Seventy entries and counting: the Rolex Middle Sea Race is on the cusp of another record fleet for the sixth consecutive event.
Last year, 68 competitors set off on the 607 nautical mile race from Malta around Sicily, Pantelleria and Lampedusa, and back to Malta. This year the race starts on 20 October 2007 and, as usual, from its famous line between 18th century Fort Manoel and the 16th century bastions of Valletta
With entries open until Sunday 14 October the Royal Malta Yacht Club remains hopeful that it will attract another one or two yachts and this time breach the barrier of 70. In 2007, 70 yachts filed entries, but two dropped out just before the start. Chairman of the Race Committee, Godwin ZAMMIT, is being positive, "We know of a couple of Maltese boats that could still file entries and we often find that there are last-minute entries from Italian yachts, like the one over the weekend from Obelix and, then, Intrigue, this morning. We received an unexpected entry from the United Kingdom yesterday, so even further a field is possible."
"Whatever the eventual outcome, we have a great fleet that ranges from just over thirty-feet up to ninety-feet,"
added ZAMMIT. "If someone had told us a few years ago when we had only twenty-five yachts on the line that we would be where we are today we would have laughed. I am sure it reflects an increased interest in offshore racing. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is definitely thought of as a classic and is once again a must do event."
The current fleet has George DAVID's 90-foot Rambler
(USA) at its head. Another yacht with course record potential is Tom and Dottie HILL's 76-foot Titan XII
(USA). Further down the fleet there are a number of participants returning for the umpteenth time, led as always by Arthur PODESTA. Architect, Willie CARBONARO is another Maltese who struggles to say no to the allure of the race. "I started sailing in 1985, but at that time the race was not being held, so the first time I did the race was in 1996 and I've only missed one since. It was the gloomiest time knowing everyone was out there!"
commented CARBONARO, who sails with a core group of friends from the island often supplemented by an international contingent.
"Every year when something is going wrong I think this is the last time. Then I remember the one I missed and I remember of all the good times. There must be nothing to compare with the unique 360 degree view, on a particularly fine day, off Salina Island, encompassing Stromboli, Calabria, Messina, and the Sicilian Coast all the way to Palermo."
CARBONARO will be racing his 43-foot Bordeaux 3
for the seventh time this year.
Sonke STEIN, a German resident in Dubai, is another who has caught the bug. STEIN is on his sixth race and this time on an all out race boat, the Ker 11.3, which he keeps in Malta. STEIN has previously done the race in in a J/105 and an Elan 37. "My best result was in my first race in 2002 where we came second by a few minutes on corrected time and won our class,"
says STEIN. "I think it is a great challenge to race 600-plus miles offshore, in an 'inshore mode'. It is a race where the smaller sized boats have a fair shot at the overall title. And, importantly, it is the best way to spend valuable time with your friends, "
he adds. STEIN has sailed each race with the same group every year, adding one or two new faces and friends to the team.
Event Website - www.rolexmiddlesearace.com