With an impressive fleet of 122 yachts starting the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race, the Mediterranean classic has shattered its previous best entry for the third year in a row. 83 boats took on the challenge in 2012, followed by 99 in 2013. Setting off in a sequence of five starts, this year’s international armada includes yachts from 24 different nationalities, ranging in size from 9.5 and 30.5 metres.
GRAND HARBOUR SPECTACLE
The cannons of Saluting Battery mark the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Thousands of spectators enjoy the spectacle from the shore and the water as the yachts leave Malta’s famous Grand Harbour. Valetta’s imposing bastions along with the Upper and Lower Barakka Gardens offer a privileged view over the starting area.
FROM MALTA TO MALTA
After leaving Grand Harbour, the fleet followed the coast of Malta to a turning mark off St Julian’s where it heads north to Italy, and the Strait of Messina. The 606 nautical mile racecourse leaves to port Sicily, Stromboli, the Aeolian and Egadi islands, Pantelleria and Lampedusa, before returning through the South Comino Channel and the final stretch to the finish off the Royal Malta Yacht Club.
LINE HONOURS HUNTER
The 100-foot Slovenian Maxi Esimit Europa 2 is the favoured candidate for the line honours victory. Skippered by German legend Jochen Schümann, she finished first in 2010, 2011 and 2012. While finishing first may be a foregone conclusion, breaking the course record of 47 hours, 55 minutes and 03 seconds is the ultimate prize for this professional crew.
Three previous overall winners are competing in this, the 35th edition: Pericles Livas and Nick Lazos’ Farr 52 OD Optimum 3 – Aspida – Saxon Bank from Greece won overall in 2004; Maltese skipper Lee Satariano’s J122 Artie won in 2011 and Michele Galli’s TP52 B2 from Italy is the defending champion. Both Artie and B2 lead their classes in the early hours of the race.
Nikklas Zennström’s Rán is one of the strongest sailing teams in the world, with back-to-back victories in the Rolex Fastnet Race and three Mini Maxi Rolex World Championships. In an attempt to add the Rolex Middle Sea Race to their impressive record they are racing their latest Maxi 72, launched earlier this year. Another Maxi 72, American George Sakellaris’ Shockwave will be their main competition.
A light southerly breeze marked the opening passages of the race. The weather forecast suggests a slow pace and tricky conditions for the first few days.