Why does the Rolex Middle Sea Race rank so highly on the list of the world’s most prestigious yachting events? Could it be the Medieval Maltese ambiance or the professionalism of the Royal Malta Yacht Club that makes this race an unforgettable experience? Or is it the stunning route that begins from Valletta Grand Harbour and circumnavigates the volcanic Sicilian coastline, over waters churned fierce by the autumnal Mediterranean? Maybe it’s the gruelling 606 nautical mile course that beckons, taking both teams and boats to the limits of their endurance and beyond. Each of these contrasting elements that make their own important contribution to the popularity of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
This year in particular, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has one more reason to boast about its lofty status in the world of yacht racing. It was 50 years ago that the rivalry between the British Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Royal Malta Yacht Club spawned this race. Today's 50th anniversary race sees more than 130 boats from 30 countries taking part - a new record turnout, once again.
The route remains unchanged since 1968. With Valletta Grand Harbour behind them, teams embark on a counter clockwise circumnavigation of Sicily, squeezing between it and mainland Italy before turning to port at Stromboli, the volcanic Lighthouse of the Mediterranean. After sailing between the Aegadian islands, and turning south to round Pantelleria and Lampedusa, teams double back to Valletta.
In the past two decades, the favourable winds allowed the course record to be beaten twice. In 2000, Robert McNeil and his Maxi Turbo Sled Zephyrus IV made the round trip in 64 hours 49 minutes 57 seconds. In 2007, George David helmed Rambler to undercut the record by almost 17 hours, completing the course in 47 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds. Among this year’s entrants, you’ll find record holder George David once again. Now skipper of the carbon-fiber Maxi Rambler 88, he and his team are vying for line honours, and maybe a new race record.
We wish everyone taking part in the Rolex Middle Sea Race a safe journey - YB Tracking is with them every step of the way! Follow the action here: http://rolexmiddlesearace.com/
All pictures (c) Royal Malta Yacht Club