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Rambler Favored in Rolex Middle Sea Race

Published on October 21st, 2016

Over the past ten years, the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy has been won by yachts as large as 86ft and as small as 40ft. Unsurprisingly the weather plays a huge part in deciding the winner. Changes in wind strength, direction and ocean currents create advantages and disadvantages. The ever changing scenario creates a very complicated picture, especially when boats are on different parts of the course.

The overall winner of the 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race is not necessarily the first to cross the finish line. The winner is decided using the IRC rating system, which is used for all of the major offshore races throughout the world. Yachts have their elapsed time corrected according to their potential speed. This gives every yacht a fair chance of winning the overall prize.

Sophisticated routing software programmes can estimate the finish time of each yacht.The software uses the predicted wind conditions and combines that with the predicted speed of the yachts, giving an estimated finish time. Below is a simple overview of that analysis.

George David’s American Maxi Rambler 88 is the hot favourite to take monohull line honours for the second year in succession. On paper, none of the fleet should be able to match Rambler 88 for speed. The weather conditions this year look very similar to 2015, when Rambler 88 took line honours completing the course in just over 64 hours. Looking at a range of predictions through the fleet, this may be quick enough to achieve ‘the double’; line honours and the overall win after IRC time correction.

“It looks similar to last year but in this race you have to expect anything.” commented Rambler 88 Project Manager, Mick Harvey. “Probably the biggest difference for Rambler this year, is that the boat is lighter and we are also racing without spinnakers, which has reduced our rating. We believe that this combination will produce a better performance.”

Lee Satariano’s Maltese J/122 Artie has been the most successful yacht in the last ten years, winning overall on two occasions (2011 & 2014). Looking at Artie’s predicted elapsed time of 114 hours. Artie will be a long way behind Rambler 88 on the water, but after IRC time correction, the result is very close indeed. Christian Ripard has been at the heart of Artie’s two victories, as tactician and Christian has won the race, as owner or tactician, five times.

“Right now the weather looks like it will suit a slightly bigger and more high performance boat than Artie.” commented Christian Ripard. “It is looking light especially at the start, and in this race, boats will be side by side, and one will get a puff of wind and be gone, while the other is just in the wrong place and remains trapped. This is going to be a race all about thinking it out – and to be honest – getting a bit of luck.”

Over the last ten years, the race has been won overall by a TP52 on three occasions, including last year’s win by Michele Galli’s B2. This year two TP52s will be taking part; Pablo Garriga’s Spanish entry, Audax Energia and Team Van Uden Performance Yacht Racing, skippered by Dutchman, Patrick Van t’Hoff. Audax Energia should be the quickest of the pair, as the 2006 Botin Carkeek design was built for light airs sailing. Routing software predicts that Audax Energia should complete the race in 91 hours, which would equate to a similar time to Artie and Rambler 88 after IRC time correction.

There are four Xp-44 yachts racing this year and although the design has not won the race overall. Teams have come very close on several occasions. Josef Schultheis & Timmy Camilleri’s Xp-act was second overall in 2014, and virtually the same crew will be racing again this year. Looking at routing software, the Xp-44’s may well have favourable weather this year. The four Xp-44s are

“The Xp-44s have often done well in the race, so you have to say the yacht suits the conditions and this race course.” commented Xp-Act crew Barry Hurley. “Looking at this year’s race, the first crucial point looks to be on the first night as we approach the southeast corner of Sicily. There is likely to be very little wind in the shadow of Mount Etna. The decision is wether to go inshore or offshore looking for breeze. Getting the strategy right on the first night could be a crucial moment in the race.”

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is notoriously hard to fathom, which is one of the compelling reasons that it proves so popular with sailors from all over the world. This year the weather scenario does not seem to favour any particular type of yacht. This will mean that the team that performs the best and perhaps has the biggest slice of luck will lift the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy.

The 37th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race starts tomorrow, 1100 CET Saturday 22 November. The 608 mile offshore race starts from The Grand Harbour, Valetta, Malta.

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Organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, the 37th edition of the 608 nm yacht race takes place in the heart of the Mediterranean and covers one of the most beautiful courses in the world. Starting and finishing in Malta, the route includes the deep azure waters around Sicily including the Aeolian and Egadi Islands, as well as Pantelleria and Lampedusa. One of the most stunning vistas is Stromboli, the active volcano which is a course mark.

Challenging, enchanting and historic, the annual Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of Europe’s most popular and respected offshore races. Supported by Rolex since 2002, the event’s fascination is largely drawn from its alluring course – a rigorous and scenic anti-clockwise loop around Sicily, which introduces numerous ‘corners’ that present changing and complex meteorological shifts.


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