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Middle Sea Race Fleet Starts to Climb for October Fixture

20th June 2022
The 43rd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 22 October 2022
The 43rd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 22 October 2022

With little more than four months to go to the start of the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race on Saturday, 22 October, the fleet is growing daily. Some 49 yachts from 21 countries have entered the Mediterranean’s premier 606-mile classic to date. Comprising monohulls and multihulls, fully-crewed and double-handed, and ranging in size from the 28 metre Orsa Maggiore (Italy) down to the 9.98m Azuree 33 Nuestro (Italy), the entrants represent the broad spectrum of offshore sailing. At the same stage last year, a similar number had entered with the final fleet count reaching 114. The Royal Malta Yacht Club, the organiser since the first race in 1968, is taking the current count as a positive indicator of another sizeable participation in its flagship race.

The race to be first to finish in the multihull fleet is shaping up nicely with 24m Ultim’ Emotion 2 entered by Cosimo Malesci (Italy) facing a head-to-head with Frank Slootman’s Dutch 21.2m MOD70 Snowflake (formerly Beau Geste and before that Phaedo3, which took line honours and set a multihull race record in 2015). Ultim’ Emotion has participated twice previously with a best result of third on the water in 2020. Despite bettering the 2007 course record last year, she was beaten to the line by a triumvirate of MOD70s, with Argo going on to set an outright race (and course) record of 32 hours 23 minutes and 38 seconds in the ‘once in a lifetime conditions’.

Lee Satariano's Artie III from Malta passing Stromboli in class 3 of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race: Photo: Kurt ArrigoLee Satariano's Artie III from Malta passing Stromboli in class 3 of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race: Photo: Kurt Arrigo

While Orsa Maggiore is unlikely to trouble the multihull battle to be first home or the monohull race record of 38hrs 49mins and 33 sec, also set in 2021, the Italian maxi will be looking to be among the first monohulls to finish. The 24.89m, Swan 82 Kallima (Switzerland) is another that will have ambitions to be at head of the monohull contingent and take the opportunity to gain some valuable points in the final event of the 2022 Swan Maxi Series. Two other maxis have registered so far: Swan 65 Kings Legend (United Kingdom) in her third attempt to complete the course, and the debutant Italian Clipper 68 Grinta.

The primary contest is, of course, for overall victory under IRC, and with it the iconic Middle Sea Race trophy. A glance through the entry list suggests the usual fierce competition for this sought-after prize. Two-time winner Lee Satariano is back with co-skipper Cristian Ripard on the HH42 Artie III. After two indifferent performances 2019 and 2020, as the team got to grips with their thoroughbred steed, the Maltese crew finished second in 2021 in IRC 3, 10 minutes behind the winner (another HH42) and in seventh place overall. Another Maltese entry showing some form in recent years has been Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44P, Ton Ton Laferla. Third overall in 2020 and winner of IRC 5, Gambin finished just off the IRC 4 podium last time out.

Other names to look out for include Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3 – Corum (France), third overall in 2021 and winner of IRC 2. Stefan Jentzsch’s new water-ballasted IRC56 designed by Botin Partners and built at King Marine looks to be fine prospect too. Purpose-built for offshore racing, the IRC 56 is a step up in power from the Carkeek 47 that Jentsch raced in 2019, winning IRC 2. Also hoping to be in the mix is another German crew, Carl-Peter Forster’s Red Bandit (which raced last year as Freccia Rossa). 2022 will be Forster’s fourth Middle Sea Race, the first back in 1979 on board Volker Andreae’s Inschallah. “I bought Freccia Rossa after last year‘s race and we rechristened it Red Bandit", explains Forster. “I have gifted the boat to a foundation (ForStar Offshore Racing) which I set up and financed with the aim to bring younger talented sailors to offshore racing."

The Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet passing FavignanaThe Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet passing Favignana Photo: Kurt Arrigo

The 43rd Middle Sea Race will be the team’s fifth major event together. "The crew consists of young dinghy sailors with primarily European and World Championship experience, as well as one with an Olympic background,” advises Forster. “They are all younger than 35, most of them younger than 30.” As to why he is returning for another tilt at the course, Forster explains: “I love long distance offshore racing as it puts you in a different state of mind. The  Middle Sea Race is such a unique race with its challenging weather - either too little or too much wind - and the fabulous course around Sicily and the islands.”

The Double-Handed Class is another area of the fleet building nicely, with some real talent. So far, six entries have made the commitment. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States are represented. Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas, crewing Jubilee, the French J/109, have some form having won the John Illingworth Trophy for first in the Double-Handed Class on corrected time under IRC in 2020 despite the disappointment of failing to finish last year.

Another French yacht with the potential to push for the podium is Ludovic Gérard’s Solenn for Pure Ocean. The JPK10.80 has appeared three times previously, twice racing fully crewed. In, 2018, Solenn finished second in IRC 6, following up this impressive debut by winning IRC 6 in 2019 by four seconds on corrected time. In 2021, Solenn for Pure Ocean finished second in the Double-Handed Class and fifth in the 27 boat IRC 6. After withdrawing just ahead of the 2021 race, the last appearance for Björn Ambos and the Solaris 44 Mandalay (Germany) was 2018, when they finished third in the class. Marco Paolucci and the Italian Comet 45 Libertine have also appeared on the podium in past races. German sailor Chris Opielok will be embarking on his third participation following two relatively successful fully-crewed forays in 2011 with his Corby 36 Rockall III and in 2015 with another Corby (38) Rockall IV. On his debut, Opielok finished second in IRC 4 and overall, beaten by only 30 minutes by local heroes Artie. On his second appearance, Opielok won IRC 4, beating two-time winners, Elusive II in the process. Early season success winning the 140nm Ruta de La Sal (Barcelona – to Ibiza) suggests Opielok’s latest Rockall, a JPK 1030, is a force to be reckoned with.
One of the most anticipated entries is Jonathan McKee and Red Ruby the SunFast 3300 from the United States. McKee is a two-time Olympic medallist in the Flying Dutchman (gold, 1984) and the 49er (bronze, 2000). He brings experience from several America’s Cup campaigns and 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race with Il Mostro. This will be McKee’s first time at this event. “I have wanted to compete in the Middle Sea Race for a long time. It is one of the few classic ocean races that I have never sailed,” explains McKee. “The course is really beautiful and very interesting tactically. There is usually a huge variety of conditions, from calms to gales. The event always draws a top field, and I am really excited.”

As for why he is entered in the double-handed class, McKee is clear: “I love racing double-handed because it is a beautiful challenge. Racing with only two requires each sailor to really have a complete skill set. You have to steer, trim, navigate, get the sails up and down, all with only two sailors. It is really fun, really direct, and it makes you a more complete sailor. We are looking forward to a very competitive race.” McKee’s co-skipper is a young sailor from the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Alyohsa Strum-Palerm with whom he is participating in the (fully-crewed) R2AK (750nm race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska).

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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