex Middle Sea Race proud. We are under no illusion that it will be any more straight-forward this year, but we know it can be done and we will do our very best once again.”

The 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race attracted the usual array of international entries, with 14 nationalities represented. Having witnessed the first ever Russian success in an offshore race, with Bogatyr in 2017, last year it was time for Poland to shine. The young crew of I Love Poland took Monohull Line Honours by a mere three minutes after a titanic struggle over the final few miles with their countrymen on E1.

Maserati Multi70Maserati Multi70 Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

The battle in the multihull fleet was arguably even more intense, with the two Italian trimarans, Maserati Multi70 and Mana, locked together for virtually the entire duration of the race. Maserati finally managed to establish a lead at Lampedusa and held on to win Multihull Line Honours by 15 minutes. Mana took the overall win under MOCRA Rating.

The true fairy-tale in 2020 was the overall monohull victory of Elusive II under IRC RatingThe true fairy-tale in 2020 was the overall monohull victory of Elusive II under IRC Rating

Aside from overcoming the issues presented by COVID-19, the true fairy-tale in 2020 was the overall monohull victory of Elusive II under IRC Rating. For the second time in two years, the young, but experienced and thoroughly determined, Maltese crew held their nerve to win a light wind race that tested their patience as much as their skill. Elusive II’s repeat victory was the first since Nita IV in 1980. Such an achievement is rare in yachting. It has not been accomplished at the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race since 1965 and only once since 1957 at the Rolex Fastnet Race. Yet, who’s to say Elusive II will not make it three in a row?

Published in Middle Sea Race
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About The Middle Sea Race

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a highly rated offshore classic, often mentioned in the same breath as the Rolex Fastnet, The Rolex Sydney–Hobart and Newport-Bermuda as a 'must do' race. The Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club co-founded the race in 1968 and 2007 was the 28th Edition. Save for a break between 1984 and 1995 the event has been run annually attracting 25–30 yachts. In recent years, the number of entries has rissen sharply to 68 boats thanks to a new Organising Committee who managed to bring Rolex on board as title sponsor for the Middle Sea Race.

The race is a true challenge to skippers and crews who have to be at their very best to cope with the often changeable and demanding conditions. Equally, the race is blessed with unsurpassed scenery with its course, taking competitors close to a number of islands, which form marks of the course. Ted Turner described the MSR as "the most beautiful race course in the world".

Apart from Turner, famous competitors have included Eric Tabarly, Cino Ricci, Herbert von Karajan, Jim Dolan, Sir Chay Blyth and Sir Francis Chichester (fresh from his round the world adventure). High profile boats from the world's top designers take part, most in pursuit of line honours and the record – competing yachts include the extreme Open 60s, Riviera di Rimini and Shining; the maxis, Mistress Quickly, Zephyrus IV and Sagamore; and the pocket rockets such as the 41-foot J-125 Strait Dealer and the DK46, Fidessa Fastwave.

In 2006, Mike Sanderson and Seb Josse on board ABN Amro, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, the super Maxis; Alfa Romeo and Maximus and the 2006 Rolex Middle Sea Race overall winner, Hasso Platner on board his MaxZ86, Morning Glory.

George David on board Rambler (ex-Alfa Romeo) managed a new course record in 2007 and in 2008, Thierry Bouchard on Spirit of Ad Hoc won the Rolex Middle Sea Race on board a Beneteau 40.7

The largest number of entries was 78 established in 2008.

Middle Sea Race History

IN THE BEGINNING

The Middle Sea Race was conceived as the result of sporting rivalry between great friends, Paul and John Ripard and an Englishman residing in Malta called Jimmy White, all members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. In the early fifties, it was mainly British servicemen stationed in Malta who competitively raced. Even the boats had a military connection, since they were old German training boats captured by the British during the war. At the time, the RMYC only had a few Maltese members, amongst who were Paul and John Ripard.

So it was in the early sixties that Paul and Jimmy, together with a mutual friend, Alan Green (later to become the Race Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), set out to map a course designed to offer an exciting race in different conditions to those prevailing in Maltese coastal waters. They also decided the course would be slightly longer than the RORC's longest race, the Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as used today.

Ted Turner, CEO of Turner Communications (CNN) has written that the Middle Sea Race "must be the most beautiful race course in the world. What other event has an active volcano as a mark of the course?"

In all of its editions since it was first run in 1968 – won by Paul Ripard's brother John, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has attracted many prestigious names in yachting. Some of these have gone on to greater things in life and have actually left their imprint on the world at large. Amongst these one finds the late Raul Gardini who won line honours in 1979 on Rumegal, and who spearheaded the 1992 Italian Challenge for the America's Cup with Moro di Venezia.

Another former line honours winner (1971) who has passed away since was Frenchman Eric Tabarly winner of round the world and transatlantic races on Penduik. Before his death, he was in Malta again for the novel Around Europe Open UAP Race involving monohulls, catamarans and trimarans. The guest list for the Middle Sea Race has included VIP's of the likes of Sir Francis Chichester, who in 1966 was the first man to sail around the world single-handedly, making only one stop.

The list of top yachting names includes many Italians. It is, after all a premier race around their largest island. These include Navy Admiral Tino Straulino, Olympic gold medallist in the star class and Cino Ricci, well known yachting TV commentator. And it is also an Italian who in 1999 finally beat the course record set by Mistress Quickly in 1978. Top racing skipper Andrea Scarabelli beat it so resoundingly, he knocked off over six hours from the time that had stood unbeaten for 20 years.

World famous round the world race winners with a Middle Sea Race connection include yachting journalist Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Les Williams, both from the UK.

The Maxi Class has long had a long and loving relationship with the Middle Sea Race. Right from the early days personalities such as Germany's Herbert Von Karajan, famous orchestra conductor and artistic director of the Berliner Philarmoniker, competing with his maxi Helisara IV. Later came Marvin Greene Jr, CEO of Reeves Communications Corporation and owner of the well known Nirvana (line honours in 1982) and Jim Dolan, CEO of Cablevision, whose Sagamore was back in 1999 to try and emulate the line honours she won in 1997.

THE COURSE RECORD

The course record was held by the San Francisco based, Robert McNeil on board his Maxi Turbo Sled Zephyrus IV when in 2000, he smashed the Course record which now stands at 64 hrs 49 mins 57 secs. Zephyrus IV is a Rechiel-Pugh design. In recent years, various maxis such as Alfa Romeo, Nokia, Maximus and Morning Glory have all tried to break this course record, but the wind Gods have never played along. Even the VOR winner, ABN AMro tried, but all failed in 2006.

However, George David came along on board Rambler in 2007 and demolished the course record established by Zephyrus IV in 2000. This now stands at 1 day, 23 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds.

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