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Galway Bay Sailing Club Crew To Take On Middle Sea Race Challenge

31st January 2024
The J/122 Noisy Oyster is campaign boat for the Galway Bay Sailing Club Middle Sea Race Challenge in October
The J/122 Noisy Oyster is campaign boat for the Galway Bay Sailing Club Middle Sea Race Challenge in October

A crew from Galway Bay Sailing Club (GBSC) is gearing up to compete in the challenging Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta, the renowned 600-mile annual sailing event set against the backdrop of some of the most spectacular coastlines and open water passages in the Mediterranean.

Most of the squad completed the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race in the Galway-originating Volvo 70 Green Dragon, and now they’re looking to the comparable classic in the Mediterranean on October 19th. But this time, it will be with the chartered race-optimised J/122 Noisy Oyster, a boat nearer to the sizes they’re accustomed to racing inshore and offshore in Galway Bay.

GBSC Middle Sea Challenge skipper Mark Wilson (left) and trimmer/navigator Paraig Dennison aboard the Sigma 33 ScorpioGBSC Middle Sea Challenge skipper Mark Wilson (left) and trimmer/navigator Paraig Dennison aboard the Sigma 33 Scorpio

The challenge is being managed by Fergal Lyons, while the skipper is Mark Wilson, best known for his many successes on the Atlantic seaboard with the Sigma 33 Scorpio, the full squad being as follows

  • Mark Wilson (Scorpio) : Skipper
  • Nigel Moss (Woofer) - Watch Leader
  • Conor Lyons (Out of the Blue)- Helm
  • Aaron O'Reilly (Koncho Buntz) - Helm
  • Padraig Dennison (Scorpio) - Trimmer/Navigation
  • Pat Dowd (Scorpio)- Trimmer/Navigation
  • Iso Inan (Scorpio)- PIt/Trimmer
  • Michael Fleming (Scorpio)- Trimmer
  • Paddy Hennelly (Out of the Blue) - Bow/Trimmer
  • Cronan Quirke (Scorpio)- Bow/Trimmer

The start of the Middle Sea Race from the historic location of Grand Harbour in Valetta in Malta sets the style of this classic eventThe start of the Middle Sea Race from the historic location of Grand Harbour in Valetta in Malta sets the style of this classic event

The race kicks off in the picturesque surroundings of Valletta, Malta, tracing a course north through the iconic Messina Straits between southern Italy and Sicily. Navigating past the renowned volcanic island of Stromboli, the boats will then follow the Sicilian coastline to the Egadi Islands. Keeping the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa to port, the race concludes back in Valletta. While the race is expected to span about four days, larger multihulls and some monohulls will be vying to complete the challenge in under two days.

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Undoubtedly a formidable test for any crew, the GBSC team is determined to do Galway proud, shining a spotlight on the rich sailing heritage of Galway Bay. The team is actively seeking expressions of interest for sponsorship opportunities, offering a unique chance to align with an ambitious team participating in a globally-watched event. For more details, please contact [email protected] .

The classic course of a great event – the Middle Sea Race even takes in a turn at the volcanic island of StromboliThe classic course of a great event – the Middle Sea Race even takes in a turn at the volcanic island of Stromboli

Middle Sea Yacht Race Live Tracker 2023

Track the progress of the 2023 Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet on the live tracker above and see all Afloat's Middle Sea Race coverage in one handy link here

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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 2024

First held: 1968

Organising Authority: Royal Malta Yacht Club

Start

The 45th Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 19 October 2024.

Grand Harbour, Valletta: seven separate starts, at 10-minute intervals, from 11:00 CEST Saturday, 21 October 2024

Start Line: between the Saluting Battery, Upper Barrakka Gardens (Valletta) and Fort St Angelo (Birgu)

Various vantage points all around the Grand Harbour, high up on the bastions or at water level. Harbour access for spectator boats is restricted during the period of the start.

Course

Set in the heart of the Mediterranean and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. It starts and finishes in Malta, passes two active volcanoes and takes in the deep azure waters surrounding Sicily, and the Aeolian and Egadi Islands, as well as lonelier outposts of Pantelleria and Lampedusa, both closer to the African continent than Europe.

Length: 606 nautical miles (1,122km)

Outright Race Record: 33h 29m 28s, Argo, United States, Jason Carroll

Monohull Race Record: 40h 17m 50s, Comanche, Cayman Is, Mitch Booth

Main Trophies

Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy – overall race winner under IRC Time Correction

Boccale de Mediterraneo – winner of ORC category

RLR Trophy – winner of monohull line honours

Captain Morgan Trophy – winner of multihull division on corrected time (MOCRA)

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