Three months to the start and the line-up of Maxis and other top class racing yachts expected at the Rolex Middle Sea Race is more than impressive.
The Rolex Middle Sea Race, organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, is one of the oldest and toughest offshore racing classics. Held at the end of the Northern Hemisphere sailing season, the 607-mile race takes the fleet of boats in an anti-clockwise direction around the Italian island of Sicily, starting and finishing from a line in Marsamxett Harbour, one of the historic ports of Malta.
A series of inshore day races off the coast of Malta precedes the Rolex Middle Sea Race, giving the assembled fleet the opportunity to not only acclimatise to the local conditions but to enjoy the unique backdrop and splendours of this Mediterranean island state.
Two British Maxis, Mike SLADE's Leopard of London and Charles DUNSTONE's Enigma of London will both be making their way to Malta to compete following this August's Rolex Fastnet Race.
But these two are not alone in the Maxi division. Bob McNEIL's Max Z86 Zephyrus V finds itself on the European side of the Atlantic and will also be heading to the Mediterranean for some autumn sport. McNeil is the current course record holder, posting a time of 64hrs, 49mins and 57seconds in 2000 with Zephyrus IV.
Neville CRICHTON's Alfa Romeo, culminates a busy season with the trip to Malta. Crichton's New Zealand-registered Maxi, collected line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in Australia last December before doing the same in Genoa at the finish of the La Giraglia late last month. Next month's Rolex Fastnet Race will see Crichton try to make it three in a row, although for his team the competition gets stiffer as the season progresses. After the Rolex Fastnet Race Crichton's intentions are to travel to the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia in September before making a final delivery trip of a busy year to Marsamxett Harbour in preparation for the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Another significant entry is Alessandro PIRERA's Orlanda. This Italian Farr 53 design has also had a remarkable debut this year at the Rolex IMS Offshore Worlds in Capri and must surely be amongst the favourites for overall honours in the IMS Class in Malta.
Entries for the Rolex Middle Sea Race close on 22 October 22. The race start is at 1100 (local time) on Saturday, 25 October. The Royal Malta Yacht Club is confident that the current record fleet of 42 boats will be bettered this year.