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There are three months to the start of the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race. Some 61 yachts have entered, with crews from Australia, the United States, Canada and most of Europe slated to participate. The fleet comprises the usual array of professionals, amateurs and adventurers. At the faster end, debutant Frank Slootman’s MOD70 Snowflake has been joined by Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi 70, on the Italian multihull’s fifth appearance.

As Afloat reported in June, Thomas Roche's Salona 45 Meridian from Kinsale Yacht Club is entered into the race that has seen a string of Irish boats compete in recent years. 

Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi 70Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi 70 Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Among the monohulls, the 30.5 metre Leopard 3 is currently the largest entry, making a welcome return after a five-year absence. Within the main body of IRC entries, the impressive two-time winning Maltese co-skipper combo, Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, are back hoping for a three-peat, with Satariano’s latest Artie.

Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard's Artie IIILee Satariano and Christian Ripard's Artie III Photo Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

The cut-off date for entry is officially Friday, 23 September 2022, but the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC), has retained the discretion to accept late entries up to Friday, 30 September. The race itself starts from Grand Harbour, Valletta, on Saturday, 22 October.

One entry to catch the eye is Maverick. The Infiniti 46R has campaigned around the 606 nautical mile course with great success on two previous occasions by Quentin Stewart, winning class both times and finishing third overall in 2016. This year Maverick has been chartered by Michael Firmin, who raced on the DSS foil-equipped flyer at the 2017 Fastnet and 2019 Sydney Hobart (third in class).

“Despite a longstanding love of the ocean and offshore racing, this will be my first Middle Sea Race,” says Firmin. “I have been very lucky to complete all the other major blue water events, and I hold this one in high regard. It has long been on the bucket list.”

As for why now, Firmin answers: “We have the race on the schedule for our new boat, so wanted to take the chance to gain experience and insights for the future.” When he learnt that Maverick was available for the race, he leapt at the chance to charter her: “Maverick is an awesome boat that I have had a long affinity with from the initial concept through to Quentin’s successful campaigning over many seasons. I know her pedigree very well.”

And, while it will be a debut race for Firmin, he has surrounded himself with an exceptional crew, many of whom have done the race before. “It’s a tough race with multiple points on the course where decisions need to be made, which combined with the variable conditions make it a thinking sailor’s race,” he explains. “The crew is a great mix of seasoned and successful professionals combined with high quality, experienced amateurs, most of whom I have known and sailed with over many years.” Among others, Firmin is joined by Stu Bannatyne, known as King of the Southern Ocean and a four-time winner of the Ocean Race; Steve Thomas, a two-time 29er world champion, David Gilmour and Gordon Kay, the founder of Infiniti yachts.
In contrast to Firmin, Chris Sherlock is no stranger to the Middle Sea Race, having first competed back in 1997 onboard Mike Slade’s IOR maxi, Longobarda. Sherlock has competed four times since as the skipper of Leopard of London in 2002, and Leopard 3 in 2009, 2010 and 2017.

“When we came in 1997 with the Longobarda, it was part of Mike Slade’s wish to help the Royal Malta Yacht Club with the reinvigoration of the race,” explains Sherlock. “He was also keen to visit Malta again.” The 24.2m Longobarda was third to finish on the water behind the newer Sagamore and Alexia B. The 29.49m Leopard of London achieved the same result in 2003, losing out to Alfa Romeo and Nokia Enigma.

“The Middle Sea Race is one of the greatest offshore races in the world,” says Sherlock. “First, it’s a circle and that is unusual. It has the most amazing scenery too. Most importantly, though, I think it is a fair race. You will get a bit of everything and because it is a circle every boat should get the conditions they perform best in at some point. It is not just a straight line, so it is never ever boring.”

In 2009, Slade and Sherlock brought the 30.5m Leopard 3 to the course and in winds similar to 2007, set a blistering pace finishing just over 30 minutes outside the then record time. Returning in 2010, and racing in less favourable breeze, Leopard 3 was outgunned by Esimit Europa 2 in the battle for line honours. In 2017, Leopard 3 was under charter with Sherlock as skipper and finished second on the water behind Rambler in another ‘slow’ year.

Fast conditions in the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea raceFast conditions in the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea race

For 2022, Leopard is under new ownership, as Sherlock explains: “We have a new owner who is currently building his familiarity with the boat. He is young, likes to helm, and is keen to go offshore. We did the RORC Caribbean 600 as a taster and that went well. The Middle Sea Race is the next challenge.”

“It is one of my favourite races,” concludes Sherlock. “This year we have got a great crew, with a lot of Ocean Race experience, but also experience on Leopard: Mitch Booth, Ian Budgen, Jan Dekker, Juanpa Marcos, and Will Best as navigator. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Looking at the rest of the 61-boat fleet, one-third of the entries to date took part in last year’s Middle Sea Race reflecting well on the course’s notable scenic attractions and tactical challenges. Frederic Puzin’s Daguet-Corum 3 had the best result finishing first in IRC Class 2 and third overall, while Artie III was second in IRC Class 3 and seventh overall. Chenapan 4, Gilles Caminade’s Ker 40 finished in the top twenty overall, as did fellow French entry Ludovic Gerard’s Solenn for Pure Ocean (second in the Double-Handed Division).

