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As per tradition, the closing act of this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race was the final prize-giving held in the historic 16th-century Sacra Infermeria. Originally built as a hospital by the Knights of St John and overlooking Grand Harbour Malta, the impressive building is now the Mediterranean Conference Centre. Celebrating the achievements of all 110 participating yachts, the ceremony was a celebratory affair.

The 2023 edition of the Mediterranean’s most demanding and renowned 600-mile offshore race will be remembered for the mix of conditions and emotions experienced by the international fleet.

Denis Doyle's XP 50 Freya from Kinsale was the only Irish entry, finishing the race 37th on IRC and 35th on ORC.

Unusually, the weather favoured both mammoth and minnow, turtle and hare. A powerful maxi will be remembered for an unexpected offshore success, while one of the smallest boats will be recalled for a breathtaking performance that kept everyone on the edge of their seats. O

Overall winner, the 93-foot Bullitt, and second-placed 33ft double-hander Red Ruby, separated by only 24 seconds in corrected time, but forever joined in legend.

Andrea Recordati, skipper of Bullitt, (left) shares a moment with the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy with Justin and Christina Wolfe, Red Ruby Photo: Kurt ArrigoAndrea Recordati, skipper of Bullitt, (left) shares a moment with the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy with Justin and Christina Wolfe, Red Ruby Photo: Kurt Arrigo

The principal success stories of the 2023  Middle Sea Race:

  • Bullitt – Overall Winner under IRC
  • Limosa – Multihull Line Honours Winner
  • Leopard 3 – Monohull Line Honours Winner
  • Red Ruby – Double-Handed Class Winner under IRC and ORC Category Winner

 

During the presentation, David Cremona Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club acknowledged the diversity of the fleet, the range of sizes of yachts, the different talent and experience within the crews, and its global representation. He paid tribute to everyone that had taken part: “The Rolex Middle Sea Race is more than just a competition; it is a testament to the human spirit's unyielding quest for adventure, an enduring love of the sea and the opportunity to test one’s mettle against the elements. I stand here in awe of the sailors who have embraced these challenges, demonstrating remarkable skill and determination.”

Cremona also referenced the David and Goliath battle for overall victory: “This year’s conditions kept us waiting anxiously with no definite overall winner until late into the week. The Middle Sea Race Trophy was kept in the balance for such a long and tense period. Bullitt’s crew were incredulous about the narrow victory they had experienced, just 24 seconds. While for Red Ruby the end result was agonising, but filled with pride and positivity.”

In addition to participating crews, the occasion was attended by several distinguished guests, in particular the French Ambassador Mrs Agnès von der Mühll, Italian Ambassador Fabrizio Romano, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola and the President of Malta, George Vella, who had this to say: “The Middle Sea Race brings to Malta the best sea-faring talent from across the world and is also a great opportunity to showcase Malta’s vast and rich maritime heritage. One of the features that stands out to me, as the most noteworthy attribute of this event, is its strong multicultural dimension. Some 25 nations have participated in this year’s edition, with entries from as far afield as the United States and Australia. It is indeed very satisfying to see so many nationalities gathered here, with diverse backgrounds and languages, sharing a common objective, and a common passion for the same sport.”

Marking the forthcoming retirement of Dr Vella, the Royal Malta Yacht Club presented a cheque for €5,000 made out to the Malta Community Chest Fund, which aims to improve the quality of life and care of individuals in society in general without any form of discrimination.

IRC Overall & winner Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy
Bullitt, Andrea Recordati, ITA
 
IRC Class Winners
IRC 1 Bullitt, Andrea Recordati, ITA
IRC 2 Caro, Max Klink SUI
IRC 3 Daguet 3, Frédéric Puzin, FRA
IRC 4 Elusive 2, Aaron, Christoph & Maya Podesta, MLT
IRC 5 Karpo, Maks Vrecko, SLO
IRC 6 Red Ruby, Christina & Justin Wolfe, USA
 
Monohull Line Honours & winner RLR Trophy
Leopard 3, Chris Sherlock, MON
 
Multihull Line Honours & winner Malta Tourism Authority Trophy (First Foreign Boat)
Limosa, Alexia Barrier, FRA
 
MOCRA Overall & winner Captain Morgan Trophy
Limosa, Alexia Barrier, FRA
 
ORC Category Overall & winner Boccale del Mediterraneo Trophy
Red Ruby, Christina & Justin Wolfe, USA
 
ORC Class Winners
ORC 2 Chocolate 3, François Bopp, SUI
ORC 3 Daguet 3, Frédéric Puzin, FRA
ORC 4 Bewild, Renzo Grottesi, ITA
ORC 5 Inteman (Barakah), Daniel Martín Miguel
ORC 6 Red Ruby, Christina & Justin Wolfe, USA
 
First Boat with Maltese skipper & majority Maltese crew - winner Transport Malta Trophy
Artie III, Lee Satariano & Christian Ripard, MLT
 
First Maltese Boat under IRC & winner Arthur Podesta Trophy
First Maltese Boat under ORC & winner Teddie Borg Trophy
Calypso, Sebastian Ripard and Sam Pizzutto, MLT
 
Yachting Malta Nations Cup (Country with three best IRC corrected times)
Italy – Bullitt, Loli Fast & Diavolina
 
Italian Ambassador’s Trophy for Sportsmanship
Munjek RS, Dusko Tomic, CRO
 
First Italian boat under ORC & winner Federazione Italian Vela Trophy
Ultravox Seares, Leonardo Fonti, ITA
 
99 out 110 boats completed the course, 11 retired.



