Getting tested after 53 years
Published on November 2nd, 2021
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is the premier offshore race in the Mediterranean Sea, but the 2021 edition found host Royal Malta Yacht Club criticized for utilizing an option within the Sailing Instructions which had never been tested in the 53-year history of the race. In a statement issued by the club, they offer this explanation:
The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race, which started on Saturday 23 October 2021, had the hallmarks of being a spectacular success. The make-up of the fleet and the weather forecast suggested records would fall and that yachts would have wind throughout the course area making for an exciting contest.
Late on Tuesday 26 October the weather situation changed. A severe north-easterly gale was predicted to hit the east coast of Malta some time on Wednesday 27 October. The Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) Race Committee recognized it as a danger to those crews still to complete the race.
Crossing the finish line at the entrance to Marsamxett Harbour in such circumstances would be extremely hazardous. An Alternative Finish Line at South Comino Channel is designed to address this possibility and all yachts are required to take their time at this point in the race, irrespective of whether the line is in use. The Sailing Instructions are clear and unequivocal on this point.
When invoking the Alternative Finish Line, the Race Committee acted with the safety and well-being of those still sailing in mind. The decision was not influenced by the possibility that other boats, safe in harbor, might find their result materially affected.
The RMYC is sympathetic to those competitors and followers of race that feel aggrieved by the eventual outcome. It recognizes that, in this instance, in writing a sailing instruction related to safety it inadvertently, but seriously, impacted the race results.
The RMYC will take action to make sure that a similar situation does not arise again. It will do its utmost to ensure that the rules and regulations surrounding future editions of the race are fit for purpose. In this regard, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has already sought guidance from appropriate authorities within the sport.
Over the years, the RMYC has prided itself on the hospitality and the welcome it shows to all participants. It has put huge effort into making sure visiting crews become the most effective ambassadors for the race. The last thing the club wanted was the frustration, disappointment, and anger provoked by the circumstances of the 2021 race.
The 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is scheduled go ahead next October. The club hopes that those who enter will see that changes have been made and will trust it to continue to apply all rules fairly and correctly to all those who participate regardless of size, nationality, or ambition.
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.