Francois Bopp’s Chocolate 3Francois Bopp’s Chocolate 3 Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Francois Bopp’s Chocolate 3 (Switzerland) and Stella Maris (Austria) also put in creditable performances to finish in the top half of the 105-boat IRC fleet. Henry de Bokay and the Elliott 52 Rafale (Germany), the J/109 Jubilee of Gerald Boess and Jonathan Bordas, and the Swan 65 King’s Legend are back again, despite the disappointment of not completing the race in 2021 and again demonstrating the compelling appeal of the race.

The eventual fleet count last year was 114, with the highest ever gathering being 130 achieved in 2018, the 50th anniversary of the first Middle Sea Race in 1968. The RMYC is always looking to exceed that target, and who is to say that this will not be the year.

The 43rd edition of the Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 22 October 2022.

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Some 49 yachts from 21 countries – including Ireland – have entered the Mediterranean’s premier 606-mile classic to date.

Thomas Roche's Salona 45 Meridian from Kinsale Yacht Club is entered into the race that has seen a string of Irish boats compete in recent years. 

With little more than four months to go to the start of the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race on Saturday, 22 October, organisers report 'the fleet is growing daily'.

Comprising monohulls and multihulls, fully-crewed and double-handed, and ranging in size from the 28 metres Orsa Maggiore (Italy) down to the 9.98m Azuree 33 Nuestro (Italy), the entrants represent the broad spectrum of offshore sailing. At the same stage last year, a similar number had entered with the final fleet count reaching 114. The Royal Malta Yacht Club, the organiser since the first race in 1968, is taking the current count as a positive indicator of another sizeable participation in its flagship race.

The race to be first to finish in the multihull fleet is shaping up nicely with 24m Ultim’ Emotion 2 entered by Cosimo Malesci (Italy) facing a head-to-head with Frank Slootman’s Dutch 21.2m MOD70 Snowflake (formerly Beau Geste and before that Phaedo3, which took line honours and set a multihull race record in 2015). Ultim’ Emotion has participated twice previously with a best result of third on the water in 2020. Despite bettering the 2007 course record last year, she was beaten to the line by a triumvirate of MOD70s, with Argo going on to set an outright race (and course) record of 32 hours 23 minutes and 38 seconds in the ‘once in a lifetime conditions’.

While Orsa Maggiore is unlikely to trouble the multihull battle to be first home or the monohull race record of 38hrs 49mins and 33 sec, also set in 2021, the Italian maxi will be looking to be among the first monohulls to finish. The 24.89m, Swan 82 Kallima (Switzerland) is another that will have ambitions to be at head of the monohull contingent and take the opportunity to gain some valuable points in the final event of the 2022 Swan Maxi Series. Two other maxis have registered so far: Swan 65 Kings Legend (United Kingdom) in her third attempt to complete the course, and the debutant Italian Clipper 68 Grinta.

Two-time winner Lee Satariano is back with co-skipper Cristian Ripard on the HH42 Artie IIITwo-time winner Lee Satariano is back with co-skipper Cristian Ripard on the HH42 Artie III

The primary contest is, of course, for overall victory under IRC, and with it the iconic Middle Sea Race trophy. A glance through the entry list suggests the usual fierce competition for this sought-after prize. Two-time winner Lee Satariano is back with co-skipper Cristian Ripard on the HH42 Artie III. After two indifferent performances 2019 and 2020, as the team got to grips with their thoroughbred steed, the Maltese crew finished second in 2021 in IRC 3, 10 minutes behind the winner (another HH42) and in seventh place overall. Another Maltese entry showing some form in recent years has been Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44P, Ton Ton Laferla. Third overall in 2020 and winner of IRC 5, Gambin finished just off the IRC 4 podium last time out.

Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3 – Corum (France)Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3 – Corum (France)

Other names to look out for include Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3 – Corum (France), third overall in 2021 and winner of IRC 2. Stefan Jentzsch’s new water-ballasted IRC56 designed by Botin Partners and built at King Marine looks to be fine prospect too. Purpose-built for offshore racing, the IRC 56 is a step up in power from the Carkeek 47 that Jentsch raced in 2019, winning IRC 2. Also hoping to be in the mix is another German crew, Carl-Peter Forster’s Red Bandit (which raced last year as Freccia Rossa). 2022 will be Forster’s fourth Middle Sea Race, the first back in 1979 on board Volker Andreae’s Inschallah. “I bought Freccia Rossa after last year‘s race and we rechristened it Red Bandit", explains Forster. “I have gifted the boat to a foundation (ForStar Offshore Racing) which I set up and financed with the aim to bring younger talented sailors to offshore racing."

The 43rd Middle Sea Race will be the team’s fifth major event together. "The crew consists of young dinghy sailors with primarily European and World Championship experience, as well as one with an Olympic background,” advises Forster. “They are all younger than 35, most of them younger than 30.” As to why he is returning for another tilt at the course, Forster explains: “I love long distance offshore racing as it puts you in a different state of mind. The Middle Sea Race is such a unique race with its challenging weather - either too little or too much wind - and the fabulous course around Sicily and the islands.”

The Double-Handed Class is another area of the fleet building nicely, with some real talent. So far, six entries have made the commitment. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States are represented. Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas, crewing Jubilee, the French J/109, have some form having won the John Illingworth Trophy for first in the Double-Handed Class on corrected time under IRC in 2020 despite the disappointment of failing to finish last year.

