With 114 boats scheduled to cross the starting line of the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race, tomorrow Saturday 23 October, fans of offshore yacht racing are having real fun, as the The Royal Malta Yacht Club has once again attracted a diverse and spectacular international fleet. for its main event.
The call for entries came out earlier this year, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, lockdowns and travel restrictions. No one expected the shipping world to respond so positively. And, if the weather gurus are to be believed, we really can be on the point of something special, with the word from the dock that a new race record is on paper.
The fleet ranges in size from 140 feet (42.56 meters) down to some 30 feet comparatively small (9 meters combined).
Skorpios, the winner of the monohull line honors in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race and racing under the leadership of 2008 Olympic Tornado gold medalist Fernando Echavarri, is the escaped Goliath.
The Davids are the Sunfast 3300 Munjek RS (CRO), the J / 99s Calypso (MLT) Space Jockey (RUS), and the Hanse 311 Catina 4 (ITA). Between them, a trio of 70-foot (21m) trimarans – Maserati Multi70 (ITA), Mana (ITA) and Argo (USA) – and a number of other single-hull yachts represent some 25 countries; an impressive achievement for this highly revered race that delighted the organizers.
Will Oxley, the seasoned Australian navigator on the 100ft (30.5m) Comanche racing maxi (led by his Aussie partner, Olympian Mitch Booth), who was last here with Wizard in 2019, believes the The record time set by the 90ft (27.4m) Rambler in 2007 – 47 hours, 55 minutes, three seconds – is good at mastering the fastest single-hull and multi-hull.
“It’s looking interesting because there’s a low pressure system developing over North Africa that will run on the track,” Oxley explained.
“We have to see a really strong wind, which was unusual for this race (in recent years). The forecast looks good to us. Our routes show a realistic chance that, if we sail well, we will be under record time. “The question is whether there’s anyone in front.”
This assessment was endorsed by Chris Branning and Silvio Arrivabene, co-navigators on the current Rambler of George David (USA), the 88-foot Juan K flyer – a five-time winner of the single-hull honors line in the Middle Sea Race.
For Arrivabene, in his ninth race, this is the fastest prediction he has seen, and he is looking forward to seeing how quickly they can cross the Strait of Messina to open the rest of the 606-nautical-mile course.
For his part, Branning confirmed the importance of the system moving out of North Africa: “It will be the dominant feature of the weather, leaving us with a good gradient along the track. There will be two strict transition zones in the Strait and on the western side of Sicily.
“The leg from Lampedusa also looks pretty fluid with uncertainty about the eventual position of the bass, and this is probably the biggest variable left to work.”
The large multihulls are also champing in the bit. Giovanni Soldini, captain of the Maserati Multi70, has taken the line honors on three occasions and has the current record of multibook races which, in a mess of over 56.5 hours, is surprisingly slower than the time of the monobuq. This year, however, all of this may be about to change.
“We have known for a few days that this edition will be very windy,” Soldini advised. “The first part of the race to Messina for us will not have a strong wind, but from Stromboli to the end it looks very good, very … 20 knots or more.
“It should be a good year for the record, and with the other multihulls, it will be a very interesting race. It will be important to be at the forefront. “
On Riccardo Pavoncelli’s Mana, which last year was beaten by Maserati, but won on time, Jeff Mearing the captain of the boat confirmed the expectation of a strong wind.
“The boat is solid, all prepared and ready to go,” Mearing said. “It will be a fruit race; the forecast has been changing every six hours as the low pressure moves.
“Currently, we are trying to get everyone fed, ready for the waves coming from the deck. It will be a blasting machine for this. ” Mearing is celebrating his 40th birthday on the day of the start and is thrilled to be doing so on Mana in the company of French ocean racing legend Loick Peyron.
Elsewhere in the fleet, forecasts are casting a shadow, with a tough race ahead for smaller, slower boats. They have the prospect of facing winds of over 30 knots during the race.
While maxi monohulls and multis may be looking at a two-day underpass, those further down the list will be at sea for up to six days, facing the weight of depression in yachts that , while seaworthy and ready, will not be. eat the filling in the same way.
German sailor Johannes Polgar from Hamburg, who coincidentally ran against Echavarri and Booth at the Beijing Olympics, is competing on Rafale, the German canting with keeled Elliot 52. The race is his first experience of the most considered offshore track of the Mediterranean, and in fact every race. of this length.
“This is my first offshore challenge, the legends surrounding this race are strong and I look forward to a great adventure,” Polgar commented.
Robin Zinkmann, a navigator on Rafale, agrees that it will be a fast race, but not a simple one: “It is always difficult to model the winds in Messina, and we can stay stuck there longer than expected. Also, we’ll see a lot of wind in the middle of the race, and I’m not sure how far we’ll be able to sail 100 percent. My instance, at present, is two and a half days.
James Neville, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and captain of the HH42 Ino XXX (GBR) (second overall in the 2021 Fastnet Race), is another in his first Middle Sea Race.
“We’re lucky to have the same crew as the Fastnet, so we’re totally up for it,” Neville enthused. “It looks pretty light from the start, with a drag race to Sicily and to Messina. It is crucial to get there early before any shutdown. Behind the Strait is a windy and fast. “
Neville is excited to be competing against a number of yachts that were in the top ten of this summer’s Fastnet, including Sunrise (GBR) the eventual overall winner under IRC. He also chose another Artie HH42 (MLT), led by local legends Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, a combination of two-time race winners in a previous iteration of Artie.
“They’re a pretty different set for us,” Neville explained. “We are stronger with a twin rudder, while I think they have a slightly deeper flesh. Their knowledge of the course, however, can be important. “
Many Maltese eyes will be on the Podesta brothers who are racing with the First 45 Elusive 2 (MLT), winner of the last two editions of the Middle Sea Race. They will have their work cut out to get three peat of this already stellar success story in such a large fleet.
This year it represents one of the largest Maltese performances in recent editions, with 13 registrations. Andrew Agius Delicata and Matthew Gabriele are taking on the inimitable double handed challenge in the Reflex 38 Vivace.
“The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a very big challenge as it is done with a full crew. This is the second time we are doing it double handed, ”said Delicata.
“We came in fourth for the last time, but we are hoping for a podium position this year. We expect the race to take five to six days, so we focus on preserving energy on the first couple. We may not be as fast as manned yachts, but we will be moving as fast as we can. ”
Whether large, small, one or three hulls, the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race has all the features of a classic being made. The combination of a formidable weather forecast, a formidable fleet and a formidable course is a watering prospect.
All information, including live start details: http://www.rolexmiddlesearace.com