The Principal Race Officer, Stefan Kunstmann, paid tribute to the 100s hours of work by the Royal Malta Yacht Club volunteers and thanked the competitors for their contribution to an extremely successful edition of the race.

Results are here

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

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At 2100 CEST on Wednesday, 25 October, the 44th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race winner was announced as the Italian Wally 93 Bullitt, skippered by Andrea Recordati.

The announcement was made shortly after the double-handed entry Red Ruby crossed the finish line at 20.51.35, 24 seconds outside the time required to move into first place.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club has confirmed that none of the remaining yachts racing can better Bullitt’s corrected time.

“When I came into the Rolex Middle Sea Race, my dream was to win class,” said Recordati, on being informed by the Race Director. “That would have been a fantastic result in itself against boats more adapted to this type of offshore race.”

“Coming first overall in corrected time, honestly, I still have difficulty believing it. I am ecstatic. I am super happy for the boat; she deserves it. We put a lot of effort into optimising and improving her. I am especially happy for my crew. I have an exceptional team, and they really deserve this too.”

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Leopard 3 (MON), the 30.78 metre/100 foot maxi designed by Farr and skippered by Chris Sherlock, has won the Monohull Line Honours in the 2023 Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Her included 1992 Olympian and Solent-based sailmaker Tom McWilliam from the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

The yacht crossed the finish line at 01:20:56 CEST on Tuesday, 24 October, completing the race in an elapsed time of 2 days, 12 hours 50 minutes 56 seconds.

This is the fourth time Leopard 3 has participated in the race, and it is the third time it has been the first monohull to finish, winning the RLR Trophy. The previous occasion was in 2022. Although the yacht's elapsed time is some 20 hours outside the monohull race record of 40 hours 17 minutes 50 seconds established by Comanche in 2021, the Leopard 3 crew is thrilled with their performance and proud of their achievement.

The Leopard 3 crew included 20 members, including Chris Sherlock, Mitch Booth, Charlie Wyatt, and Corrado Piero Franco Rossignoli. Other members of the crew were Crue Williams, Dennis Fredricksen, Tom McWilliam, Will Best, Gian Ahluwalia, Laura de Vere, Samuel Wright, Joost Schultz, Giles de Jager, Jaime Arbones, Jonathan Taylor, Mike Bartlett, Paul Standbridge, Guilermo Altadill, Gerald Mitchell, and Matta Whitehead.

The handicap race continues this morning with the sole Irish yacht in the race, Freya, an XP50, skippered by Conor Doyle, defending her 2022 ORC title

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a prestigious sailing event that attracts top sailors from around the world. The race covers a distance of 606 nautical miles, starting and finishing in Malta and passing through the Strait of Messina, the Aeolian Islands, the Egadi Islands, and Pantelleria. The race is known for its challenging conditions, including strong winds, rough seas, and unpredictable weather.

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American owner Byron Ehrhart's formerly George David-owned Round Ireland Record Holders Rambler 88 but now re-named Lucky, seems to have run out of luck as she had to pull out of the Rolex Middle Sea Race this morning while well-placed and sailing at 18 knots off the western headlands of Sicily. A dismasting caused her to limp into the nearest port under power to take on extra fuel to get her back to Malta.

At the front of the fleet, while the 100ft Leopard may be leading on the war, the two 52 footers Warrior Won (Chris Sheehan USA) and Caro (Max Klink SUI) have been keeping themselves in close contact to lead their cohort, with Warrior Won with her Glandore links currently two miles ahead of Caro, which includes Howth's ex-Pat Gordon Maguire on the strength.

Conor Doyle from Kinsale with his xP50 Freya continues well in contention, currently showing podium placing in class under both IRC and ORC, while ISORA's Hall clan with the J/125 Jackknife are also in the hunt in a race which has already served up a wide variety of conditions.

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Conor Doyle’s Xp50 Freya (IRL) leads on the water and is now second in IRC class four after the first 24 hours of racing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. 

The Podesta family’s First 45 Elusive 2 (MLT) is impressive, building a lead in class of over three hours after IRC time correction.

Nicholas O’Leary messaged from board Freya: “Flat to the mat on the good ship Freya. We hurled it round the outside early last night and slipped by the park up after Portopalo di Capo Passero. In very good company with Artie and co, much to the delight of our Maltese bowman Fabio Galea, having traded tacks up the Italian mainland beaches. Gradual left shift from here to the fire breathing island now. Crew in strong spirits and working hard at every opportunity.”

