Malta – The Rolex Middle Sea Race is once again proving to have magnetic appeal, with 58 yachts from 17 countries so far registered for the 2019 edition. Malta’s rumour mill reports a number of other boats with logistics in place, even if the entry form has not been submitted. With a cut-off date of 27 September 2019, prospective entries have plenty of time to complete the formalities. The 40th running of this 606nm offshore classic, which starts on Saturday, 19 October, looks well set to be marked by its traditional diverse and global fleet.
This year’s race will be marked by a number of recent launches making their debut at the race. Four entries to date will be launched in 2019, ahead of the Rolex Middle Sea Race. 12.7m (42-ft) Alemaro (GER) is to be skippered by Roman Puchtev. Designed by Ceccarelli Yacht Design, the Neo 400+ is a full carbon sandwich construction and a development of the Neo 400, an example of which won IRC 3 at the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race. 11.9m (39-ft) Blackfish (BEL) has been entered by Peter Luyckx and is competing in the double-handed division. Built by Bente Yachts, founded by Alexander Vrolijk – the son of Rolf Vrolijk and a naval architect in his own right – this is an ocean-going design taking inspiration from the IMOCA 60 and Class 40. The 10.34m (34-ft) Jeanne (FRA) is a JPK10.30 entered by Laurent Camprubi. Camprubi is an accomplished short-handed sailor and winner of the Rolex Giraglia in 2013. Finally, there is the 9.82m (32-ft) multihull Skymy (pronounced ‘skimmi’), the pre-preg carbon KM32fc catamaran currently in production in Brittany.
While there are always yachts making their debut, there are plenty more that come back more than once. With over a decade of experience on the scenic course, is David Latham’s Seawolf of Southampton (GBR) 11.55m (38-ft) Pronavia 38. “This will be our twelfth Rolex Middle Sea Race,” advises Latham. Latham’s crew reflects the polyglot nature of the fleet with individuals from the UK, Spain, Germany, Mauritius, Ireland and The Netherlands. Over the 11 races, Seawolf has placed well with plenty of podium finishes in class under IRC and ORC. Seventh overall in 2009 is a highlight, while retirement in 2017 (along with the majority of the fleet) was a low. Latham cites a number of reasons for returning so regularly: “The friendliness of the Maltese people and the RMYC in particular. Then there is the diversity of the racecourse. It is like a game of snakes and ladders, and there is always a chance to recover if you make a tactical error.” In terms of favourite moments, Latham is clear there is little to match the spectacular start in Grand Harbour, although the challenges of the Strait of Messina and the majesty of Stromboli come pretty close.
With somewhat less experience of the Rolex Middle Sea Race than Seawolf, the Australian entry Tilting at Windmills will be undertaking its second participation under the leadership of skipper John Alexander. Alexander says that the crew made up of Australian, Dutch, British and American sailors, is extremely capable and knowledgeable. They have a clear intention to improve on their 2018 debut performance: “We have raced together over a number of decades. Finishing second overall in the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is a highlight, but so too were competing at the 2007 Rolex Fastnet Race and the 2008 Gotland Runt. What brings us back is a determination to do better and to enjoy what is the most dramatic of ocean races.” Tilting at Windmills is owned by Sarah Gunnerson-Dempsey. The timber yacht, designed by Professor Peter Joubert, was built in 1994 by Norman Wright and Sons for Gunnersen-Dempsey’s late-father, Thorold (Thorry) Gunnersen, a stalwart of the Australian yachting scene. Launched in time for the 50th anniversary Hobart race and Tilting at Windmills later came through the 1998 race relatively unscathed, suffering only a broken navigation light.
Countries represented in the 2019 Rolex Middle Sea Race so far include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.