The 2013 edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race starting on Saturday 19 October will have the largest fleet ever assembled in the 45 year history of the race.
With less than a week to go before the start, 113 yachts flying the flags of 24 countries will be participating. Class splits are yet to be finalised, but the international fleet is an astounding mix of famous yachts and corinthian crews, aiming for honours in the classic Mediterranean offshore race.
The hot favourite for Line Honours is Igor Simcic's Maxi, Esimit Europa 2. The european team, led by three-time Olympic Gold medallist Jochen Schumann, will be attempting to take line honours for an unprecedented fourth consecutive occasion. Weather permitting, Esimit Europa 2 is also capable of beating the course record; 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds. Set by George David's American Maxi, Rambler in 2007.
Alex Thompson's IMOCA 60, Hugo Boss is the biggest threat to Esimit Europa 2, Thomson is the fastest Britain to sail single handedly, non stop around the globe and there is no doubt that if the race is a tough power reach, a fully crewed Hugo Boss, could be the first boat back to the Royal Malta Yacht Club.
In IRC 1, there is the mouth-watering prospect of two of the world's best Mini Maxis going head to head. Andres Soriano's brand new Mills 72, Alegre, with a stella crew, should have an epic contest with Roberto Tomasini Grinover's JV72, Robertissima. Alegre will be taking part in its first long offshore race and is heavily optimised for inshore racing. Robertissima is the former RAN 2, which has won IRC 1 for the last two years but has never won overall. The world class Italian team on Robertissima is led by Vasco Vascotti who has won an incredible 20 world titles. Hasno Platner's Z-86, Morning Glory also has plenty of potential.
IRC 2 produced last year's overall winner, Eddie De Villiers' South African entry Hi Fidelity, which is not racing this year. However, Hans-Jürgen Riegel's Marten 49, Speedy will be on the start line and last year was less than an hour behind the winner on corrected time. Germana Tognella's Cookson 50, Cantankerous is returning for a third race and was fourth in class last year. A Cookson 50 has won class for the Rolex Middle Sea Race and has been an overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Rolex Fastnet Race and the RORC Caribbean 600. Amanda Hartley's Spanish Swan 56, Clem is a class winner for both the Rolex Fastnet and RORC Caribbean 600.
IRC 3 contains the majority of the thirteen yachts racing under the Maltese flag, which is a record for the race. Last year's class winner, Josef Schultheis' Xp-act Banks Sails Racing, sailed by a mainly Maltese crew, is back to defend their title. Natale Lia's Zenhea Takesha was second in class last year and the Sicilian team will be hoping to go one better. Jonas Diamantino & Ramon Sant Hill's Comanche Raider II Gasanmamo was third in class last year and will be proudly flying the Maltese flag for this year's race.
Rear Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, Arthur Podesta, has competed in every edition of the race and will once again be competing in his First 45, Elusive II, along with several family members. Several Maltese yachts will be competing in the race for the first time, including Jamie Sammut's UNICA.
Whilst the majority of the Maltese yachts will be racing in IRC 3, the most successful Maltese yacht of the modern era will be racing in IRC 4. Last year, Lee Satariano's J/122 Artie-RTFX, co-skippered by Christian Ripard, was the first Maltese yacht to finish the race and in 2011, the all-Maltese crew won the race overall. Artie-RTFX will be returning to the race course this year with a real chance of winning. However IRC 4 is, by far the biggest and potentially most competitive class. Last year's top four yachts are all returning including; Seawolf of Southampton, Little Emily and Sailing Team Belka.
For the 2013 edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, there has been a massive increase in Double Handed entries. 15 yachts from six different countries will take on the gruelling race with just two crew on board. IMOCA 60, Gaes should romp home in the class. Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin will be co-skipper the largest yacht racing with just two crew. Corbella was the first Spanish woman to race non-stop around the world, placing sixth in the 2011 Barcelona Race.
Gaes will dwarf the smallest yacht in the fleet, Elan 340 Pokekiakkiere, skippered by Alberto De Rossi. The Italian entry from Rimini is just 10 metres (33 feet) long. Three Maltese yachts will be racing Double Handed; Anthony Camilleri's Bavaria, Peter Ellul Vincenti's Manana and Past Royal Malta Yacht Club Commodore, George Bonello Dupuis, racing Escape by Tommy Hilfiger.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race will start in Valetta's Grand Harbour on October 19th. All of the competing yachts will be fitted with Yellowbrick trackers and the race player, daily news, pictures and videos will be published on the official Rolex Middle Sea Race web site and Facebook page.
The 2013 edition of the 'must-do' offshore race of the Mediterranean is set to be an epic event.
For more information: www.rolexmiddlesearace.com