Frank Werst’s Swan 53 Silveren Swaen (NED) is one of the biggest climbers on Day Two, ranked 9th in class at Capo Passero, the Dutch Swan was third in class at Messina.

The Kinsale entry, the sole Irish yacht in the race, is defending an ORC Class podium place and her full Irish crew line up is here

Meanwhile, ISORA's J125 Jackknife, (Andrew Hall) lying eighth in IRC 4, sent the following message: "Good afternoon! We are in good spirit, had a great downwind up to the transition and then spent the night working to limit our losses in conditions that don’t suit our boat. Few technical issues, but we have managed just fine.”

“Messina is as good as it can get, breeze all the way through and in daylight! Locking into the beat now up to Stromboli. Bit more work than we would like to make the ground back but it’s not too far, especially if we can crack off for the rest of the race.”

“I think we have plenty of opportunity to do damage we just need to be patient. Life on board is as you would imagine, being 3.2 metres wide and 8 of us. It’s cramped."

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The emergence of super-sailor ex-Pat Gordon Maguire in the key role of tactician aboard Fastnet Race 2023 overall winner Caro (Max Klink, Switzerland) has shifted positions on the betting board in the current
Rolex Middle Sea Race, which got going from Grand Harbour at Valetta in Malta yesterday (Saturday).

In the Fastnet, while Caro was creaming her way in style to the top prizes, Gallant Gordon was battering his way round the course with Australian Sean Langman in the restored vintage gaff cutter Maluka. They finished with a place on the podium in Class IV, but a central role on a boat like Caro is more Maguire's contemporary style.

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The 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet was sent on its way today. The start of a 606 nautical mile adventure around Sicily and back to the finish in Malta.

110 yachts representing 26 nations crossed the start line, their 1000-plus crew from close to 50 countries fired up and ready for whatever lies ahead. An already mixed weather forecast played hardball, with each class often experiencing wildly different conditions during their start. The most important detail, though, was that all yachts left Grand Harbour safely. The 2023 Rolex Middle Sea Race is underway.

By 1600 CEST, the MOD70 Limosa with its stellar crew led by The Famous Project founder Alexia Barrier was making great strides north. Parallel with Syracuse having passed through the transit point at Capo Passero, some 55 nautical miles into the race, at 1430 CEST the French trimaran was trucking along at 20 knots. The other two multihulls were doing their best, but such is the power of Limosa, Jacopo Bracco’s American Banuls 53 Finn is already some 50nm in arrears, with Aldo Fumagalli’s Italian Rapido 40 Adamas a further 12 miles back. Hitting speeds of 30 knots or more at times, Barrier and her crew had been fair licking along, possibly benefiting from the wind reality being different to that predicted. While the forecast northwesterly continued its approach into the course area, it was slower than expected and the eastern seaboard of Sicily had enjoyed an unexpected strong southerly.

Jonathan Gambin's Dufour 44p Tonton Laferla Photo: Deea BuzduganJonathan Gambin's Dufour 44p Tonton Laferla Photo: Deea Buzdugan

In the monohull fleet, the highest rated yacht, the 27m Lucky owned by Bryan Ehrhart (and former five-time line honours winner Rambler 88), was leading on the water, but only just ahead of Pyewacket 70. Roy P. Disney’s modified Volvo 70 made a bold move just over an hour into the race to separate from the other maxis and go north of the rhumb line, presumably to get to the correct side of a wind shift. Taking a hitch to the west, which seemed to be adding distance to the course, Pyewacket 70 was soon heading direct at Capo Passero matching Lucky for speed, but with less ground to cover. With about 15nm to the transit on the southeast corner of Sicily, Lucky held slender lead over her American counterpart seven miles to the west, with the yachts matched for speed. Last year’s line honours winner Leopard 3 was just behind Lucky, with Bullitt and Paprec Sailing Team (Spirit of Malouen X) off the starboard hip.

Among the IRC 2 competitors, the German Carkeek 47 Störtebekker led by Katrina Westphal, one of eight female skippers in the race, also made a move northwest, while the rest of the class continued to the northeast. Roll forward two and a half hours, and the group was almost back together, with Störtebekker’s move having been less effective than Pyewacket’s. On the water, Max Klink’s Botin 52 Caro from Switzerland had the edge and was leading the Italian Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X and the Hungarian Reichel/Pugh 60 Wild Joe. According to the race tracker, James Neville’s Ino Noir, launched in 2023 and on her second 600 mile classic of the season, was leading in class and overall. With 550nm still to go, it will have been a nice fillip to be doing so well early on, but no one onboard will be taking anything for granted.

The two Ker 46s, the French Daguet 3 and Italian Lisa R have made an extraordinary start to the race and four hours in were ahead of supposedly faster boats. Although all boats in the class have remained south of the rhumb line, those that kept closest have done well. The Swedish Ker 40 Swee, with another female skipper – Birgitta Elfversson – was holding the IRC 3 class lead over Maltese entry Artie III on IRC time correction, according to the tracker.

