The first inshore race of the Royal Malta Yacht Club organised Rolex Middle Sea Race Week started from Lazzaretto Creek between Manoel Island and Valletta.
The Rolex fleet raced a 36-mile course out and back to the rocky outcrop of Filfla to the South of Malta. The first boat home was Neville Crichton's 90-foot Super Maxi Alfa Romeo in slightly less than three and a half hours.
The start of today's race was delayed 30 minutes to allow the light Southerly breeze to filter in to the Marsamxett Harbour and in particular to the narrow 400-metre wide creek on the North side of the walled-city of Valletta where the start and finish line is situated. Most of the fleet set spinnakers immediately after the start to take them down the harbour to the more stable breezes. Alfred Manduca's local boat Maltese Falcon II, a Beneteau 40.7, showed the way behind the giant Alfa Romeo, picking up a better whisper of wind on the Northern side of the creek, the crew dousing the spinnaker and reaching out under headsail. Once the fleet settled into a more stable wind outside the harbour, Skip Sheldon's 60-foot cruiser-racer Zaraffa found her legs and moved into second place on the water.
The first turn mark, situated just one mile offshore at the Valletta Fairway Buoy, saw the fleet round in order of length and head upwind to the South towards the bottom of the Island of Malta. The light conditions slowly stabilised at around eight knots of breeze, conditions that kept the fleet on the wind most of the way to the Filfla Rock, the half way point.
The return leg saw spinnakers set and a reaching course sailed back to the East coast of this unique Mediterranean Island, the Valletta Fairway Buoy and the finish. Just before two o'clock the New Zealand-registered Alfa Romeo crossed the line in the shadow of the impressive dome of the Carmelite church to take line honours. At time of publication Alfa Romeo had corrected out ahead of all other finishers. The medium breezes will see the remainder of the fleet finish during the early hours of this evening.
Racing continues tomorrow Thursday with another inshore race. Friday is a day off and the 607-mile Rolex Middle Sea Race will start at 11:00 on Saturday.
Results and press releases are available on-line at the addresses below.