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20 September 2005, 02:32 pm
Strength In Depth For Offshore Classic
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Rolex Middle Sea Race 2005
Valetta, Malta

With confirmed entries currrently at 50, and a number of yachts yet to show their colours, the Rolex Middle Sea Race looks set to improve upon the previous record fleet. More important than just increased entry numbers is the quality of the fleet, where potential winners are easy to find.
In 2004, 50 yachts took part in this 607 nautical mile race from Malta, anti-clockwise around Sicily and back to Malta, encountering the variety of wind conditions (from nil up to 40 knots) that typify autumn in the central Mediterranean.

Royal Malta Yacht Club Commodore, Georges BONELLO DUPUIS, is not completely surprised, 'we have been working hard in recent years to return the event to its status as one of the 'must do' offshore races. That we are attracting more yachts each year is an obvious sign of the success of our approach.' But DuPuis knows it is not just a numbers' game, 'we are also delighted at the type of boat entering. The participation of professional and professionally run Corinthian crews from overseas demonstrates that the challenge of this race is recognised across the yacht racing world.'

Apart from gaining more notoriety for the yacht club and the event, another benefit has been the improved approach of the local Maltese yachtsmen. The influx of well-run yachts from abroad has encouraged a number to gain more experience in offshore racing away from home. One would have thought that after twenty-five Rolex Middle Sea Races, Arthur PODESTA would have little to learn - but not so. This year Arthur, accompanied by his son Aaron and daughter Maya, leapt at the opportunity to do the Rolex Fastnet on board Patrick MERSCH's Mr Fips. 'It was not just the chance to undertake another famous race - even the one that spawned the Middle Sea Race - it was about the opportunity to experience different wind and sea conditions, face different tactical decisions. We've all brought something back that will help us this year,' commented PODESTA, who will once again compete on Elusive with a crew of family and friends.

Other Maltese yachts to look out for include previous overall winners, David FRANK's Strait Dealer and Jammin owned by John RIPARD Jr and Andrew CALASCIONE.

Despite the withdrawal of the New Zealand super-maxi Maximus, which recently broke its mast at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the yacht club's anticipation of this year's contest remains undimmed. 'Although we are very disappointed, their [Maximus's] loss is, of course, much more significant than ours, ' said Godwin ZAMMIT, Race Committee Chair, ' but, we still have a lot to look forward to - Aera and Spirit of Jethou from the UK, Patches from Ireland, Favonius from the USA, Damiani OurDream from Italy - the list seems endless. We can't wait.'

The Rolex Middle Sea Race 2005 starts from Marsamxett Harbour, Malta, on Saturday 22 October 2005. The Malta Rolex Cup, a two-race inshore series on the 19 and 20 October, will precede the main race.

Entries close on 15 October. The final prize giving is at noon on 29 October.

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