Again, according to the tracker, the Podesta family’s two-time race-winning First 45 Elusive II from Malta was the IRC 4 leader ahead of the Arkas Sailing Team racing the MAT1220 Blue Moon from Turkey. Elusive II leads for now, but the Turkish team skippered by Serhat Altay was showing faster on the water and was eating away at the lead. Andrew and Sam Hall’s ISORA campaigner J/125 Jackknife from North Wales was going well, locking horns on the water with Conor Doyle’s X-50 Freya from Kinsale, the only Irish boat in the race.

Two JPK 1180s were battling it out at the top of the IRC 5 leaderboard. Per Roman’s Garm from Sweden and Richard Fromentin’s Cocody from France were leading the class on the water and after IRC time correction. Roman on Garm reported in that: “We had a great start to the race despite the light winds, and are now in a close fight with Cocody. It’s a long way to go, though.” Two Maltese yachts were disputing third place. Jamie Sammut’s Solaris 42 Unica was the only team north of the rhumb line, with Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44 Ton Ton Laferla within sight of her countrymen.

Among the smallest and slowest yachts in the race, Guido Baroni’s Italian Sun Fast 3600 Lunatika had made a great start to the race to lead IRC 6 on the water and after time correction. Just a few minutes behind was Seb Ripard’s J/99 Calypso from Malta, racing double-handed with Sam Pizzuto. Calypso was the only boat in this group north of the rhumb line. The class leaders were about 25 miles from Capo Passero, which they should pass after sunset.

The weather forecast for the start had been confusing on Friday night, and as the race began to unfold on Saturday morning the confusion only heightened. The air was warm, but the sky overcast and laden with moisture. The multihulls set off with the wind from appearing to be from the south in the first part of the start area and from the north by the time Limosa was halfway down the harbour. The MOD70 put on a display of raw sail power taking off and leaving the two more cruising-oriented trimarans in her wake, as she sped down Grand Harbour clearing the breakwaters at the entrance without breaking stride.

Sebastian Ripard's J99 Calypso Photo: Deea BuzduganSebastian Ripard's J99 Calypso Photo: Deea Buzdugan

Ten minutes later and promising conditions were turned on their head as two gradient winds fought it out for supremacy and left the start line virtually windless for the two biggest departures of the day. The Croatian Sun Fast 3300 Munjek RS skippered by Dusko Tomic certainly made the best of the first monohull start and led the way out alongside George Greer’s American entry Kiboku Tatu which, despite Greer’s protestations ahead of the start about being a fully Corinthian crew, had put on a truly professional display. The wind then really began to drop off and the third start was delayed for 10 minutes. Worse still it started to rain. Not heavily or enough to dampen spirits on the crowded bastions, but enough raise concerns about where things were heading. The Comet 45S Timeriesci made the best of it to exit first.

The Artie III HH42 race yacht owned by Lee Satariano Photo: Deea BuzduganThe Artie III HH42 race yacht owned by Lee Satariano Photo: Deea Buzdugan

The pair of Swan 42s, Valentin Oeru’s Lions Story from Romania and Renzo Grottesi’s Bewild from Italy, were able to clear the pack in the next start, as the rain began to clear, and the sun made an effort to poke through. The wind was still light, but enough to keep the group moving throughout. The next start saw the French Ker 46 Daguet 3 do well at the Fort St. Angelo or pin end of the line, and hang on to exit ahead of Lisa R. The penultimate start was in fresher breeze and the Italian Neo 570 Carbonita skippered by Monolis Kondylis made an unexpected, but impressive jump from the line at the Valletta side, matching the slightly bigger and more experienced, in terms of the Grand Harbour, Marton Josza’s Wild Joe from Hungary. Bob Pethick in the American Cookson 50, Testacuore Race, also made an impressive debutante start.



Reserved for the largest and fastest monohulls, the last start was a wholly impressive affair. The breeze had filled in and the maxis fair leapt off the line. Lucky made a conservative departure, but was soon using its powerful sail plan, including a massive masthead zero, and its canting keel to launch up the harbour, bow lifting and overhauling anyone with the temerity to have hit the line earlier. It was a dramatic and spine tingling conclusion to the start procedures and merely an hors d’ oeuvre for what is to follow.

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The 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race starts this morning, Saturday, 21 October, at 1100 CEST from Grand Harbour, Valletta, with Conor Doyle’s xP50 Freya from Kinsale defending an ORC Class podium place.

The Mediterranean’s most renowned offshore race has all the ingredients required for an enthralling contest. An exceptional fleet is facing a shifting weather picture. Conditions look set to run the complete gamut of full on to full off over the days to come.

Doyle's Freya, the only Irish boat competing, is taking part in her third consecutive Middle Sea race.

After a successful 2022 race claiming 1st in Class ORC and third in class IRC, the team is hoping to replicate or better this result.