Another French yacht with the potential to push for the podium is Ludovic Gérard’s Solenn for Pure Ocean. The JPK10.80 has appeared three times previously, twice racing fully crewed. In, 2018, Solenn finished second in IRC 6, following up this impressive debut by winning IRC 6 in 2019 by four seconds on corrected time. In 2021, Solenn for Pure Ocean finished second in the Double-Handed Class and fifth in the 27 boat IRC 6. After withdrawing just ahead of the 2021 race, the last appearance for Björn Ambos and the Solaris 44 Mandalay (Germany) was 2018, when they finished third in the class. Marco Paolucci and the Italian Comet 45 Libertine have also appeared on the podium in past races. German sailor Chris Opielok will be embarking on his third participation following two relatively successful fully-crewed forays in 2011 with his Corby 36 Rockall III and in 2015 with another Corby (38) Rockall IV. On his debut, Opielok finished second in IRC 4 and overall, beaten by only 30 minutes by local heroes Artie. On his second appearance, Opielok won IRC 4, beating two-time winners, Elusive II in the process. Early season success winning the 140nm Ruta de La Sal (Barcelona – to Ibiza) suggests Opielok’s latest Rockall, a JPK 1030, is a force to be reckoned with.

One of the most anticipated entries is Jonathan McKee and Red Ruby the SunFast 3300 from the United States. McKee is a two-time Olympic medallist in the Flying Dutchman (gold, 1984) and the 49er (bronze, 2000). He brings experience from several America’s Cup campaigns and 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race with Il Mostro. This will be McKee’s first time at this event. “I have wanted to compete in the Middle Sea Race for a long time. It is one of the few classic ocean races that I have never sailed,” explains McKee. “The course is really beautiful and very interesting tactically. There is usually a huge variety of conditions, from calms to gales. The event always draws a top field, and I am really excited.”

As for why he is entered in the double-handed class, McKee is clear: “I love racing double handed because it is a beautiful challenge. Racing with only two requires each sailor to really have a complete skill set. You have to steer, trim, navigate, get the sails up and down, all with only two sailors. It is really fun, really direct, and it makes you a more complete sailor. We are looking forward to a very competitive race.” McKee’s co-skipper is a young sailor from the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Alyohsa Strum-Palerm with whom he is participating in the (fully-crewed) R2AK (750nm race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska).

The 43rd edition will start on Saturday, 22 October 2022.

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With little more than four months to go to the start of the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race on Saturday, 22 October, the fleet is growing daily. Some 49 yachts from 21 countries have entered the Mediterranean’s premier 606-mile classic to date. Comprising monohulls and multihulls, fully-crewed and double-handed, and ranging in size from the 28 metre Orsa Maggiore (Italy) down to the 9.98m Azuree 33 Nuestro (Italy), the entrants represent the broad spectrum of offshore sailing. At the same stage last year, a similar number had entered with the final fleet count reaching 114. The Royal Malta Yacht Club, the organiser since the first race in 1968, is taking the current count as a positive indicator of another sizeable participation in its flagship race.

The race to be first to finish in the multihull fleet is shaping up nicely with 24m Ultim’ Emotion 2 entered by Cosimo Malesci (Italy) facing a head-to-head with Frank Slootman’s Dutch 21.2m MOD70 Snowflake (formerly Beau Geste and before that Phaedo3, which took line honours and set a multihull race record in 2015). Ultim’ Emotion has participated twice previously with a best result of third on the water in 2020. Despite bettering the 2007 course record last year, she was beaten to the line by a triumvirate of MOD70s, with Argo going on to set an outright race (and course) record of 32 hours 23 minutes and 38 seconds in the ‘once in a lifetime conditions’.

Lee Satariano's Artie III from Malta passing Stromboli in class 3 of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race: Photo: Kurt ArrigoLee Satariano's Artie III from Malta passing Stromboli in class 3 of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race: Photo: Kurt Arrigo

While Orsa Maggiore is unlikely to trouble the multihull battle to be first home or the monohull race record of 38hrs 49mins and 33 sec, also set in 2021, the Italian maxi will be looking to be among the first monohulls to finish. The 24.89m, Swan 82 Kallima (Switzerland) is another that will have ambitions to be at head of the monohull contingent and take the opportunity to gain some valuable points in the final event of the 2022 Swan Maxi Series. Two other maxis have registered so far: Swan 65 Kings Legend (United Kingdom) in her third attempt to complete the course, and the debutant Italian Clipper 68 Grinta.

The primary contest is, of course, for overall victory under IRC, and with it the iconic Middle Sea Race trophy. A glance through the entry list suggests the usual fierce competition for this sought-after prize. Two-time winner Lee Satariano is back with co-skipper Cristian Ripard on the HH42 Artie III. After two indifferent performances 2019 and 2020, as the team got to grips with their thoroughbred steed, the Maltese crew finished second in 2021 in IRC 3, 10 minutes behind the winner (another HH42) and in seventh place overall. Another Maltese entry showing some form in recent years has been Jonathan Gambin’s Dufour 44P, Ton Ton Laferla. Third overall in 2020 and winner of IRC 5, Gambin finished just off the IRC 4 podium last time out.

