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Sunrise skipper feels robbed of Rolex Middle Sea Race victory after finish line controversy

British syndicate Sunrise has urged the racing committee of the Royal Malta Yacht Club to revise their decision of using the alternative finish at the Comino Channel to calculate the overall standings instead of the finish line at the Marsamxett Harbour.

Sunrise looked on course of taking the overall title at the Rolex Middle Sea race as the team skippered by Tom Kneen had crossed the finish line at the Marsamxett Harbour on October 26, beating the IRC corrected time set by Comanche, a 100ft Maxi, by 16 minutes. 

However, their hopes of overall victory were dashed by the Royal Malta Yacht Club who due to the stormy weather that hit the Maltese islands on Tuesday, decided to move the finish line to the Comino Channel, for what they described “to safeguard the well being of all boats and crews.”

The change saw the organisers calculate the winner on a shortened 593 nautical mile course instead of the tradition 606nm.

That decision proved fatal for Sunrise’s hopes of overall victory as it was Comanche who topped the leaderboard and were declared as the winners to complete a double of success after securing Line Honours in the Mono Hull division.

“First and foremost, on behalf of the Sunrise crew please can we extend our congratulations to every competitor who completed the Rolex Middle Sea Race this year. It was certainly the toughest offshore race in which we have ever competed, and we have enormous respect for everyone who took part,” Kneen said in a statement.

“Congratulations to Comanche & Argo for winning their respective line honours and their race records, the class winners and especially to Jangada for winning the doublehanded class. This race was tough when sailed fully crewed so to come out on top double handed is an inspiration.

“Secondly, the crew of Sunrise would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has shown their support for our plight both directly and via social media – it has really been overwhelming. We are also aware that there has been a lot of rumour and hearsay surrounding what happened so to set the record straight this is our official statement of the events and our position.

“We don’t go sailing to win watches and trophies. We go sailing because we love the sport, the adventure and building memories with special people.

“This year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race certainly did not disappoint when it came to building memories. Sailing the boat at 28 knots from Stromboli to Ustica is something I’ll never forget. We also achieved our second conclusive class win of 2021 and built new friendships with members of the Dawn Treader crew with whom we raced the Rolex Middle Sea Race and are sure to share more adventures in the future.”

Kneen said this year’s race turned to be an unforgettable experience for the wrong reasons.

“The race was also unforgettable for the wrong reasons and the chain of events that unfolded after we finished the race were extremely upsetting,” the Sunrise skipper said.

“I am usually not a fan of sharing my thoughts in the public domain however on this occasion time is not proving to be a healer and I find myself increasingly troubled by what has happened.

“I believe that what the young crew of Sunrise has achieved this year is nothing short of astonishing. Winning the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race in the same season really is a once in a lifetime achievement and I believe to have it taken from us in the way that it was is totally unacceptable and fundamentally wrong.

“Therefore I want to make it clear that we want the Race Committee and the International Jury of the RMYC to reopen our hearing and to give redress to all the boats in the fleet whose results were adversely affected through no fault of our own, but by the decisions made by the Race Committee.

“It is not too late to right this wrong and I implore the Commodore, of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Race Committee and International Jury of the Rolex Middle Sea Race to rectify the error that was made and put things right.”

Kneen said that should the Royal Malta Yacht Club refuse to bulge from their decision it could have a detrimental effect on the future of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

“I ask this not for the benefit of Sunrise, but of the RMYC and of the Rolex Middle Sea Race but especially for the benefit of the sport of sailing which this incident has certainly affected detrimentally,” Kneen said.

“If you act now you will receive the respect of the entire sailing community and you will salvage the reputations of both your club and one of the world’s greatest offshore races.

“Failure to act will leave a cloud over the event which will undoubtedly threaten its future.”

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