The Rolex Middle Sea Race will start this Saturday, 17thOctober. However, the traditional warm up race, the Rolex Middle Sea CoastalRace, took place on Wednesday 14th October.
30 Yachts started the Rolex Middle Sea Coastal Race, dividedinto six IRC Classes. Principle Race Officer, Peter Dimech, set a course ofapproximately 30 miles from Marsamxett Harbour, around the island of Comino,and a finish at the point of origin, within sight of the Royal Malta YachtClub. Competitors reported wind speeds in excess of thirty knots, giving thefleet a taste of the ocean racing to come.
From Texas USA, Bill Coates' Ker 43 Otra Vez, was the winner of IRC Two and corrected out towin the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Coastal Race overall. This is the first time thatthe Texan Ker 43 has raced in Maltese waters. Followers of the Rolex Middle SeaRace will recognise the name, Otra Vez. However the Maltese J/122 Otra Vez, isowned and sailed by Aaron and Edward Gatt Floridia.
“I have known Aaron for nearly 20 years and every time I havebought a boat, I have always sold it to him and he likes to keep the name.Speaking with Aaron and other sailors, I have always wanted to do this race andI am on a bit of a quest to do all of the top 600 mile races, we did the RORCCaribbean 600 earlier this year but this will be my first Rolex Middle SeaRace. I have been told that the conditions are really light or really rough andthere is no in between. Success in this race is very dependent on the weatherand the size of your boat but our motto is we never give up, we just keepplugging away and that has always worked well for us.
It was fantastic today, the boat speed was routinely 18-20knots off the wind and in the lee of the island the sea was pretty flat for thestrong upwind conditions; it was as comfortable a 20-knot beat that you couldhave. We have made quite a few modifications to the boat and today was thefirst time we have had to test them out, so today was very important for us.The conditions we had today were in the corners of performance that we weretrying to optimise and for the crew it was great to get back in the groove,because we only sail together five or six times a year.”
Franco Niggeler's Swiss One Off Kuka-Light was the winner ofIRC One by some margin.
In IRC Three, the Arkas Sailing Team, racing Turkish Ker 40Arkas Flying Box, scored a big win, not only winning class but placing secondoverall. The young Turkish team is skippered by Serhat Altay and coached byBritish sailor, Martin Watts.
“This is a young Turkish team that has a lot of potential.”commented Martin Watts. “Most of them coach junior sailors back home in Ismirand campaign the Ker 40 at the same time. However, the team is looking to buildtheir offshore experience and the Rolex Middle Sea Race is a perfect way to getin those miles. The big race looks like it could be a light one and that maywell suit us.”
Xp-44, Vikesha II, sailed by Igor Skalin from the Czech Republic,corrected out to win IRC Four and Yves Grosjean's French J/133 Jivaro, fromTrinite-sur-Mer was the winner of IRC Five. David Latham's Pronavia 38, Seawolfwas the winner of IRC Six.
Vincenzo Onorato's Cookson 50, Mascalzone Latino was thefastest yacht around the course by some distance but finished third overallafter time correction. Last year, Mascalzone Latino won the Coastal Race, thenbroke their rig in the 606-mile Rolex Middle Sea Race.
“It was great day out there today, 18-25 knots with areaching start and a great blast downwind at over 20 knots of boat speed.” Commentednavigator Ian Moore. “Then we hardened up around Comino and it started off as afetch but turned into a beat, so a great day with plenty of wind angles to testout the crew and the equipment. Otra Vez showed great speed, especially upwind,but taking our positives; we had a great start and made good decisions down therun. We haven't sailed together since last year and the rig is still up!”
Apart from a few torn sails, the thirty strong fleetfinished the race safe and sound, including Elusive II BOV, sailed by thePodesta siblings, the first Maltese boat to come in on corrected time. Tomorrow the focus switches to one of sailing’smost famous parties – the Rolex Middle Sea Race Crew Party. Held at the RoyalMalta Yacht Club, an invitation is the hottest ticket in town.
The 36th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Racewill start at 1100 CET, Saturday 17th October, with seven starts for the fleetin the stunning surroundings of Valletta's Grand Harbour.
To follow the race, visit the official Rolex Middle SeaRace website. All of the competitors are encouraged to contact the media teamduring the race with stories from the sea, pictures and even videos.
All of thecompeting yachts are fitted with YB trackers showing their position and othertelemetric data.