This time next week, the cannons on Valletta's Saluting Battery will be quiet once again after their traditional roar to start the 2011 Rolex Middle Sea Race and approximately 80 yachts will be battling around the north and western coast of Sicily.
The challenges of the course are renowned and every crew member - new or experienced - will have researched the idiosyncrasies of the 606 nautical mile race ahead of them.
Regardless of the size or type of yacht, the role of each and every crew member is critical. Age makes little difference to the expectations of the skipper. Two of the youngest crew members taking part in this year's epic are Maltese. At just 16, Fabio Galea on Oiltanking Juno and Nicky Fenech on Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo are about to undertake the experience of their young lives.
The youngest by just one month, Nicky Fenech studies electrical engineering at MCAST when not enjoying his passion for sailing. He started his career on Mirror Tens winning every event he took part in over a two year period. Comanche Raider Skipper, Jonas Diamantino, said, "Nicky is a valued member of the team. Even though this is his first Rolex Middle Sea Race, he's sailed with us on a number of occasions and his experience as a dinghy and big boat sailor is definitely an asset."
Comanche Raider II is a Judel/Vroljik designed ILC 40 optimised for IRC racing. Owner, Jonas Diamantino will be on his ninth race (seven on his previous Comanche Raider) and last year he secured the honour of being first Maltese boat home.
For the first time, Fabio Galea will join the crew on Oiltanking Juno as bowman. Skipper, David Anastasi, makes no bones about his intentions, "For most of us it's the second RMSR on Juno and while last year was a trial year, this time, we're out to win."
Fabio's Dad introduced him to sailing at the tender age of three. At the age of eight he moved to competitive dinghy sailing on Mirrors and by 11 he was match racing with Anastasi on H-Boats. By 14 Fabio had been asked to join the British team to take part in the world championships in Dublin and two years later finds himself competing in one of the world's major offshore classics.
Seemingly unperturbed by the pressure, Fabio said, "Being Juno's bowman is a major task for me as it's a pretty big boat and especially if conditions are rough, things can get tricky up there! But I love the adrenaline that I feel when something needs to be done fast, like a spinnaker peel or even a simple hoist. I'm sure I can help the guys deliver a great result."
Nicky and Fabio will be on the start line at Grand Harbour at 11:00 local time on Saturday 22 October to take part in the longest, toughest race of the Mediterranean.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is organised in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.