The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a highly rated offshore classic, often mentioned in the same breath as the Rolex Fastnet, The Rolex Sydney - Hobart and Newport-Bermuda as a "must do" race. The Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club co-founded the race in 1968. Save for a break between 1984 and 1995 the event has been run annually attracting 25 -30 yachts. In recent years, the number of entries has risen sharply to 78 boats thanks to a new organising committee who managed to bring Rolex on board as title sponsor for the Middle Sea Race. This years race commences on Saturday 19th October 2013.
The race is a true challenge to skippers and crews who have to be at their very best to cope with the often changeable and demanding conditions. Equally, the race is blessed with unsurpassed scenery with on its course, taking competitors close to a number of islands, which form marks of the course.
Famous competitors have included Eric Tabarly, Cino Ricci, Herbert von Karajan, Jim Dolan, Sir Chay Blyth. Famous figures like Sir Francis Chichester (fresh from his round the world adventure) have also been involved, Sir Francis having presented the trophy in the first year of the race in 1968. High profile boats from the world's top designers take part, most in pursuit of line honours and the record - competing yachts include the extreme Open 60s, Riviera di Rimini and Shining; The Maxis, Mistress Quickly, Zephyrus IV and Sagamore; and the pocket rockets such as the 41-foot J-125 Strait Dealer and the DK46, Fidessa Fastwave.
In the beginning
The Middle Sea Race was conceived as the result of sporting rivalry between great friends, Paul and John Ripard and an Englishman residing in Malta called Jimmy White, all members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. In the early fifties, it was mainly British servicemen stationed in Malta who competitively raced. Even the boats had a military connection, since they were old German training boats captured by the British during the war.
Paul and Jimmy, together with a mutual friend, Alan Green (later to become the Race Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), set out to map a course designed to offer an exciting race in different conditions to those prevailing in Maltese coastal waters. They also decided the course would be slightly longer than the RORC's longest race, the Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as used today.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race course
The Rolex Middle Sea Race course is 606 nautical miles long and is sailed anti-clockwise. Starting from the Grand Harbour, Valletta, beneath Fort St Angelo and the Saluting Battery in Valletta, the fleet head north along the eastern coasts of Sicily up towards the Straits of Messina. Mt Etna is usually visible on the fleets port side, billowing ashes and lava throughout the night. Once through the Straits, the course leads north to the Aeolian Islands and the active volcano of Stromboli where the yachts turn west to the Egadi Islands. Passing between Marettimo and Favignana the crews head south towards the island of Lampedusa leaving Pantelleria to port. Once past Lampedusa the fleet turns northeast on the final leg towards the South Comino Channel and the finish at Marsamxett Harbour. En route the crews take in an amazing diversity of landscape and sea conditions, all of which combine to create the attraction and challenge of the race. The Course Record, established by "Rambler" in 2007, is 1day, 23hours, 55mins 3secs.
YB Tracking are proud to be providing the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2013 with our iridium satellite trackers for the duration of this years challenge. For more information and to watch the live tracking, please visit the race website.