The 2023 race is shaping up to be a good one with breeze forecasted the whole way along the race track. Anything will be better than the 6.5 day drift off in 2022.

Freya's 2023 Middle Sea Race Crew:

  • Conor Doyle - Skipper
  • Will Byrne - Bow
  • Fabio Galea - Mid Bow
  • Niall McGuinness - Mast
  • Grattan Roberts - Pit
  • John Maher - Pit
  • Harry Durcan - Trim
  • Micheál O’ Súilleabhain - Trim
  • Chris Taylor - Trim
  • James Lyons - Main
  • Nicholas O’Leary - Tactician
  • Emily Nagle - Navigator

This year saw Doyle contribute to the development of the successful KYC Kinsailor U-25 team by supporting team members to join Freya on her Mediterranean offshore campaign.

Kinsailor team member Mikey Carrol joined for Freya's Giragilea event in June and Micheál O Súilleabhain joins for today's race.

Conor Doyle’s xP50 Freya from Kinsale is defending an ORC Class podium place in the Middle Sea RaceConor Doyle’s xP50 Freya from Kinsale is defending an ORC Class podium place in the Middle Sea Race

The circular course means yachts should experience varied wind direction and strength through the 606 nautical miles. The diversity of yachts, ranging in length from 9.12 metres (30 feet) to 32.55m (107ft), will likely receive a share of the good, bad and indifferent. As always, the eventual winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy, determined under IRC Time Correction, will be the crew that best pieces together the puzzle.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race perpetual trophyThe Rolex Middle Sea Race perpetual trophy

The brief, but essential, statistics are as follows. Some 1,000 crew from 47 nations are spread across an entry list of 110 yachts representing 25 countries. The largest yacht is Paprec Sailing Team (Spirit of Malouen X) skippered by Stephane Névé. Among the 20-strong crew is Laurent Pagès, tactician on last year’s overall winner Teasing Machine. “This is the first 600 mile offshore race with this boat,” advises Pagès. “We have a lot of things to learn with the boat and the Rolex Middle Sea Race is always challenging, so it is going to be very interesting. You can expect everything from very light to ‘hell’ which is why we love it.”

At one third of the supermaxi’s length, the Dehler 30 OD Aether is being sailed double-handed by Evi Delidou and Jerry Petratos from Greece. In a twist worthy of a Hollywood romcom, the pair met during a boat delivery to the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race. They have been an item in sailing and life ever since. “We met in the middle of the Mediterranean on the way from Greece to Malta,” explained Delidou. “We both have a love for long offshores, and it is time for us to do this magnificent race together.”

Alexis Barrier’s MOD70 trimaran Limosa (first boat to finish in 2022 as Mana) should show the fleet a clean set of transoms.

There are two other fast multihulls - Finn, Jacopo Bracco’s Banuls 53 (USA) and Aldo Fumagalli’s Rapido 40, Adamas from Italy – vying for honours under MOCRA.

In the monohull fleet, an impressive line-up of maxi yachts has gathered. Bryon Ehrhart’s American entry Lucky (27m / 88ft) is the former five-time line honours winner Rambler 88 and with much of the old crew onboard has the armoury and skillset to lead the charge. Ehrhart won the race overall on his debut in 2010. Leopard 3, last year’s fastest monohull, has undergone some serious surgery in recent months. At 30.78m (100ft) and five tonnes lighter than a year ago, she remains a potent threat. Making a first appearance, US entry Pyewacket 70, winner of the RORC Caribbean 600 in February, brings some serious racing pedigree and a star-studded crew. Pyewacket 70’s navigator Peter Isler thinks they could be a dark horse in the line honours contest. “The weather is stacking up to be quite challenging and that might be good for us,” says Isler, “The relative speeds of the boats around us are pretty well known for the typical racecourse. This year, if we sail a lot upwind, we could see some performance windows and opportunities.” Andrea Recordati’s Bullitt was second across the line last year, and is another weapon to have been upgraded and not to be discounted.

Chris Sheehan’s Warrior Won from the United StatesChris Sheehan’s Warrior Won from the United States Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Looking at the monohull entry list as a whole, the fleet is stacked with talent from top to bottom. The Rolex Middle Sea Race has always been a melting pot and even the most innocuous looking boat can feature an offshore wizard with the ability to push a crew to greater than expected achievement. Clear favourites, on paper at least, the 52 footers, such as Max Klink’s Caro from Switzerland, winner of the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race, and Chris Sheehan’s Warrior Won from the United States (third at the Fastnet and fourth at the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, also just behind Caro). According to Sheehan there may be too much upwind work in the forecast for the American PAC52 to challenge as strongly as he would like. Navigator Will Oxley is on his fourth race, with a best performance in 2021 with triple-winner Comanche, agrees but acknowledges opportunities lie ahead. “This race looks like being different to the previous three,” he advises. “It looks a windier race than average and probably a lot more upwind than average. This is a race where it is easy to come unstuck blindly following the routing. Being on deck and watching what is going on is a key component. It is never straight-forward.” Red Bandit from Germany and the Swiss Chocolate 3 (former Optimum 3, winner of the race in 2004) may be others to watch.

