With 50 days to the start of the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race, the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) is preparing itself for a stellar fleet.
The latest submission of entry forms by Swedish yacht Blur and British yacht Akouavi, brought the entry list total to 101 yachts representing 24 countries for the regatta that gets under way on October 23.
With close of entries scheduled for Friday, September 12, with the discretion to accept late entries up to Friday, October 1, there is clear potential for 2021 to rival some of the pre-pandemic three-figure fleets.
“We are utterly delighted with the response of the offshore sailing community,” said Commodore David Cremona.
“2020 proved the popularity of the Royal Malta Yacht Club’s flagship event and our ability to pull off the race in demanding circumstances. This year suggests that popularity is as strong as ever. We are extremely grateful to the owners and crews willing to make the considerable effort to participate despite the continuing uncertainties.
In turn we are leaving no stone unturned in our preparations for the race.”
The current entry list is the usual polyglot of professional and Corinthian crews, multihulls and monohulls, racing maxis and small cruiser/racers. The greatest contingent is from France with 18 entries, including strong contenders such as Philippe Franz’s Albator, third overall under IRC in 2018, and Gerard Ludovic’s Solenn For Pure Ocean (10th overall in the same year).
Noel Racine was fourth overall in 2016 with a previous iteration of Foggy Dew. France’s last win at came in 2018 with Courrier Recommandé, which came close to following up this success in 2019.
Italy is a perennial supplier of entries, understandably so, given its proximity and a large portion of the race being sailed in its territorial waters. Italian yachts have won the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall on 14 occasions, more than any other nation, including the hosts Malta.
Mascalzone Latino was most recent winner in 2016, with B2 winning in 2015 and 2013. Boats to look out for include Massimo Minozzi’s J/99 Tokio, the Comet 45R Libertine of Marco Paolucci as well as the J/109 Chestress entered by Leonardo Petti.
In fairness, most eyes will be on the reprise of the 2020 multihull battle between Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi 70 and Ricardo Pavoncelli’s MOD70 Mana, which shared the line honours and MOCRA spoils in a tight contest.
This year, it will be a three-way fight with Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo, one of five American entries, adding spice to the much-anticipated contest.
The host nation Malta is fielding a high-quality contingent. Twelve yachts, spearheaded by back-to-back overall winner Elusive 2, co-skippered by the Podesta siblings – Aaron, Christoph and Maya.
“Ever since the Rolex Middle Sea Race re-emerged as an offshore classic in 1996, it has featured in our lives,” said Maya Podesta.
“It is a yearly, permanent fixture in our calendar not just for the race itself, but also the family-bonding it has provided ever since we first started racing with our father (Arthur) in the early 2000s”.
According to Aaron Podesta, despite having discovered a winning approach, preparation never gets any easier.
“It does get better,” says Aaron Podesta. “Offshore racing is one of those sports where you need to make sure everything is well set up and will not let you down. We spend a lot of time making sure the boat is very organised.”
The three Podestas are great advocates for the race and all it offers. They are enthusiastic about attracting bigger and better fleets, despite the increased competition it brings.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication in terms of preparation, attention to detail and leaving nothing to chance to complete the Rolex Middle Sea Race, let alone win it,” advises Christoph Podesta.
“For those crew participating for the first time, our best advice is to make sure you really familiarise yourself with your boat and keep your eyes and ears open any changes in conditions and circumstance, even when asleep. This is not a race for the faint-hearted, but it is hugely rewarding.”
Elsewhere in the Maltese fleet, the two-time winning crew of Lee Satariano’s Artie III will be on the start line, as well as Jonathan Gambin’s Ton Ton Laferla Insurance, third overall in 2020, the double-handed Unica of Jamie Sammut, class winners in 2016, and the J/99 Calypso entered by Sebastian Ripard, grandson of John Ripard Senior – a co-founder of the race and winner of the first in 1968.
Other Maltese entries include the newly launched ICE52 RS Otra Vez, owned by Aaron Gatt Floridia, whose last participation in the race was in 2018.
Andrew Agius Delicata’s Vivace will make a return in the double-handed class. Comanche Raider 3 (Ramon Sant Hill), Janissah (Mario Debono), Jonathan Camilleri Bowman’s Openpayd Sekuritance Maltese Falcon II along with the Jarhead Foundation’s J109s JYS Jan and JYS Jarhead complete the local roster.
British entries are strong too, with 11 so far, including Andrew Hall’s Pata Negra, third overall under IRC at this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race.
Rob Bottomley’ Sailplane came fifth, in the same race, while Mark Emerson’s Phosphorus II finished sixth, suggesting a committed challenge from the British to win a race they have not seen success in since Andre Soriano’s Alegre in 2009.
The wider fleet also contains yachts with every chance of doing well in the competition for the Rolex Middle Sea Race trophy if they sail well and conditions suit.
Jonas Grander’s Swedish entry, Matador, came fourth in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Maximilian Klink’s Caro crew have experience of top ten finishes in this race with their previous yacht and the 52-foot boat length has proven itself time and again. It is also hard to overlook George David’s Rambler.
On his first outing in 2007, David took the triple crown of the overall win, line honours and the race record.
Continuing success with line honours may be a difficult proposition with the 100-foot Comanche and 140-foot Skorpios expected to duke it out for that title, but do not discount the 88-foot Rambler, under the time correction, if the first few days of the race are fast.
All in all, the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race is looking likely to be another cracking year.