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Royal Malta Announces Middle Sea Race Changes After 2021 Controversy

21st April 2022
Middle Sea Race - The RMYC has taken steps to ensure the rules and regulations surrounding the 43rd race are fit for purpose
Middle Sea Race - The RMYC has taken steps to ensure the rules and regulations surrounding the 43rd race are fit for purpose Credit: Kurt Arrigo

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.

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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.

At A Glance - Middle Sea Race 2022

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

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