Other names to look out for include Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3 – Corum (France), third overall in 2021 and winner of IRC 2. Stefan Jentzsch’s new water-ballasted IRC56 designed by Botin Partners and built at King Marine looks to be fine prospect too. Purpose-built for offshore racing, the IRC 56 is a step up in power from the Carkeek 47 that Jentsch raced in 2019, winning IRC 2. Also hoping to be in the mix is another German crew, Carl-Peter Forster’s Red Bandit (which raced last year as Freccia Rossa). 2022 will be Forster’s fourth Middle Sea Race, the first back in 1979 on board Volker Andreae’s Inschallah. “I bought Freccia Rossa after last year‘s race and we rechristened it Red Bandit", explains Forster. “I have gifted the boat to a foundation (ForStar Offshore Racing) which I set up and financed with the aim to bring younger talented sailors to offshore racing."

The Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet passing FavignanaThe Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet passing Favignana Photo: Kurt Arrigo

The 43rd Middle Sea Race will be the team’s fifth major event together. "The crew consists of young dinghy sailors with primarily European and World Championship experience, as well as one with an Olympic background,” advises Forster. “They are all younger than 35, most of them younger than 30.” As to why he is returning for another tilt at the course, Forster explains: “I love long distance offshore racing as it puts you in a different state of mind. The  Middle Sea Race is such a unique race with its challenging weather - either too little or too much wind - and the fabulous course around Sicily and the islands.”

The Double-Handed Class is another area of the fleet building nicely, with some real talent. So far, six entries have made the commitment. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States are represented. Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas, crewing Jubilee, the French J/109, have some form having won the John Illingworth Trophy for first in the Double-Handed Class on corrected time under IRC in 2020 despite the disappointment of failing to finish last year.

Another French yacht with the potential to push for the podium is Ludovic Gérard’s Solenn for Pure Ocean. The JPK10.80 has appeared three times previously, twice racing fully crewed. In, 2018, Solenn finished second in IRC 6, following up this impressive debut by winning IRC 6 in 2019 by four seconds on corrected time. In 2021, Solenn for Pure Ocean finished second in the Double-Handed Class and fifth in the 27 boat IRC 6. After withdrawing just ahead of the 2021 race, the last appearance for Björn Ambos and the Solaris 44 Mandalay (Germany) was 2018, when they finished third in the class. Marco Paolucci and the Italian Comet 45 Libertine have also appeared on the podium in past races. German sailor Chris Opielok will be embarking on his third participation following two relatively successful fully-crewed forays in 2011 with his Corby 36 Rockall III and in 2015 with another Corby (38) Rockall IV. On his debut, Opielok finished second in IRC 4 and overall, beaten by only 30 minutes by local heroes Artie. On his second appearance, Opielok won IRC 4, beating two-time winners, Elusive II in the process. Early season success winning the 140nm Ruta de La Sal (Barcelona – to Ibiza) suggests Opielok’s latest Rockall, a JPK 1030, is a force to be reckoned with.
One of the most anticipated entries is Jonathan McKee and Red Ruby the SunFast 3300 from the United States. McKee is a two-time Olympic medallist in the Flying Dutchman (gold, 1984) and the 49er (bronze, 2000). He brings experience from several America’s Cup campaigns and 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race with Il Mostro. This will be McKee’s first time at this event. “I have wanted to compete in the Middle Sea Race for a long time. It is one of the few classic ocean races that I have never sailed,” explains McKee. “The course is really beautiful and very interesting tactically. There is usually a huge variety of conditions, from calms to gales. The event always draws a top field, and I am really excited.”

As for why he is entered in the double-handed class, McKee is clear: “I love racing double-handed because it is a beautiful challenge. Racing with only two requires each sailor to really have a complete skill set. You have to steer, trim, navigate, get the sails up and down, all with only two sailors. It is really fun, really direct, and it makes you a more complete sailor. We are looking forward to a very competitive race.” McKee’s co-skipper is a young sailor from the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Alyohsa Strum-Palerm with whom he is participating in the (fully-crewed) R2AK (750nm race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska).

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The Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) has confirmed that the Notice of Race for the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is now available (downloadable below) and yachts may already register their participation.

Last year’s race attracted 114 yachts, a remarkable achievement given the ongoing backdrop of a global pandemic. This year looks no less difficult with the situation in the Ukraine creating further uncertainty, but the RMYC is hopeful another impressive fleet will gather. The 2022 race is scheduled to start on Saturday, 22 October 2022.

In issuing this release, the RMYC acknowledges the unfortunate controversy surrounding the implementation of the alternative finish line for safety reasons, and the impact on the overall results of the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race. Following an internal review, the RMYC has taken and continues to take steps to ensure the rules and regulations surrounding the 43rd race are fit for purpose. In parallel with the internal review, the club has sought feedback from competitors and guidance from the RMYC’s longstanding race partners, including the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC).

The Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet negotiate the passage close to Strombolicchio lighthouseThe Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet negotiate the passage close to Strombolicchio lighthouse

As a result of these actions, the Race Organisation has been strengthened, with the most significant change comprising the appointment of Chris Stone, the RORC’s Racing Manager, as Race Director. A proven professional sailing administrator, he has 20 years of experience managing events such as the Rolex Fastnet Race, RORC Caribbean 600, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and Volvo Ocean Race and Clipper Round the World stopovers. “The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a major event in the international sailing calendar. It attracts a diverse fleet from around the world which expects and deserves the very best in race management,” said Stone. “The primary objective is supporting the RMYC and its people in making race management robust and keeping the reputation and standing of this great race in good stead.”

