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All on board to make it happen!

In 1970 Alan Green, the mastermind behind the concept of the Middle Sea Race, was confirmed Honorary Life Member and Honorary Rear Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

In the first part of the interview, published on Thursday, Alan Green spoke on how the Middle Sea Race was originated and launched.

In the second part of the interview, I continue my conversation with Green, who 52-years ago, was the idealist behind the genesis of the annual regatta.

What was the role of Alan Green in the first Middle Sea Race?

“I became chairman, secretary, treasurer and marketing director of the organizing committee, rolled into one,” Green said.

“Treasurer is a bit of an overstatement since with no funds we had to beg and borrow help from wherever we could as we went along. 

“But once we got the committee’s approval and the endorsement from the Commodore – also the Island’s Governor General Sir Maurice Dorman – many doors opened and help from several Maltese people and institutions was given with speed and generosity.”

To raise the standard of local racing Alan offered to become the official RORC Measurer for Malta. This was accepted and Alan returned to the UK, at his own expense, for the necessary training.

High on the “to-do” list was permission to use the iconic Fort Manoel, dominating the entrance to Marsamxett Harbour, to serve as the start and finish line.

Here, Alan still remembers his positive meeting with the then Director of the Malta Museums Department Sir Hannibal Scicluna.

Thanks to the intervention of the Malta Electricity Board the Fort’s electrics, which were in a very bad state, were repaired and the MEB people even magnificently floodlit the frontage

Another great priority was to promote the event to encourage participation.

“Otherwise we should have had a party with no guests,” Green said.

One of the first patrons approached for support was the Tourist Board who then made it clear that they had no funds available.

“What do you have?” Alan asked. “Well,” they said, “We can mention the event in our brochures.” Yet tourist brochures covering November events were already out.

“Do you have your own fliers?” they asked. “We could help with postage!”.

The Tourist Board may well have expected a few dozen letters. In fact, they got a good number of fully stuffed mail bags which they willingly posted and never complained.

Alan recalls that his flat in Msida had been turned into an editorial, mailing and race office.

Two particular friends, Richard and Angela Whibley, helping with office work, practically moved into the flat as the pace quickened.

With help from various government departments, companies and friends hundreds of personalised letters and information sheets to many yacht skippers, clubs and sailing magazines in many countries were sent off.

A copy of the event’s brochure, printed at Union Press without charge, was among the information mailed.

In the months preceding the first race, Alan and Jimmy met Maltese artist and sculptor Chevalier Emvin Cremona at Villa Sandettie – Jimmy’s house – in Lija,

Alan remembers: “We asked Chevalier Cremona if he would create a design for the main trophy of the event which we believed would grow in importance both from a sports as well as from a tourism aspect. He agreed and eventually his dramatic and imposing bronze cast sculpture, generously funded by the Tourist Board, is still the race’s premier trophy.”

The Middle Sea Race was being introduced at a time in the history of Malta when British military presence was winding down. Yet request for support was met with enthusiasm and diligence. 

The Army had a helpful PR officer called Major Bryan Balls who immediately organised publicity photos and press releases.

By having three minesweepers on exercise along the southern flank of the essentially circular event’s course the Royal Navy helped with spotting and reporting by radiotelephone (the first race was well before the day of trackers or satellites).

HMS Shavington hosted Maltese journalist Frederick Muscat who filed news reports daily.

The Royal Air Force made a daily overflight of the course – Malta received photographs within an hour or so for the press and the boats had the flattering attention of specialist aircraft each day – photo-reconnaissance Canberras.

“The Italian Navy would not only send an entry – Stella Polare –  but furthermore would deploy three warships along the northern half of our course doing much the same job as the British Navy was doing on the southern half,” said Alan.

Field guns

One particular attraction that characterised the Middle Sea Race since the very first edition was the presence of field guns to signal the start of the race.

Alan still remembers Colonel “Tabby” Tabona, a Maltese retired British Army Officer, who was then Rear Commodore of the club applying to the Royal Malta Artillery – now the Malta Land Forces – for this support.

Looking back Alan appreciates that running the administration as a spare time activity was very demanding – “perhaps fortunately at that time I was not married and had few commitments”.

The workload inevitably increased as the start approached and Alan was thankful to the great team of local RMYC members and supporters who stepped up to take over the event as he gratefully boarded Sandettie shortly before the start.

H.E. the Governor General invited Sir Francis Chichester to Malta for the presentation of prizes.

On the occasion Alan felt honoured to be the only person to receive from Sir Francis’s hands a special silver salver  from the RMYC in appreciation for his work.

What was the involvement of the RORC?

There was no formal connection but as both Jimmy and Alan were keen members – Jimmy was also a former RORC committee member – they followed the RORC’s example wherever they could – after all the RORC were recognised as a world-leading offshore race organizer. 

Jimmy and Alan also hoped that the RORC would eventually adopt the race, thus lending it authority and status – indeed this happened as today the race is part of the RORC calendar as the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

The RORC establishment took a great interest in the event and two years after completion of his tour of duty in Malta for the Ministry of Defense, Alan Green joined the Royal Ocean Racing Club staff where for a further 30 years he served as Secretary and Director of Racing and Special Events.

At the RMYC Annual General Meeting held on March 25, 1970, a motion was carried out with acclaim that in recognition of his meritorious services to the club “Mr Alan Green has been elected Honorary Life Member and granted also the office of Honorary Rear Commodore in accordance with rule 9 of the Club’s constitution”.

Alan was informed of these recognition by a letter issued from The Palace Malta and signed by H.E. Sir Maurice Dorman, Governor General of Malta and Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club – who in the same letter also recalled “the great debt which RMYC owns to you for your most efficient promotion and organisation of the Middle Sea Race”.

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