With the entry list already equalling in size the record 42-yacht fleet of 2002, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has every reason to be satisfied with its efforts to improve upon last year's Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Whilst the international entry is peppered with glamorous Maxi yachts all capable of bettering the existing course record, the local entrants will undoubtedly have a bearing on the outcome of the highly prized Middle Sea Race Trophy and the Rolex Chronometer presented to the overall winner.
Maltese yachts have won the Trophy on five of the 21 occasions it has been awarded. Extraordinarily, on all five occasions a relative of Paul Ripard (one of the race founders) was skipper or owner of the winning boat. In 2002, it was nephew John, co-skipper with Andrew CALASCIONE, on-board the J-109 Market Wizard. Calascione had no illusion about the quality of the competition last year, " saw a really strong fleet from both home and abroad. We knew we were in a race from the outset."
Undoubtedly, he feels the same this year.
Sonke STEIN returns with his J-105 Oh Jee, a year wiser. 2002 proved that it pays never to give up in a race of this length and complexity. Being beaten on corrected time by only 16 minutes, after 126 hours of racing, will give Stein and crew more than enough belief that if 2003 is a small boat race, they have the ability to win.
No lesser thought will be on the minds of Alfred MANDUCA (Maltese Falcon), Arthur PODESTA (Elusive) and Chris BULL (Jazz). Manduca finished sixth overall in 2002, whilst Podesta, who has competed in every Middle Sea Race to date, came in eighth sailing on his own boat for the first time. Podesta' s abiding memory of 2002 is the eruption of Etna on the first night of the race, something he had not previously witnessed in the 35-year history of the race.
Chris BULL, a Briton, who spends much of his time in Malta following recent retirement, brings his new J-145 Jazz fresh from Class Zero victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race this August. Bull raced the past two editions of the Middle Sea Race on Primadonna, a Prima 38. In 2002 he finished seventh, but with a new boat and increasingly familiarity with the waters of the course, he will harbour real thoughts of victory this time around.
It would be unwise to discount the J-105 Bigfoot of Simon CAMILLERI or the J-125 Strait Dealer of David FRANKS. Both boats were former winners under previous ownership. Even the smallest yacht in the fleet, the 32 foot First Ever owned by the President of the Malta Sailing Federation, Anton VALENTINO, will be entering with one eye on winning the Middle Sea Race Trophy and one of the Rolex Chronometers.
More information and a complete entry list is available on the event website at the address below.