The crisis is not felt in the slightest in Malta, where 114 boats (from 18 different nations) gathered for the most prestigious event in the lower Mediterranean. Literally “pulverized” the previous record number of participants, 82 boats: further confirmation of the growing love for “long” races. Lots of Italian crews, 36 in all. Last year’s victory in compensated time had gone to Eddie De Villiers’ Welbourne 46, Hi Fidelty, while in real had triumphed Igor Simcic’s Esimit Europa 2. Ahead of the start, set for Saturday 19, the Rolex Middle Sea Coastal Race, with a 28-mile Malta-Camino Island-Malta course, was staged yesterday. Here’s how it went.
A HEART-POUNDING COASTAL RACE
Yesterday, meanwhile, the traditional Coastal Race was staged, made challenging by the 25 knots of mistral and rough seas: 28 miles traveled around the island of Camino by the 23 competitors in the race, who reached breakneck speeds during the carrying gaits toward the Royal Malta Yacht Club, where the finish of the race was located. Winning the race on corrected time, and the Malta Rolex Cup Trophy, was the Reflex 38 “Lion Logic” of Englishman Tim Thubron, while on real time the Volvo 70 “Monster Project” of Andy Budgens (tenth on corrected time) crossed the finish line first (and it couldn’t have been otherwise!), which recorded speeds of 25 knots. In second place was Malta’s Arthur Podesta on the First 45 “Elusive II” while on the third step of the podium was David Latham’s Pronavia 38 “Seawolf of Southampton.”
THE ROUTE OF THE REGATTA
The route, counterclockwise, passes as usual from Sicily to the Aeolian Islands (including Strombolicchio), continues around the Egadi Islands (except the island of Marettimo), Pantelleria and Lampedusa (excluding Ustica, Linosa and Lampione from the itinerary). We then cross the Channel south of Comino and return to the port of Marsamxett pr the award ceremony: in total it is about 606 miles.
So far, the undefeated record of 47 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds by the U.S. Rambler team, under skipper George David (who burned the previous record set in 2000 by Bob McNeil’s Zephirus IV), always holds. Could this be the good year for Esimit Europa 2, skipper Jochen Schümann’s 30-meter maxi yacht? Over the years illustrious names have taken part in the Middle Sea Race including Ted Turner, founder of CNN and TBS, and Herbert von Karajan, the unforgettable conductor and Berliner Philharmoniker who competed in his maxi “Helisara IV.”
HOW DOES THE MIDDLE SEA RACE COME ABOUT?
The idea was born in the mid-1960s out of the sporting rivalry between a group of Royal Malta Yacht Club members, including Maltese brothers Paul and John Ripard and Englishmen Jimmy White and Alan Green. A course equal in length to that of the Fastnet race, just over 600 miles, was chosen that would ensure the most varied conditions possible. In 1968 the first edition was run on the same course as today, but clockwise. A few years later, the direction was reversed for various reasons, but also to move the influence of the Strait of Messina currents away from the finish line and give the “unfortunate” victims of the current a better chance of recovery. For a few years the competition was not held due to a shortage of entries, after which it regained a foothold in the international circuits due to both Rolex sponsorship, which began in 2002, and a growing interest in long offshore racing, including in Italy. Today the Rolex Middle Sea Race enjoys great popularity worldwide and an excellent technical and competitive level of boats, skippers and crews.