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Kinsale Yacht Club Entry 'Freya' Among 120 for Mediterranean Middle Sea Race

4th October 2022
One of seven 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race starts held in front of Valletta's Siege Bell war memorial
One of seven 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race starts held in front of Valletta's Siege Bell war memorial Credit: Kurt Arrigo

With the start of the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race just three weeks away, another fascinating contest beckons. The entry list currently stands at 120 yachts representing 25 countries, including Ireland.

As Afloat previously reported, Kinsale Yacht Club had two entries in the race. Conor Doyle's Xp50 Freya returns to the Mediterranean, but club mate Thomas Roche's Meridian, a Salona 45, is no longer on the entry list.

While Covid is no longer so much in the headlines, there are plenty of other uncertainties in the world but, yet again, the 606 nautical mile classic is proving its global appeal. Starting from Grand Harbour, Valletta on Saturday, 22 October, to the crash of cannon fire from the Saluting Battery high above the water, the stage looks set for another cracking race.

Conor Doyle's Xp50 Freya Photo: Michael ChesterConor Doyle's Xp50 Freya from Kinsale Photo: Michael Chester

The range and breadth of the fleet has been well-rehearsed in previous releases. Here are just a few of the facts: 112 monohulls, eight multihulls (including five 21 metre racing trimarans), largest yacht: Leopard 3 at 30.48m, smallest yacht: Cuorematto at 9.5m, most entries from Italy with 27 followed by France with 19, furthest travelled entries: High Five from New Zealand and Maverick from Australia; and 11 double handed entries including two-time Olympic medallist Jonathan McKee on Red Ruby from the USA.

Thomas Roche's Meridian, a Salona 45 Photo: Bob BatemanThomas Roche's Meridian, a Salona 45 Photo: Bob Bateman

Multihulls

An almighty clash is expected between Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi 70, former line honours winner; Riccardo Pavoncelli’s Mana, former MOCRA handicap winner skippered by speed sailing record holder Paul Larsen; Zoulou (FRA) skippered by Erik Maris, currently leading the owner-driver standings on the GC32 circuit and who mixes sailing with endurance motorsport; Frank Slootman’s American entry Snowflake and Cosimo Malesci’s Axciss.

Maserati is a Multi 70 entrant in the Rolex Middle Sea Race Photo: Kurt ArrigoMaserati is a Multi 70 entrant in the Rolex Middle Sea Race Photo: Kurt Arrigo

“This is the first Middle Sea Race for my crew and me. We are super excited about it,” enthused Malesci. “This is also our first race on a MOD70. I sailed competitively on dinghies growing up, then on bigger boats in a few offshore races while I was studying in the US where my master’s thesis at MIT was on the seakeeping capabilities of trimarans! I got back into sailing once I graduated, mostly on F18 catamarans.”

“I have always wanted to race on a MOD70, and the Middle Sea Race seemed the perfect setting to do it,” continues Malesci. “I recently sold my tech company and to celebrate I have managed to convince the other three founders of the business to join me. Since we all met through sailing, when we were younger and then started a business together, I couldn't think of a better way.”

Malesci is realistic about their chances given the experienced opposition he faces: “Being our first race on a MOD70, we will mostly focus on safety, understanding the boat, and enjoying the experience. That said, we are all fairly competitive in nature, so if the opportunity arises, we may push it a bit!”

Monohulls

As one would expect, the monohull fleet is a true mix of professional and Corinthian crews, cruiser/racers and all out fliers, those with the ambition to win the Middle Sea Race trophy on IRC Time Correction and those just participating for the challenge. Marton Josza’s Reichel/Pugh designed 18.28m Wild Joe, is one of the more experienced crews. ”The Wild Joe Sailing Team is competing in the race for the eleventh time,” according to Josza. “The same Hungarian crew has also completed the distance twice in a different, smaller boat, so this is the 14th Middle Sea Race we are starting with this crew.”

Marton Josza’s Reichel/Pugh designed 18.28m Wild JoeMarton Josza’s Reichel/Pugh designed 18.28m Wild Joe Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Josza takes the race very seriously and over the years has worked on improving the boat and the skills of the crew. “We come to win every year, just like everyone else,” smiles Josza. “We are very proud to be able to represent Hungary. We race on the beautiful Lake Balaton, where we train some very talented sailors. We really like this course. The various weather conditions always bring a significant challenge. There is no single characteristic, nature always plays tricks on us, but we enjoy fighting against the elements.”

