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Ireland's Justin Slattery Adds Middle Sea Race Title as Comanche Confirmed as Overall Winner

29th October 2021
Comanche finished the race on the morning of Monday 25 October but it has taken til Friday, October 29th to confirm her win of the 2021 Middle Sea Race
Comanche finished the race on the morning of Monday 25 October but it has taken til Friday, October 29th to confirm her win of the 2021 Middle Sea Race Credit: Kurt Arrigo

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.

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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