With 31 yachts entered, the event is well on the way to matching last year’s fleet of 76 and the record fleet of 78 set in 2008. The first boat to register its interest was the German Rogers 46 Varuna, owned by Jens Kellinghusen. Varuna finished 13th overall in IRC and won her ORC class in 2010, and is an enthusiastic returnee. Varuna’s interests extend beyond just this race, since she is actively participating in the 2011 Atlantic Ocean Racing Series (AORS) has having just completed the Transatlantic Race, and being about to embark on the Rolex Fastnet Race. With the prospect of a considerable number of season’s sea miles under her belt before October it would be fair to suppose that her crew will be supremely well-drilled come the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Next up were Jason and Judy Payne-James with their Dufour 45, Heartbeat IV (GBR), closely followed by the current headline act: Niklas Zennstrom’s 72-foot Judel/Vrolijk designed Rán 2, the 2009 winner of the Rolex Fastnet. This will be the third visit of the Rán crew, the second on the world champion mini-maxi. Their best result to date was fourth overall in 2009, something they will be looking to improve upon.
The spread of international entries currently includes boats from most seafaring nations in Europe, plus Russia and South Africa. Chris Frost’s 54-foot Prodigy (RSA) is another yacht competing on the AORS. She finished the Transatlantic Race half an hour behind Varuna, and will be looking to turn that table in the Rolex Fastnet ahead of the deciding match in Malta in October.
This year, foreign crews will be offered a substantial upgrade on the already excellent facilities available at this race. The RMYC is in the process of installing some 60 pontoon berths on Marsamxett Harbour, right off the clubhouse at Ta’Xbiex. This will be the first time in the 43 year history of the event that the RMYC has been able to accommodate the main bulk of the competing fleet so close to the centre of operations.
“It is a great achievement for the club, and great news for the event and for the competitors,” says Commodore Georges Bonello DuPuis. “It was a substantial investment, but is part of our vision for the general expansion of the yacht club’s activities, plus we have long wanted to moor participating yachts adjacent to our facility so we can host them in the best possible way. We have a well-earned reputation for really looking after the visiting international crews, but this year will raise the bar still further.”
And, whilst the local Maltese participants might not benefit directly from the improved moorings, they will certainly enjoy the increased party atmosphere anticipated at the club ahead and after the race. Jonas Diamantino’s ILC 40 Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo was one of the first hometown boats to enter, with Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia’s J/122 Otra Vez and Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44 Ton Ton Surfside hot on his heels. More are sure to follow.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race commences on Saturday, 22 October 2011.
Entries close on 14 October.
The final prize giving is on Saturday, 29 October 2011.
George David's Rambler established the current Course Record of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds in 2007.