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A Momentous Challenge, an Enduring Adventure

A Momentous Challenge, an Enduring Adventure

The 40th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race starts on Saturday, 19 October. First staged in 1968 and organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, Rolex has been the title sponsor since 2002.

The 606 nautical mile race,  which starts from Malta’s Grand Harbour and takes in some of the  Mediterranean’s most dramatic scenery, is always hugely popular. Last  year, the 50th anniversary of the inaugural event drew a record fleet of  130. This year’s race has attracted another impressive entry of more  than 100 international yachts.

Among those vying for overall  victory, several crews boast an impressive pedigree at Rolex-partnered  offshore races. American yachtsmen David and Peter Askew arrive fresh  from winning the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race with Wizard, while Frenchman Géry Trentesaux, a Rolex Fastnet winner himself, will defend his 2018 Rolex Middle Sea Race crown with Courrier Recommandé. Two-time race winner Lee Satariano of Malta has entered with a new boat, Artie III.The  Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of several bluewater classics Rolex has  supported since the early 2000s, including the Rolex Fastnet Race and  the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Each about 600 nm, they attract  passionate Corinthian and professional sailors, ready to take on the  unique challenges. The races are united through a partnership with the  brand, whose commitment to ocean racing dates back more than half a  century.
The  October race date was originally chosen because of the potential for  challenging conditions in this area of the Mediterranean at this time of  year. At some point, a powerful weather system will test the abilities  of all competitors. Rolex Testimonee Robert Scheidt, a five-time Olympic  medallist, took part in 2009: “We had really strong winds on one night;  the heaviest sea I have ever faced in my career. It was really tough.  Many boats had to retire because the second half was so rough. We were  exhausted, but it felt great to finish.”
The complexity of the  four-sided course, part of which tracks the eastern and northern coasts  of Sicily before returning the fleet to Malta via the islands of  Pantelleria and Lampedusa, means crews can also encounter benign  conditions posing other difficulties. Reflecting this unpredictability,  in almost 20 years of Rolex involvement, the race record has been  bettered only once, despite the presence of high-performing,  well-prepared yachts.In 2007, American yachtsman George David made his race debut with his 27.43 metre (90 foot) Rambler.  At the end of a storm-ridden race, in which only 17 yachts finished,  David had swept the board, taking line honours and overall victory, and  setting the current benchmark of 47 hours, 55 minutes and three seconds.
This year, David returns with  his latest 27 m (88 ft) Rambler, the fastest boat in the fleet and with  greater potential than the record-setting version. David is widely  expected to achieve a fifth successive line-honours victory. The bigger  question is whether he can improve upon the fastest time. A commanding  performance at this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, when the crew came within  one hour, 16 minutes of the race record, suggests weather, not  preparation or skill, will decide the outcome.
Another  feature of the racecourse is its natural beauty. Two active volcanoes  and scores of rugged islands combine with frequent contact with wildlife  to create a special experience. The start resembles a film set, with  the Grand Harbour echoing to cannon fire from Valletta’s Saluting  Battery as the fleet is sent on its way.
“The Rolex Middle Sea Race is  the most beautiful race I have ever done,” adds Scheidt. “I remember  passing Stromboli at midnight with the lava coming down. It was dark,  but we could see the whole volcano. That image is one I’ll never  forget.”
The  challenge of the open sea is perpetual and the capacity of the Rolex  Middle Sea Race to attract large fleets confirms an enduring enthusiasm  for the race and sailing offshore. Rolex’s commitment to this element of  the sport is long-standing and forward-looking. The brand’s strong  partnerships with the clubs that organize these races provides abundant  opportunities for those inspired to test themselves.

Rolex  has always associated with activities driven by passion, excellence,  precision and team spirit. It naturally gravitated towards the elite  world of yachting six decades ago and today supports the most  prestigious clubs, races and regattas. The brand is Title Sponsor of 15  major international events – from leading offshore races, such as the  annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Rolex Middle Sea Race and the  biennial Rolex Fastnet Race, to grand prix competition at the Rolex TP52  World Championship and spectacular gatherings at the Maxi Yacht Rolex  Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup. It also supports the exciting new SailGP  series, where national teams race in supercharged F50 catamarans on some  of the world’s most famous harbours. Rolex’s partnerships with the  likes of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Royal Ocean Racing Club,  Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, Royal Malta Yacht Club, New York Yacht Club  and Royal Yacht Squadron are the foundation of its enduring relationship  with this dynamic sport.
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