Slightly smaller, but no less blessed with talent and opportunity, the NMD 43 Albator of Philippe Frantz (third overall in 2018) and the Carkeek 45 Ino Noir of RORC Commodore James Neville were both fast finishers at this summer’s Fastnet. A pair of Cookson 50s – Franco Niggeler’s Kuka 3 (Switzerland) and Robert Pethick’s Testacuore Race from United States will be looking to replicate the exploits of Mascalzone Latino, the winner in 2016.

Six of the past ten races have been won by yachts between 12m (40ft) and 15m (50ft), and there are some likely looking candidates this year. A close contest should develop between the two Carkeek 47s, which match in passion for offshore racing, but differ in experience. Optimum S – Samos Steamship, led by Periklis Livas and Nikos Lazos, are celebrating 30 years of the Optimum Yacht Racing Team. Winners in 2004, this will be their eighth race, albeit the first with their latest, lighter and wetter ride. Stortebekker is one of eight female skippered teams, and features a young German crew from the Hamburger Verein Seefahrt.

Lee Satariano's Artie III  Photo: Kurt ArrigoLee Satariano's Artie III  Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Malta has been one of the two most successful nations in the past 10 years, along with Italy, winning overall on three occasions since 2013. The Podesta siblings - Aaron, Christoph, and Maya - are racing the First 45 Elusive 2, which won the ultimate prize in 2019 and 2020. Meanwhile, Lee Satariano has also lifted the trophy twice, most recently in 2014 in a previous boat. His latest craft, the all-carbon HH42 Artie III comes with the added bonus of multiple race winner Christian Ripard on his 33rd trip around the course. Jonathan Gambin, Dufour 44 Ton Ton Laferla, has competed in every race since 2008 and was third overall in 2020.

Jonathan Gambin's Ton Ton Laferla during the Yachting Malta Coastal Race Photo: RMYC/Alex TurnbullJonathan Gambin's Ton Ton Laferla during the Yachting Malta Coastal Race Photo: RMYC/Alex Turnbull

The beauty of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is that it offers more than just competition. All entrants want to do well, to test themselves against their peers. Many are simply satisfied with the opportunity to put daily life to one side, and spend time on the water with friends and fellow sailors enjoying one of the most magical courses in the calendar. Two active volcanoes, a myriad of islands, azure waters and the chance of some sunshine and warmth is an attractive package not to be missed.

Timeriesci is from Rome with a mixed crew from all over Italy and France. Ottavio Cimarosti, is skipper of Comet 45S. “I have done the race three times before, but this is the first time on this boat,” comments Cimarosti. “For me this is the best race in the world. I have raced all over from the Caribbean to Australia, and this is the best, most beautiful race. Our crew is very good, not professional but very good amateurs. We want to participate, to enjoy mostly and if possible do well. We are ‘marinari’, or sailors first though. We love the sea, and this race is perfect for that.”

George Greer is the owner of Kiboku Tatu from the United States. It is a crew of six Swedes, one German, one Dutch and, an American. Kiboku Tatu has had a mixed experience in its two previous races. In 2021, during the big winds, a massive spinnaker wrap dropped the crew to 11th in class, while last year retirement followed three days of no wind. “We are back for a number of reasons,” explains Greer. “We love this race because of its timing at the end of the season, the beautiful scenery, nice warm weather and if we get good wind, it could not be better. We really enjoy the atmosphere. You have the Corinthian, like us, and the non-Corinthian. We compete first and foremost against crews that are similar to us in size and attitude, but it is always good to see how well can do against the rest of the group.

The Elan 450 Karpo from Slovenia is skippered by Maks Vrecko. “This the only offshore race we do outside our local waters,” advises Vrecko, who is sailing with his son Mats. “We like coming here because to improve as a sailor it is always good to see how you are doing against other boats. We were here last year and really enjoyed the race despite the wind. We are happy to be back, and taking part again. We are an amateur crew, and this race is perfect for us with the different conditions, and we are proud to be here as one of two crews from Slovenia.”

The 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race starts from Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta at 1100 CEST on Saturday, 21 October.

The start may be watched live with English commentary on Facebook and YouTube. Tracker below.

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Yachting Malta's Coastal Race was held in idyllic conditions yesterday, on the 19th of October. With a fresh breeze and warm sunshine, it was a perfect opportunity for sailors to get ready for the upcoming Rolex Middle Sea Race, which is set to begin on Saturday, the 21st of October.

After the IRC time correction, the race's overall winner was Giovanni Di Vincenzo's Lisa R, a Ker 46 from Italy who competed in IRC 3. The margin of victory was a mere 53 seconds.

In second place overall and winner of IRC 2 was Francois Bopp's Chocolate 3, a Swiss Farr 52, which was just five seconds ahead of the United States entry, Warrior Won.