A second appointment of note is Mufti Kling’s promotion to Chairman of the International Jury. Kling’s offshore jury experience is considerable and notably includes the Rolex Fastnet Race. Along with Stone, Kling has been party to a rigorous review and re-drafting of all race documentation to make sure issues are identified and corrected. The overall approach has been progressive and modern. For example, the alternative finish line provision will remain in the Sailing Instructions for safety reasons, but close attention will also be paid to the course length and potential impact on results.

David Cremona, Commodore of the RMYC, is confident that the way the club has faced up to circumstances of 2021 will lead to an improved experience for all competitors: “The 42nd edition should have gone down in history as one of the most spectacular races ever. We had an incredible weather system matched with an incredible fleet. The last thing it should be remembered for is the frustration provoked. We have learnt from it and have redoubled our efforts to ensure all competing crews finish the 2022 race wanting to come back.”

Notice of Race

Last year’s fleet ranged in size from 30 feet (9 plus metres) to 140 ft (42.56m) and included some of most powerful monohulls and multihulls competing on the international racing circuit. Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo was first home. The American trimaran took advantage of a once in a lifetime weather window to post a finish time that lowered the outright race record by an impressive 14.5 hours, completing the race in 33 hours, 29 minutes and 28 seconds.

The 43rd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 22 October 2022.

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Tom Kneen, Skipper of Sunrise says he is in contact with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, World Sailing and the RYA to gain their support in overturning the "unfair and ill-conceived decision" by Middle Sea Race organisers last month to score the race at Comino, a decision that cost Kneen the overall win.

The GBR skipper says there has been a lot of rumour and hearsay about what happened in Malta. He wants to put the record straight and is arguing for his result to be reinstated. He has issued a statement on the matter which we reproduce in full here

Statement from Tom Kneen, Skipper of Sunrise

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. 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.

Thomas Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise Thomas Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise

The race was also unforgettable for the wrong reasons and the chain of events that unfolded after we finished the race were extremely upsetting. 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. Given the astonishing level of support we have received from the wider sailing community and the potential impact that events in Malta could have on a sport with which I am infatuated, I feel that it is important to make a formal statement on behalf of the Sunrise team. 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. 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. 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.

The Story So Far...

At 13:23:12 local time on 26th October 2021 Sunrise crossed the finish line of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in Marsamxett Harbour, Malta, beating the IRC corrected time set by Comanche, a 100ft Maxi by 16 minutes. Following our finish, so began a now familiar period of tension to see if some of the smaller boats still racing could beat our corrected time under IRC. We were especially worried about Foggy Dew and Jangada, which with the right conditions could have finished with quicker corrected times. But it became increasingly evident that our time could not be beaten. On the evening of 26th October we discussed with a member of the race committee when we would be given the overall winner’s flag and who from our crew would accept our winners trophy at the prize-giving. At this point we could not be beaten on corrected time we were unquestionably the overall winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Then at 1600 on 27th October 2021, nearly 27 hours after Sunrise had finished a notice was issued to all competitors that the race committee had decided to use an alternative finish line. This caused us no concern as we would always expect the race committee to act in the interests of safety. However the notice also informed us that the race would now be measured over the 593 miles to Comino rather than the full 606 miles to Marsamxett Harbour. The decision to use the alternative finish line must have been made long before this announcement was made to competitors because at 1319 on 27th October I received a text message from Georges Bonello DuPuis, a RMYC committee member saying “Afternoon Thomas. Nothing to worry about, but we’re just recalculating the results using the alternative finish line”. But then when the new results were later published six of the boats in the top 10 positions had changed. Most significantly and unbelievably Sunrise was now ranked as 2nd overall rather than 1st overall. Georges and other members of the race committee tried to reassure us and said on several occasions to follow the process and they would make it right.”

We believe that this will be the first time in any major offshore sailing event where actions of the Race Committee have had such a monumental impact on the results, especially when applied retrospectively after 75% of the fleet had finished. We appreciate that the sailing instructions for this race do include a description of how this alternative finish may be used in the case of severe weather preventing boats from entering Marsamxett Harbour. However, never in yacht racing is a course shortened after competitors have already finished, certainly not more than a day later. And shortening the course of an offshore race is an odd practice in any case – surely it should be up to competitors who feel they are unable to complete the course either to retire or to wait until conditions abate?

Nowhere in the Rolex Middle Sea Race SIs does it say that should the alternative finish be used that the race would be scored over a shortened course, nor does it mention at what point it can be implemented – sure not after any or indeed the majority of the fleet has finished? It should be noted that over the period the RMSR race committee changed the finish line, Marsamxett Harbour was never officially closed to marine traffic. Indeed after the finish line was changed to the Comino Channel, all but one boat still successfully sailed into Marsamxett Harbour.

It is impossible to criticise the RC committee for making a decision in the interest of the safety of their competitors. However the committee did make a number of other decisions which had a devastating impact on the race.