The popularity of the race is easily explained according to Josza. The course itself is one part of the equation and the enthusiasm of the crews, like his, is another. “The Middle Sea Race is one of the most difficult offshore races. Going around Sicily is a great adventure in itself,” he says. “It is a multi-day competition, which requires full concentration and hard sailing, or enormous patience. The race is a popular and well-known competition in sailing circles, but it is also a spectacular event for non-sailors, and we like to spread the word to a much larger audience.”

All through the fleet there are stories like Josza’s. Crews that have done the race on multiple occasions, regularly drawn back by the compelling prospect of the race itself, gilded by the possibility of glory and passing into legend.

At the smaller end of the fleet, Bohemia Praha Vachelboat from Croatia could be a dark horse to follow. The Middle Sea Race has never been won overall under IRC Time Correction by a double hander. The closest result in recent years was Azuree in 2014, which eventually finished fourth, winning IRC 5 in the process.

Bohemia Praha is a JPK 10.30 from Croatia. Its crew is made up of Ondřej Vachel and Pavel Roubal. JPK yachts have frequently done well in the race since first appearing in 2016, when Noel Racine and Foggy Dew, a JPK 10.10, finished fourth overall. JPK designs won overall in 2017 and 2018. Last year there were four in the top ten.

Add to that set of stats the fact that the last time Vachel and Roubal participated they did rather well. “This is only our second Middle Sea Race,” advises Vachel. “But in 2018, we came second overall under IRC (just behind the renowned Courrier Recommandé of Géry Trentesaux). We also won the ORC division.”

The pair are really looking forward to participating again. “It is an amazing racetrack, and the Royal Malta Yacht Club are great too,” says Vachel. “One thing we are definitely looking forward to is the start in such a beautiful place.”

Local Heroes

Maltese interest is considerable and understandable. A proud sea-faring nation, crews from the island have won the race on nine occasions. The most recent wins being back-to-back in 2019 and 2020 with Elusive 2, which has entered again this year. Some 12 Malta-flagged entries are competing in 2022. While local bragging rights are important, whether being the first Maltese crew home or highest ranked on handicap, winning the Middle Sea Race trophy is never far from the mind.

The most recent Maltese win in the race being back-to-back in 2019 and 2020 with Elusive 2, which has entered again this yearThe most recent Maltese win in the race being back-to-back in 2019 and 2020 with Elusive 2, which has entered again this year

The smallest yacht to have won the race in the last 20 years is the 10.75m Market Wizard from Malta in 2002. One of the smallest entries this year is the 9.94m J/99 Calypso, skippered by Sebastian Ripard, whose first race was with Market Wizard. Ripard, now on his 16th race, is clear what he enjoys: “I guess the main thing is to switch my phone off for a few days and get totally consumed both by the racing and the competition, as well as the adventure of being out at sea for a few days in an array of conditions ranging from hot and breathless to wild and stormy.”

“This year we’re racing with a similar crew to last year,” explains Ripard. “Daniel Calascione and I, as co-skippers, and then another four high quality young Maltese sailors: Fabio Galea, Saul Vassallo, Kris Borg Nicholas and Sam Pizzuto.”

New to the race is the Corona Sailing Team, entered on Luis Azzopardi and Sara Baldwin’s Botin & Carkeek 46, Xone Superyacht Corona. “The Middle Sea Race is every sailor’s dream,” said Baldwin. “It is known to be one of the most challenging yet rewarding races in the Mediterranean Sea.” The Corona crew includes a mix of experience in offshore racing, and Baldwin is looking forward to taking part: “Determination, dedication, and willpower are the driving forces of our team. We aim at doing well, keeping in mind the safety of everyone onboard and the boat itself.”

Published in Middle Sea Race, Kinsale

Middle Sea Yacht Race Live Tracker 2022

Track the progress of the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet on the live tracker above and see all Afloat's Middle Sea Race coverage in one handy link here

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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 2023

The 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 21 October 2023.

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