The class winners included Valentin Oeru's Lion's Story, a Swan 42 from Romania (IRC 4), Jonathan Gambin's Ton Ton Laferla, a Maltese Dufour 44 (IRC 5), and Andrew Agius Delicata's Vivace, a Reflex 38 from Malta (IRC 6). 

All eyes are now on the Rolex Middle Sea Race, which promises to be another thrilling event. As Afloat reported previously, Conor Doyle's XP 50 Freya from Kinsale Yacht Club is the sole Irish entry in Saturday's high-quality fleet.

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Conor Doyle's XP 50 Freya from Kinsale Yacht Club in County Cork returns to the Rolex Middle Sea Race next month as the sole Irish entrant in the 606 nautical mile classic that features entrants from 25 countries.

Plans for a second Irish boat in the 2023 race have not materialised as the Howth Grand Soleil 44 Samatom is up for sale.

As regular Afloat readers know, Doyle's Freya raced to success in 2022, claiming the ORC Three division prize, so he will be out to retain this trophy or better.

The start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, 2021 Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoThe start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, 2021 Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The start of the 2023 Race is just under four weeks away. When entries closed on Friday, 22 September, 109 yachts had entered with entries including Kazakhstan, San Marino and Israel – all three thought to be attending for the first time. Once again, the Royal Malta Race is demonstrating its global appeal and ability to motivate participation from countries not regularly seen on offshore start lines elsewhere.

The race is scheduled to get underway from Grand Harbour, Valletta on Saturday, 21 October. Should anyone still wish to join the competition and adventure, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has reserved the right to accept late entries up until Friday, 29 September.

The fleet facts are as follows: 107 monohulls, two multihulls, largest yacht: Stephane Neve’s Spirit of Malouen X at 32.55m, smallest yacht: Muttley – BDM Audit at 9.76m, most entries from Italy with 23 followed by Malta with 12, furthest travelled entry: El Oro from Australia, and six double-handed entries, which include Luca Bettiati’s Muttley and Murat Abdrakhmanov’s Jenis from Kazakhstan. The multihulls include Alexia Barrier’s MOD 70 Limosa (ex. Mana), with a top class crew, and Aldo Fumagalli’s all-carbon Rapido 40 trimaran Adamas, designed by high-performance gurus Gino Morelli and Pete Melvin, and sporting a rotating wing-mast and C-foils.

The monohull fleet promises plenty of intrigue and interest, with a mix of Corinthian and professional crews harbouring different levels of ambition, but sharing the same course. All those racing under IRC Time Correction are in with a shot at the race’s main prize – the splendid Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy awarded to the overall winner. This magnificent, sculpted piece, created by Emanuel ‘Emvin’ Cremona for the first race in 1968, has been undergoing a period of restoration after 45 years of being held aloft by its ecstatic recipients.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy Photo: RMYC/Alex TurnbullThe Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy Photo: RMYC/Alex Turnbull

Among the yachts that will be hoping to lay their hands on the trophy this year are a clutch of boats that performed very well in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race. Maximillian Klink’s 15.85 metre Caro from Switzerland was overall winner at the RORC’s flagship event. If prevailing the weather suits her size and class, Caro must be a strong prospect. It will not be straight-forward, Chris Sheehan’s Warrior Won from the United States finished third at the Fastnet and fourth at the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart, just 10 minutes behind Caro on corrected time. Philippe Frantz’s French entry Albator finished fifth at the UK’s top offshore race, just ahead of Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky (ex. Rambler) and James Neville’s Carkeek 45 Ino Noir, on its debut 600 mile offshore race. They will no doubt be happy that last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race winner, Teasing Machine, is not returning to defend her title.

The American yacht Warrior Won at dawn off the Irish coast during the Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoThe American yacht Warrior Won at dawn off the Irish coast during the Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Other yachts to look out for in this section fleet include Red Bandit, winner of the 2023 Rolex Giraglia, François Bopp’s Swiss Chocolate 3, Marton Jozsa’s Hungarian Wild Joe (third overall last year) and Guido Paolo Gamucci’s Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X (fifth in 2022) from Italy. A special contest may ensue between two Carkeek 47s. Stortebekker (ex. Black Pearl) from the Hamburgischer Verein Seefahrt e.V in Germany under the leadership of Katrina Westphal, while Optimum S – Samos Steamship (ex. Indian) from the Kalamaki Nautical Club in Greece is led by Nikos Lazos and Periklas Livas. Lazos and Livas are celebrating 30 years of the Optimum Yacht Racing Team. It will be their eighth race, although first with the current boat.

Famed for winning the 2004 Rolex Middle Sea Race with the Farr 52 Optimum 3, Livas and Lazos are only too aware of the challenge ahead. “We are on a steep learning curve in terms of getting to know the modes of Optimum S,” says Livas. “In this second season, we feel more confident to push harder and achieved third overall under IRC (first in Class 1) and first overall in ORC in Aegean 600 in July this year. We eagerly join Rolex Middle Sea Race to measure ourselves and our weapon, racing alongside more than 100 serious entries from all over the world.”