The Technical Bit...
The rules under which our sport is governed are very clear on how sailing instructions should be written and how they are to be used in parallel with the racing rules of sailing (RRS). RRS 86 allows changes to the rule governing shortening a race - RRS 32. However Appendix J, RRS J2 states that any such change SHALL (translates as MUST) be included in the race documentation. In other words, the sailing instructions can amend the rules, but this must be done very specifically.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race Committee documentation DID NOT change RRS 32 and Sunrise firmly believe that it was therefore still in force. This means that if the race organisers wanted to use the shorter course then they could, provided they shortened it before the first boat finished.

Whilst Sunrise understands and appreciates that the race committee acted in the interest of the safety of the smaller boats, we believe that the actions taken breached the RRS. Unfortunately it seems the Race Committee found themselves between a rock and a hard place with no way for them to act in the interests of safety while also remaining compliant with the RRS.

When Sunrise became aware of the notice from the race organisers they approached the Race Officers who were surprised that the change in course had affected the results. They suggested that Sunrise filed a request for redress and that the appointed international jury would resolve the issue. The race organisers had already reported to the media by this point that Sunrise was winning the IRC overall race. These posts have now been removed from their website and social media channels.

In a bizarre turn of events that has astounded the yachting community and media around the world, the international jury ruled in ours, and several other requests for redress, that the race committee had used an alternative finishing line, which is not in conflict with, and is independent of, RRS 32”.

Shortly after the decision to this hearing was published, Sunrise racing team was flooded with messages from the yachting community, including umpires and judges at the very top of our sport and rules experts from national governing bodies. They urged Sunrise to point out that if this was an “alternative finish line” (a term used nowhere in the rules for our sport) then why was the final mark of the course, a fairway marker at the entrance of the harbour, omitted from the course? If this is the case then surely nobody sailed the correct course, as they would still have had to round that final mark and then sail on to the alternative finish. Most people agreed that this was clearly not the intention of the notice and the international jury had made a mistake. To highlight this, Sunrise lodged another request for redress on the premise that she had not been able to sail the correct race course and a separate protest against the new winner for the same reason. Tom Cheney, the navigator from Sunrise spoke to Mitch Booth, skipper of Comanche, on the phone to make it clear that Sunrise was not trying to imply any wrongdoing by Comanche.

"At the prizegiving, the Sunrise crew received a three-minute standing ovation which was overwhelming" 

In a further surprising decision from the Jury. They concluded that the race committee did shorten the course and used the term “new, shorter course” twice (see Decision 6, Conclusion 3), however they continued to deny our request for redress.

Despite bringing this to the attention of the international jury, chaired by international judge and former RYA Racing Manager, Gordon Stredwick, two requests to re-open the original request for redress were denied. They declared that Sunrise did not provide evidence of significant error by the protest committee. The other members of the international jury were David Pelling (CAN), Jim Capron (USA), Mufti Kling (GER) and Zoran Grubisa (CRO).

RMYC Principal Race Officer, Peter Demech, then approached the Jury with a suggestion on how to restore the scores for the 69 boats that completed the full course and grant redress to the 29 boats that were finished at Camino. The jury did not act on this request.

What Happened Next...

Soon after our second request to reopen our request to redress was denied by the international jury, the RMYC announced Comanche as the overall winner on IRC over the shortened 593-mile course. Comanche and Argo were also awarded race records over the 606-mile course. The outcry from the international sailing community to this decision, given that the race course had been shortened in our case but apparently not in theirs, was very public. In fact the support for Sunrise has been second to none. At the RMSR prizegiving, the Sunrise crew received a three-minute standing ovation from the competitors which was overwhelming.

In response to the reaction by the wider sailing community RMYC published a statement on 2nd November 2022 stating:

"The RMYC is sympathetic to those competitors and followers of race that feel aggrieved by the eventual outcome. It recognises that, in this instance, in writing a sailing instruction related to safety it inadvertently, but seriously, impacted the race results. The RMYC will take action to make sure that a similar situation does not arise again. It will do its utmost to ensure that the rules and regulations surrounding future editions of the race are fit for purpose. In this regard, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has already sought guidance from appropriate authorities within the sport.”

This is encouraging for future races but in my opinion, does not go nearly far enough to correct the injustice that I feel we have suffered.

Putting Things Right...

We will never criticise a race committee for making a decision in the interests of safety. However, doing the right thing does not mean the committee did not act improperly. The consequence of using the alternative finish line was to create a shorter course and have a detrimental impact on the results of several boats through entirely no fault of their own.

Due to the protest committee being an international jury, there is no process within the governance of our sport to appeal this decision. However, a protest committee has the right to reopen a hearing at any time and we are determined not to give up on getting what we feel is the right result. We are in contact with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, World Sailing and the RYA to gain their support in overturning this unfair and ill-conceived decision to score the race at Comino. Our proposal is simply that the results for the 69 boats that finished the race in Marsamxett Harbour are reinstated and that the 19 boats which finished the race in the Comino Channel are given redress for the last 13 miles of the course. We believe this is the fairest way to score the race in the circumstances.

We, therefore, implore the RMYC to appoint an arbitration board of experts to investigate whether the rules of our sport have been correctly applied in this instance. This will avoid the need to lodge this case with CAS and start to repair the reputational damage suffered by all parties involved. Should the arbitration board conclude that the international jury and race committee ruled correctly, then so be it. However, should this group determine that our proposal is a more reasonable resolution, or indeed propose a different solution, the race committee could take control of their race and put things right.

