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Giveth and taketh in Middle Sea Race

Published on October 31st, 2021

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the famous 600nm races for offshore competition. The 606nm course, essentially a clockwise circumnavigation of Sicily starting and finishing at the island nation of Malta, the 42nd edition delivered drama – both good and bad.

A dream weather system allowed Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo (USA) to take line honors and smash the outright record, while the VPLP/Verdier designed 100 foot racing maxi Comanche, skippered by Mitch Booth, took over seven hours off the monohull race record. Good times!

Comanche also held the overall lead until they relinquished it upon the arrival of the JPK 1180 Sunrise, which had earlier won the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, with a double victory by British owner Thomas Kneen as a David and Goliath outcome against a maxi nearly three times her waterline length and rating almost twice as high.

And then turmoil occurred.

Not long after Sunrise’s finish, the weather was forecast to build substantially from the north-east thrashing the northern coast of Malta and the seas down to Lampedusa. Aside from making an uncomfortable final stretch for the race, it also poised trouble for a course that must enter Marsamxett Harbour to finish.

Among the 114 yachts that started, some 23 boats were still on the racecourse amid this serious and adverse change to the weather forecast, and as the harbor entrance was considered too dangerous, the Royal Malta Yacht Club Race Committee invoked an alternative finish line in the South Comino Channel as per the sailing instructions.

Shortening the course once boats have finished is far from typical, but a condition within the Sailing Instructions anticipates how the changing weather can create a safety issue for yachts yet to finish. When this condition was invoked, which uses a finish line all yachts cross for the customary course, but shortens the distance by approximately 13 nm, the recalculated results awarded the overall win to Comanche.

What followed was four protests by Sunrise (Case 2, Case 6, Case 7, Case 11) which all came to the same jury finding, which was how the race committee’s decision to select the alternative finishing line position was consistent with SI 11.3 and was not an improper action. Here are some comments on Scuttlebutt’s Facebook page:

• Daryl Conyers: Money and big name professional don’t like getting beaten by little 40 footer amateurs.

• James Walker: Apparently, it wouldn’t be sailing if the results were always decided on the water…. It’s a trend that has soiled this sport for a long time.

• Ian Baylis: Congratulations Sunrise, well deserved after an amazing season. Luckily you didn’t take the same drugs as the race committee so are well aware who the true winner is.

• James Kent: How you can change the course after yachts have finished it beyond me.

• Maurice van der Heijden: Just the strangest decision. Only true winner based on performance shown is Sunrise racing team. Congrats!

What do you think? Send your comments to

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About the Race:
The Rolex Middle Sea Race was established as the result of sporting rivalry between great friends, Jimmy White and Alan Green, two Englishmen residing in Malta, together with Paul and John Ripard, two Maltese members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

Jimmy, Alan (later to become the Race Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), Paul and John would eventually map a course designed to offer an exciting race in different conditions to those prevailing in the immediate Maltese coastal waters.

The 606nm course, essentially a clockwise circumnavigation of Sicily starting and finishing in Malta, would be slightly longer than the RORC’s longest race, the Rolex Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as used today, although sailed in the reverse direction. The Rolex Middle Sea Race course record has been broken on five occasions since the inaugural edition in 1968.

The 2021 race started with 114 yachts on October 23.

The course record, established by George David’s 90-foot Rambler (USA) in 2007, is 47hrs 55mins 03 secs. The multihull record of 49 hours, 25 minutes, 1 second was set by the Multi70 Maserati in 2016.

Source: RMSR

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