In the build up to Saturday's Rolex Middle Sea Race, the traditional coastal races around the Islands of Gozo and Comino were run on Wednesday and Thursday.
Given the typically fickle winds in Marsamxett Harbour, both races provided a good opportunity for overseas entries in particular, to familiarise themselves with local conditions. On both days, north westerly winds were prevalent and this is similar to what competitors are forecast to expect on Saturday morning.
Wednesday's 42 mile race around Gozo was sailed in light winds, taking competitors some considerable time to leave harbour. A mix of six Maltese and four overseas boats started. Dutch boat, Tonnerre de Breskens was first out the harbour and proceeded to lead the fleet, demonstrating the form that helped it win the 2001 Rolex Fastnet.
But, it was Maltese Falcon, skippered by Alfie Manduca that won by 40 seconds on corrected time from Sonke Stein's J-105, Oh-Jee in second. In third place, it was Arthur Podesta on his Beneteau 45, Elusive.
Thursday's 12 mile race around Comino was sailed in a north westerly force 4 to 5, This time Tonnere de Breskens not only led the fleet around the course, but secured victory on corrected time ahead of Oh-Jee in second and Elusive in third.
Competitors will be spending today making final preparations for Saturday's major event, the 2002 Rolex Middle Sea Race. It's anticipated that 40 yachts will take part, most of whom can be found berthed at Ta'Xbiex Yacht Marina.
Record numbers of entries will require a staggered start to the RMSR.
Military guns will be fired at 11.00 a.m., 11.10a.m. and 11.20 a.m from the waters opposite the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Thereafter, the fleet will make its way up the coast until Qawra Point where the yachts will head to the open seas towards Sicily.