Impressive entry list for the Rolex Middle Sea Race –
Three weeks before the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021, the entry list bodes well for the possibility of a fabulous and fascinating race.
124 yachts are currently entered, slightly less than the record of 130 boats set in 2018. Not bad, given the circumstances surrounding this year’s event and proof of the continued popularity of ocean racing and this Mediterranean classic in particular.
The departure from Grand Harbor, Valletta, Malta on Saturday 23 October promises to be a spectacular opportunity. The historic harbor filled with yachts and cannon fire reverberating around the 16th century fortifications.
The entire fleet ranges from powerful maxi monohulls and maxi multihulls to double-handed crews. The largest registered yacht is the Skorpios 38m / 125ft flying the Monaco flag, the smallest is the 9.45m / 31ft Hanse 311, the Catina 4 of Gabriele Spaggiari from Italy.
Under the right conditions, the race record of 47 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds will be seriously threatened with Skorpios, the 30.48m / 100ft Comanche (CAY), the 27m / 88ft Rambler (USA) on line.
And the multihulls, whose own record is almost nine hours slower than race / monohull time, are sure to fight. Competitors include Maserati Multi70 (ITA), the two MOD 70s: Mana (ITA) and Argo (USA), and the 24m / 80ft Ultim’Emotion (FRA). The current reference time has been established since 2007 at 13 editions, itself a record, the previous longest race being eight races.
All eyes, however, will be on the main prize: the overall victory under IRC time correction and the magnificent Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy commissioned in 1968 by the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Malta Tourism Authority (then the Malta Government Tourist Board) and created by famous local artist Emanuel Vincent “Emvin” Cremona.
Host country Malta has enjoyed the most success in recent years, winning the trophy four times since 2010. In the last two editions, the Podesta family, riding the First 45 Elusive 2, have won the ultimate prize. Aaron, Christoph and Maya with their team of friends are on a treble of wins for 2021, a feat last achieved over 40 years ago by Nita IV from 1978 to 1980.
Lee Satariano lifted the trophy twice, in 2011 and 2014, on his previous boat. His latest, the carbon HH42 Artie III, is racing this year with the added boost of several race winners, Christian Ripard and Timmy Camilleri on board. Meanwhile, Jonathan Gambin with his Dufour 44 Ton Ton Laferla, third overall last year, has gained in-depth knowledge of the task having participated in all races since 2008.
Two boats new to the race are managed by Maltese skippers and crews who also know the course well.
Aaron Gatt Floridia has hired his brand new ICE52 Otra Vez, designed by Umberto Felci. Sebastian Ripard, the grandson of John Ripard Sr, winner of the very first race, will be the skipper of an all Maltese crew on the brand new J / 99 Calypso. The crew includes his father John Jr and his brother Tom. Like Sebastian, they have both already won the race.
In 2018, Géry Trenteseaux’s Recommended Mail became the third French winner. This year, at least three French teams could be among the contenders.
The NMD43 Albator, led by Benoit Briand, finished third overall in 2018. Noel Racine last competed in the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2016, finishing fourth overall with a JPK 1010. This year Racine will drive his new JPK 1030, also named Foggy. Dew. Eric de Turckheim’s NYMD54 Teasing Machine finished third in 2017.
The race has seen an increase in registrations from the Russian Federation in recent years and this edition is no exception with seven teams competing. These include Igor Rytov’s JPK 1080, Bogatyr, which won in 2016, the first Russian yacht to win one of the 600-mile offshore classics; as well as Alexey Moskvin J / 122 Buran, third overall in 2020, and JPK 1180 Rossko from Timofey Zhbankov, fifth in 2020.
Some 19 Italian teams are expected and with 14 wins in total out of 41 Italy has the most wins in the history of the race. Boats to look out for include Massimo Minozzi’s J / 99 Tokio, Marco Paolucci’s Comet 45 Libertine and Leonardo Petti’s J / 109 Chestress.
Perhaps surprisingly, UK contenders have only won the overall standings twice, Charles Dunstone’s Nokia in 2003 and Andres Soriano’s Alegre in 2009. 13 UK teams are currently entered. .
Some were in great shape at the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 and three of those crews will make their debuts here: RORC Commodore James Neville with his HH42 Ino XXX finished second at the Rolex Fastnet, Andrew Hall’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra a finished third and Rob Bottomley’s Mat12 glider finished fifth.
It would be unwise to rule out Mark Emerson and the A13 Phosphorus II, who finished sixth and raced this course in a previous boat in 2015.
The big news, however, is surely the late entry of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race winner. Tom Kneen’s JPK 1180 Sunrise has to be one of the favorites having finished fourth at the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2019.
Germany have two wins and two entries are probably in contention this time around. Carl-Peter Forster will ride the TP52 Freccia Rossa, who in different hands finished seventh overall in 2020. The TP52s have been successful three times in the last 10 editions. Maximilian Klink participates in his fifth race with a brand new Botin 52, Caro, highly optimized for IRC.
Hungary, Sweden and Switzerland have never won the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Regular competitors Marton Jozsa and Reichel Pugh 60 Wild Joe (HUN) and Franco Niggeler with the Cookson 50 Kuka 3 (SUI) hope to lead their respective nations to a first. Wild Joe and Kuka 3 have both shown form in previous editions. From Sweden, Jonas Grander’s Elliott 44 Matador arrives after a fourth place finish at the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021.
Finally, Maxi monohull yachts have the ability not only to win line honors and break records, but also to win the overall standings after correcting the IRC time. The proof is that the 27.5m / 90ft Rambler of George David achieved the treble in 2007, preceded by Zephyrus IV in 2000. Double winners litter the history of the race, with Atalanta II in 2005 and Benbow in 1977 being two of the notables.
All in all, the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race can assert itself as a success whatever the result. For the second year in a row, the organizers – the Royal Malta Yacht Club – appear to have responded to all the tests that the pandemic may initiate. And, although nothing is certain, can be expected to embellish the history of this beloved and legendary breed.