As one of the excellent 600 nm offshore tests, all systems go for the Rolex Middle Sea 2020 race that will start on October 17th from the Grand Port of Valletta. Famous for its magnificent racetrack and honored for the degree of challenge it presents, the 41st edition has been preserved over a challenging year for the international yacht calendar.
In light of the global pandemic, the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) has put in place special protocols and arrangements to ensure the safety of competitors, both on shore and at sea. While the counterclockwise entry numbers of Sicily have been on a rising trajectory over the past decade, with more than 100 yachts from the countries plus 20 regularly on the starting line, this year may have more few participants, but the attraction of the unique nm Hippodrome in offshore yacht racing as it starts and ends in the same place remains strong.
Mediterranean competition, temptation, history, culture and geology is perhaps unequal. Competing in the waters where empires have risen and fallen and forming the environment for Homer Odyssey, the race takes on the active volcanoes of Etna and Stromboli and a myriad of islands. It is an epic adventure that evokes strong emotions and a sense of accomplishment in all who participate.
Teams include both professional and Corinthian sailors, veterans and debutants. The transfer of knowledge and the passing of tradition from the experienced to the less experienced are among the legacies of the great races. When the Maltese Elusive 2 yacht won the race last year, the co-captains were brothers and sisters Maya, Aaron and Christoph Podesta. They had served their training under the direction of their late father Arthur Podesta, himself a 35-racing veteran and member of the Josian crew who won the inaugural event in 1968.
“Nothing prepares you for the beauty of the course,” said Paul Cayard. “The race is truly a classic, with extraordinary drama and breathtaking challenges. Brazilian Robert Scheidt, a five-time Olympic medalist, agrees. While it is one of the most beautiful races in the world, it is also very challenging. When I competed, we faced strong winds and the heaviest sea I have ever seen in my career. At the finish line we were exhausted, but we felt a deep sense of accomplishment.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a test of endurance, even for the crews on the fastest yachts. The race record of 47 hours, 55 minutes has not been broken since 2007 and line honoring times in recent years have regularly exceeded 60 hours.
This supreme naval test comes from the prevailing conditions and shape of the course. October can be a difficult month in this part of the Mediterranean, bringing strong winds and brutal seas, intertwined with flat tranquility. As the fleet surrounds Sicily, numerous corners divide the race into separate parts, each with its own characteristics and obstacles to overcome. Floating and tactical enigmas extend to even the most experienced sailors.
The race is relentless, Scheidt adds. There is no time to rest on your laurels. Your objection is often within sight and there is constant pressure to be in the best position to take advantage of the next wind shift.
About the race:
The Rolex Mediterranean race was created as a result of sporting rivalry between great friends Jimmy White and Alan Green, two Englishmen living in Malta, along with Paul and John Ripard, two Maltese members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Jimmy, Alan (later to become the Competition Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), Paul and John would eventually design a course designed to offer an exciting race in conditions different from those prevailing in the waters instant coastal Maltese.
The 606 nm course, essentially a clockwise turn of Sicily starting and ending in Malta, would be slightly longer than RORC’s longest race, the Rolex Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as the one used today, though it sailed in the opposite direction. The Rolex Middle Sea Race course record has been broken on five occasions since its inaugural publication in 1968.
Course Register, established by George David (USA) 90-foot Rambler in 2007, is 47 hours 55 minutes 03 seconds
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