François Bopp’s Swiss Chocolate 3, a Farr 52,  will compete in the 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoFrançois Bopp’s Swiss Chocolate 3, a Farr 52,  will compete in the 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Two other sisterships to consider are the Cookson 50s: Franco Niggeler’s Kuka 3 (Switzerland) and United States sailor Robert Pethick’s chartered Testacuore Race. Pethick has secured some impressive results in the 2025-mile Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii, winning his division in 2021, placing third in 2019 and second in 2013 in the biennial ocean racing classic. Niggeler is a past winner of the RORC Transatlantic Race and the Dhream Cup (Grand Prix de France Course au Large). The 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race witnessed a Cookson 50 one-two as Mascalzone Latino took the IRC victory head of the Cippa Lippa 8.

Franco Niggeler’s Kuka 3, a Cookson 50, that competed in the 2022 Round Ireland Race, competes in October's 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoFranco Niggeler’s Kuka 3, a Cookson 50, that competed in the 2022 Round Ireland Race, competes in October's 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The talent on display does not diminish greatly as one heads down the entry list and plenty of boats around the 40 foot mark have taken the overall win in the past two decades. Most notably, perhaps, the crew of Artie guided by owner Lee Satariano and Maltese legend Christian Ripard, about to embark on his 33rd race – only one shy of the current record set by another local hero, Arthur Podesta, who sadly passed away in 2015. Artie has won the race on two occasions in 2011 and 2014, on Satariano’s previous boat a J/121. The current HH42 is a step up in performance potential, but a second in class last year is encouraging.

Lee Satariano's HH42, Artie III, will compete in the 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoLee Satariano's HH42, Artie III, will compete in the 2023 Middle Sea race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The Podesta family meanwhile maintains its extraordinary connection with the race. The three siblings - Aaron Christoph and Maya – are preparing for yet another lap on Elusive II, with which Malta’s most recent triumphs at the race were achieved, the back-to-back wins of 2019 and 2020.

Elusive II achieved back-to-back wins of the Middle Sea Race in  2019 and 2020 Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoElusive II achieved back-to-back wins of the Middle Sea Race in  2019 and 2020 Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

One of the first time entrants to catch the eye is Chione from the United Kingdom. According to its skipper Bill Farrant the Grand Soleil 43 has been extensively upgraded under the project management of Josh Hall, a class winner at the Transat Jacques Vabre and Vendee Globe finisher. On board will be Sir David Hempleman-Adams, the first person to reach the geographic and magnetic North and South Poles among many other feats of exploration. Farrant and crew member Dr Ros Smith took part in the double-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race on Chione. Farrant has many connections to Malta, including his Maltese wife of 33 years, Anita; he is also a long standing Royal Malta Yacht Club member. “We will be dedicating Chione’s race entry to my father-in-law, Evarist Saliba, who will be well known to many on the island for his public service in government,” says Farrant. “Evarist, now 95 years old, would have loved to have been able to watch the start of the race but due to ill health will be unable to attend. As a young boy in the early 1940s he can recall observing a very different tableau unfolding in the Grand Harbour - a reminder to us all how privileged and fortunate we are to be able to participate in such a wonderful event as the Rolex Middle Sea Race.”

JPK 1180 Cocody at the start of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/Kurt ArrigoJPK 1180 Cocody at the start of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The last time a sub-12 metre or 40 foot yacht won the Rolex Middle Sea Race was in 2018 when the JPK 1180 Courrier Recommandé picked up the main prize. The year before it had been the JPK 1080 Bogatyr, offering plenty of encouragement to the quarter of the fleet that fit beneath that overall length. There are two JPK 1180s this year – Per Roman’s Garm from Sweden and Richard Fromentin’s Cocody from France. Cocody was fourth in class and 18th overall at this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race. Garm was doing well in the same race until the Swedish crew infringed a Traffic Separation Zone taking a scoring penalty in the process. No doubt one or both these crews will be looking to achieve more in October. Among the smallest entries, Dusko Tomic from Croatia sailing the Sun Fast 3300 Munjek RS from Croatia has plenty of experience of the course, as does the J/109 JYS Jan from Malta, with its crew of young sailors led by Claudia Bugeja, a graduate of the Jarhead Young Sailors Foundation, and on his fifth race.

Whoever comes out on top in the battles to be fought in October, one thing looks certain: another great chapter looks set to be written in the rich history of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

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

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Robert Dickson & Sean Waddilove, Tokyo Olympic 49er Sailors 

Dublin dinghy sailors Robert Dickson of Howth Yacht Club and Sean Waddilove of Skerries Sailing Club achieved their goal of representing Ireland in the 49er class, almost six years to the day after first setting foot in a 49er skiff at their home club of Howth Yacht Club in County Dublin in 2015.

The voyage was a magnificent one becoming U23 World champions in 2018 before out sailing rivals double Olympian Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle in some style for selection in Lanzarote in March 2021 to win the last European Olympic place for Tokyo.

Follow their progress here.