The Rolex Middle Sea Race
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 and 2017 will be the 38th Edition. Save for a break between 1984 and 1995 the event has been run annually initially attracting 25 -30 yachts, however in recent years, the number of entries has risen sharply to 122 boats thanks to a new Organising Committee who managed to bring Rolex on board as title sponsor for the Middle Sea Race.
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 its course, taking competitors close to a number of islands, which form marks of the course. Ted Turner described the MSR as "the most beautiful race course in the world".
Apart from Turner, famous competitors have included Eric Tabarly, Cino Ricci, Herbert von Karajan, Jim Dolan, Sir Chay Blyth and Sir Francis Chichester (fresh from his round the world adventure). 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 2006, Mike Sanderson and Seb Josse on board ABN Amro, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, the super Maxis; Alfa Romeo and Maximus and the 2006 Rolex Middle Sea Race overall winner, Hasso Plattner on board his MaxZ86, Morning Glory.
George David on board Rambler (ex Alfa Romeo) managed a new course record in 2007 and in 2008, Thierry Bouchard on Spirit of Ad Hoc won the Rolex Middle Sea Race on board a Beneteau 40.7 and Alegre claimed line honours.
In 2009, Andres Soriano on board Alegre re visited Malta for the second time in a row and claimed overall handicap in IRC. Line honours went to Mike Slade on board his super maxi "Icap Leopard".
2010 saw the maxi yacht "Esimit Europa" take line honours over "Icap Leopard" whilst the IRC Overall went to "Lucky" from the USA.
The Esimit Europa team were to win Line Honours again in 2011. The Maltese boat Artie was the overall winner of the IRC category and the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy.
In 2012 the Slovenian Maxi Esimit Europa II returned to claim line Honours once again but the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy for first overall in IRC was won by the South African yacht Hi Fidelity. The overall winner in ORC was Optimum 3 Aspida from Greece.
Kristina Plattner with Morning Glory was to take line honours in 2013. The overall the winner in IRC was Michele Galli with B2 while Johann Killinger on Emma won in the ORC.
In 2014 Esimit Europa were in first to win Line Honours, whilst Maltese J/122 boat Artie was the overall winner of the IRC Category and the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy for the second time.
The largest number of entries was 122 established in 2014.
2015 has been even more interesting in the fact that the fleet was more varied, with the fleet consisting of different kind of boats from the big, professionally crewed boats to smaller yachts with Corinthian sailors as well as two big multihulls, both from the United States. One of these was Lloyd Thornburg’s Phaedo3, which recently set a new world record in the Fastnet course, completing it in 27 hours and 34 minutes. Phaedo3 claimed multihull line honours. The other multihull was Peter Aschenbrenner’s 63’ Trimaran Paradox which has recorded speeds of over 35knots in big seas during Atlantic crossings.
2016 will be remembered as a race of multiple dimensions. Recipient of the Rolex Chronometer and Rolex Middle Sea Race trophy as Overall Winner was Vincenzo Onorato's Italian Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino. Sweet success having lost out by just nine seconds the year before. George David's Rambler 88 from the United States took Monohull Line Honours for the second year in a row and Giovanni Soldini's Italian Multi70 Maserati won the Multihull class setting a new race record in this category. In the Multihull Class all eyes were on the contest between Lloyd Thornburg's American MOD70 Phaedo^3 and Maserati. Maserati arrived in Malta with structural damage and could not use its full foiling package whilst Phaedo^3 appeared to hold an advantage and confirmed this by taking the lead right from the start as Maserati took a more conservative approach to exiting Grand Harbour. Phaedo^3 appeared unassailable but a catastrophic error in navigation resulted in Phaedo^3 being denied the honour of smashing their own record.
The 2017 Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday 21st October 2017
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the great classic offshore races, and sits happily beside the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Sydney to Hobart. It is not for nothing that the world's fastest boats cite the Rolex Middle Sea Race as a major objective.