Finally, we hope that the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club will act to ensure that future editions of this great race will be run fairly and to prevent massively damaging incidents like this from happening again. We would very much like to return in 2022. 

Crew
The Sunrise Racing Team is a group of friends and family that are very good, predominantly amateur, sailors. The crew for the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race was:

  • Tom Kneen
  • Ed Bell
  • Theo Bell
  • Dave Swete
  • Tom Cheney
  • Tor Tomlinson
  • Mark Spearman
  • Angus Gray-Stephens
  • Calum Healey
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Would Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise have still won the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 if it had been sailed on the old course, with Plymouth rather than Cherbourg as the finish? Imponderable it may be, but it's a question of renewed interest as the row rumbles on about the in-race shortening of the recent Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021.

This course shortening was done in view of a developing northeasterly storm which soon made the harbour-mouth finish dangerously impossible for smaller boats still at sea. But as everyone is now well aware, it meant that Sunrise – already finished and in port along with two-thirds of the fleet – had to make do with second overall, after looking for a while as though she was about to achieve the magnificent double of Fastnet and Middle Sea overall victories in one season, achieved with such style that it would all have been done and dusted within the space of three months.

But the unhappy outcome instead caused an almighty row, and some of us sought shelter in trying to analyse it from a different point of view. The affable but very keen and obviously extremely effective Tom Kneen is a loyal member of the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth, and he happily admitted that in the RORC members' poll about the change to the Fastnet course, he had voted in favour of the traditional finish in Plymouth rather than race the extra 90 miles to a new big-scale welcome in Cherbourg.

The traditional Fastnet finish at Plymouth and the 2021 version with the finish at Cherbourg. It's possible that the extra 90 miles to Cherbourg gave the Plymouth-base Sunrise her overall win.The traditional Fastnet finish at Plymouth and the 2021 version with the finish at Cherbourg. It's possible that the extra 90 miles to Cherbourg gave the Plymouth-base Sunrise her overall win.

Ironically, it may well be that the extra 90 miles "imposition" gave Sunrise her clearcut win. She had been reasonably well-placed but not winning at earlier stages, thus it was the lengthened final stage after the Bishop Rock and up the middle of the English Channel in a private breeze – a feat repeated with almost equal success by Ronan O Siochru's Desert Star from Dun Laoghaire – which saw Sunrise get so clearly into the Glitter Zone.

But having been given a portal to overall success by the long-planned extension of the Fastnet Race, Sunrise then found the door to a Middle Sea repeat slammed shut in her face by the sudden imposition of a course shortening. Some may raise their eyes to heaven and say: "The Lord Giveth, the Lord Taketh Away". But the more grounded have raised – not for the first time – the question of whether well-meaning amateurs should have ultimate control of the running of any major event in which the combined long-term expense of involvement by a huge fleet – whether amateur or professional – is a figure running into tens and probably hundreds of millions of euro.

The crew of Sunrise celebrating what looked like becoming a remarkable double at their finish of the Middle Sea Race 2021 in Malta. Photo: North SailsThe crew of Sunrise celebrating what looked like becoming a remarkable double at their finish of the Middle Sea Race 2021 in Malta. Photo: North Sails

Instinctively, many of us will incline to the support of the enthusiastic amateurs. But the harsher judges will quote Damon Runyon who, on enquiring about the activities of one of his Manhattan acquaintances, was told that: "He is doing the best he can", to which Runyon responded that he found this to be a very over-crowded profession.

VOLUNTARY ADMINISTRATORS

The voluntary race administrators in the Royal Malta Yacht Club came in for huge flak and this week issued what is in effect a mea culpa and a promise to do better in future. But it's going to rumble on like the Palme volcano for some time yet, and just yesterday Peter Ryan, the Chairman of ISORA, suggested they should now declare two sets of results as though they'd been running two races of different lengths in parallel all along, which if nothing else would lead to dancing in the streets in the Silversmiths' Quarter in Valetta.

And there have been suggestions that the RORC "should consider its position in relation to the Middle Sea Race", which is polite-speak for saying that the RORC should at least think about withdrawing its active support from what is essentially the Royal Malta YC's premier event. But nothing happens in a vacuum, and people making this extreme proposal are failing to take note that there's a turf war (ridiculous to have a turf war at sea, but there you are) going on between the ORC and the IRC measurement systems.

One of the starts from the harbour in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021. The wind was already from the northeast, and a severe storm – which caused fatalities in nearby Sicily – made the harbour entrance extremely dangerous by the time the smaller boats were finishing.One of the starts from the harbour in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2021. The wind was already from the northeast, and a severe storm – which caused fatalities in nearby Sicily – made the harbour entrance extremely dangerous by the time the smaller boats were finishing.

The IRC is very much identified with the RORC, while the ORC has its own setup. And even as quiet territorial expansions are taking place on various fronts with new events emanating from both camps - the interesting Finnish-connected RORC race in the Baltic is one example – a proposed marriage between the World Championships of both systems appears to have resulted in the IRC being left stranded at the altar without a word of explanation.

In this febrile atmosphere, were the RORC to dump on the Royal Malta, it's always possible that the ORC's organisation might step into the breach, for the Middle Sea Race now has a momentum and vitality of its own, and it will happen each year regardless of politicking ashore.

