Iconic Start to Rolex Middle Sea Race
Published on October 22nd, 2016
(October 22, 2016) – The start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the most colourful and iconic moments in world sailing. The Grand Harbour of Valletta, Malta is akin to a stadium offering numerous vantage points both high and low and, of course, on the water. As the cannons of the Saluting Battery high up on the St. Peter & Paul Bastion signalled each class start, thousands of spectators revelled in brilliant sunshine and the light breeze funnelling though the harbour. Organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, 107 yachts are competing in the 37th edition of the 608 nautical mile Rolex Middle Sea Race.
The first start, comprising the smallest and slowest yachts, showed the way for the rest. The boats starting close under the walls of the recently restored Fort St. Angelo quickly entered good breeze. The Italian M37, DHL-Adelasia di Torres, with Caterina Nitto at the helm grabbed an early advantage and led the fleet into open water following a brave and confident piece of sailing to secure the favoured end of the line. The second start included Lee Satariano’s Maltese J/122 Artie, which has won the race on two previous occasions. However, Jamie Sammut’s Solaris 42 Unica sailing double-handed grabbed local bragging rights as first Maltese boat to pass the breakwater at the mouth of the harbour.
The most daring start of the day was pulled off by American skipper Clarke Murphy racing the Carbon Ocean 82 Aegir. A bold reaching start by the team at the pin end had the Maxi powering towards the fleet almost at right angles. With right of way and perfect timing, Aegir crossed the line as cannon smoke billowed into the sky. Tacking into clear air, the powerful yacht stretched her legs and led the big boat fleet, including the line honours favourite, Rambler 88, out of Grand Harbour.
The final start of the day was reserved for the three multihulls. With the monohull fleet clear of the starting area, Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo3 took the opportunity to prowl around the historic surroundings prior to the start. It was like something from the movies as the futuristic multihull glided beneath the 16th century battlements.
Of the three, Phaedo3 made the best start; Giovanni Soldini’s MOD70 Maserati and Thierry Bouchard’s Multi50 Ciela Village, appearing more conservative in their approach.
At 16.00 CEST, five hours into the race, George David’s Rambler 88 leads the monohull fleet, and is just shy of Capo Passero at the south east corner of Sicily. Rambler 88 is slowing from her early pace, but her enormous masthead Code Zero with a staysail and full main has so far proved a ballistic combination. The American Maxi will now be concentrating on finding sufficient breeze to get them through the wind shadow of Mount Etna.
Already past Capo Passero, Phaedo3 continues to lead the multihull fleet having blasted the passage between Malta and Sicily nudging 30 knots at times. With a flat sea and a perfect wind angle, Lloyd Thornburg’s team enjoyed ideal conditions for the first leg. The next stage along the eastern shore of Sicily towards the entrance to the Strait of Messina will prove more challenging with the wind expected to shut down overnight.
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.
Source: Rolex Middle Sea Race