Although the Rolex Middle Sea Race doesn’t start until the end of October, early entries are proving that the 600 mile race is now firmly established as the must do offshore event of the Mediterranean season. Yachts flying the flags of 12 different countries are already committed to the race and many more are expected. All participants will receive a warm welcome from the Royal Malta Yacht Club but only one yacht can win the race overall. It is a victory that has proved elusive to some highly accomplished sailors.
John Brinkers is one of the most proficient sailors on the Maxi circuit, having competed in the Transatlantic Race, Sydney Hobart, South China Sea Race, Fastnet, Caribbean 600 and Newport Bermuda. However, last year Brinkers was racing in one of the smallest boats competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Christopher Opilok’s Corby 36, AOC Rockall came a very close second. Eventually losing out by just 30 minutes to the eventual overall winner; the Maltese J/122 Artie, co-skippered by Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard.
‘At Lampedusa we were over an hour ahead on corrected time but then we ran out of breeze as we approached the finish.” Commented Brinkers. “But I had an absolutely amazing time, it really is a very special race, one of the most scenic races you can do and also extremely competitive. During the first 24 hours of the race, we were in a tight bunch, crossing gybes with about a dozen boats, all fighting for the class lead. It was neck and neck the whole way around, just great racing. I have sailed all over the world and I have to say that this race is right up there, it is not often that you get to sail past an active volcano and see it in all its glory.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the world’s most technically challenging and beautiful races. I have done a lot of miles and to be honest before last year’s race, I had become a little jaded with offshore racing but I stepped off the boat found out we had just lost but still consider it one of the best races I have ever done. The race management team is brilliant, the yacht club stays open all hours and we were really well looked after. The Royal Malta Yacht Club has a huge atmosphere. I never like losing but it was a great place to do it!
Mike Broughton is a veteran of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, having competed in the race seven times including winning class with Swan 82, Nikata in 2009 but an overall win has eluded Broughton. A greatly respected navigator, Broughton has been competing at the very highest level for over thirty years. As a tactical weather expert, Broughton believes that the Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the most complex and challenging 600-mile races in the world.
“For any navigator, the geographical and climatic influences of the Rolex Middle Sea Race are truly fascinating.” Commented Broughton. “Especially the katabatic effects from Mount Etna and the wind shadow effects from Stromboli. Also reading the current through the Messina Strait is always challenging. The timing of the race means that competitors often experience a mixture of Mediterranean weather. The end of October is a changeover period for the weather in this part of the world with a mixture of unsettled low-pressure systems and more stable weather akin to the summer months. The race has a lot of influence from higher ground, which some weather models struggle to accurately predict.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is often one with massive variations in the conditions; you can have 40 knots of wind north of Sicily but get a quiet patch at night, which can be just as challenging. I keep coming back because, not only is it a fascinating race but the Maltese are extremely friendly and enthusiastic about it and the Grand Harbour in Valetta is an awesome amphitheatre to start and finish a yacht race, it is something that every offshore racer should experience.”
Jeremy Robinson is one of the afterguard on Niklas Zennstrom’s JV72, Rán. Robinson shares the helmsman’s’ duties with Zennstrom and boat captain Tim Powell. Like all of the Rán crew, Robinson has a highly impressive CV including; winning the Rolex Fastnet twice and the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Team Rán has a star-studded cast but only two of them has ever won the Rolex Middle Sea Race, Jonathan Taylor and Willie Bevis on Nokia, back in 2003. Rån was one of the early entries for the 2012 Rolex Middle Sea Race and the spectacular 600-mile race is most definitely unfinished business.
“Personally, this will be my eighth attempt and I have never won it overall” Admitted Robinson. “Last year was our fourth attempt as Team Rán and we were in with a good chance but the Rolex Middle Sea Race is a very tough race to win overall, as there can be a massive difference in conditions for boats in different classes. It is quite an unusual race for the Mediterranean, it is the only recognized 600-mile race in the region and because of the time of year, a lot of the race is at night, which again is unusual. This race is very important to the team, we all want to win, it’s a box that we all want to tick.”
Niklas Zennstrom, owner of the JV 72, Rán will be racing on board with his wife Catherine. "We are looking forward to the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2012. This is one of the offshores we still have to win, so we will make sure we are as prepared as we can be. It is always a nice to finish the season with the Rolex Middle Sea Race, the race course is both beautiful and usually gives the sailors a bit of all conditions"
For more information about the Rolex Middle Sea Race and on-line entry go to: www.rolexmiddlesearace.com
Picture credit: Christopher Opilok’s Corby 36, AOC Rockall ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo
A link to a wrap up video of the 2011 edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is below.