A public spat online was inevitable, and in time we'll be persuaded that it has cleared the air, for that's the way these things happen even if various waters are temporarily muddied. But in global sailing, however big the row, it will only have been in the ha'penny place by comparison with the controversies which are now in the DNA of the America's Cup, which has been a joy and delight for m'learned friends ever since the original hand-written Deed of Gift – inkily scratched on parchment in 1857 – went on to become a Protocol in 1882 which was then revised in 1887.

PROTOCOL FATIGUE

In Ireland, we may well be suffering from Protocol Fatigue these days, but regardless of our feelings, the long-awaited Protocol for the next staging of the America's Cup – AC37 – will be revealed on Wednesday, November 17th by defenders Team New Zealand and the Challenger of Record, Royal Yacht Squadron Racing Ltd.

Doubtless, there'll be many bumps in the road between now and then, just as there have been bumps to the point of chasms in getting to where they are now. It's an uneven progress, with the professional/amateur divide still involved to such an extent that when the New York Yacht Club recently announced that they were "passing" on direct club participation this time around, in a subsequent statement the New Zealanders described the NYYC Commodore as a "Corinthian".

The New York Yacht Club's summer base of Harbour Court, Rhode Island. The Kiwi's description of the Commodore as "Corinthian" did not quite seem to have the usual complimentary intent.The New York Yacht Club's summer base of Harbour Court, Rhode Island. The Kiwi's description of the Commodore as "Corinthian" did not quite seem to have the usual complimentary intent.

This is normally a term of approval, but there was a distinct feeling that approval was not the intention in this case. In addition to the increasingly complex legalities, it made things personal, and that is not a good place to be in a situation like this.

But then this "situation" has become a world of its own. So much so, in fact, that the America's Cup legalities have provided the makings of its own department in the University of Auckland, and it has already graduated its own PhD in the shape of Dr Hamish Ross, who published his latest findings this week. You've probably read it already, but even so, it's a good browse for a November Saturday morning:

LEGAL OPINION

In eleven days' time, the Protocol for the 37th America's Cup is due to be revealed, eight months after Royal Yacht Squadron Racing Limited filed a notice challenge under the Deed of Gift.

What can we expect and what is likely to be left unanswered?

Sources close to the Defender indicate that the all-important venue selection is yet to be made and may not be announced until as late as March 2022. This will not be welcome news to the Challenger of Record, who will be getting impatient. It has a right to fall back onto the Deed default match terms if relations become strained, which will likely result in a commercial black hole.

Given the selected venue may impact the yacht to be raced, publication of the Class Rule may be similarly delayed, although it was at least agreed last March, that it would be in the AC75 class used in Auckland. There are always refinements to be made. If there is a meaningful push towards costs savings, as has been announced, look for more supplied or common design elements in the same way as the foil systems were supplied for AC36 in Auckland.

Unfortunately, the Deed requirement that the competing yachts must be "constructed in the country" of the respective competing yacht clubs puts the brakes on what could be achieved. In the past, this requirement has sometimes been interpreted rather liberally focusing on the hull, but many would agree that the Deed probably only requires an assembly of components, which can be sourced from anywhere, to create a yacht.
The "construction in-country" term of the Deed has never been fully tested in a court or jury, although the issue was on the table at the end of the 2010 match. Expect sailing restrictions and launch dates to remain to limit the advantages of well-funded competitors.

Dr Hamish Ross took his PhD at Auckland University in America's Cup law.Dr Hamish Ross took his PhD at Auckland University in America's Cup law.

Commercial rights will likely largely remain as they have been since Valencia 2007. Will there be a profit-sharing mechanism between competitors as in 2007 and 2013, if there is a financial surplus? It would seem a major venue financial windfall would be unlikely in the current economic climate.

Timing of the match, and the preceding challenger series may be difficult to fix without a venue having been decided. Don't expect to see firm dates yet. The Deed has hemisphere restrictions limiting the times when a match can be held in each hemisphere. There are seasonal weather and oceanographic factors to be considered at any venue.

Additionally, there is the timing of other events to consider. Few would want to take on a head-on commercial and media clash with the Olympics or the Football World Cup, which traditionally sucks out a lot of sports fan eyeballs and commercial sponsorship from the sports sponsorship market.

A profitable venture – the America's Cup 2007 at Valencia. Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson was on the management team, and the event showed a profit.A profitable venture – the America's Cup 2007 at Valencia. Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson was on the management team, and the event showed a profit.

What other events will be held before the start of the challenger series? Expect a warmup regatta or two. There may be a concessionary warm-up regatta in Auckland on the table to try to calm local waters. But these regattas all cost money, a loss of valuable time and never raise enough money for them to be self-funding when an effort is said to be made to reduce costs.

More chance they will be held in the selected venue than holding a global circuit like Sail GP. A defender will always want an opportunity to check-in against the challengers before the match to try and limit any surprises. Expect Sail GP to actively look into holding an event or two in Auckland during the America's Cup match, if Auckland is not the selected venue!

What will prospective challengers be looking for? When will they see the Class Rule? How long will they have to design, build and test a yacht? How much of a design head start have the Defender and the Challenger of Record given themselves? What will it cost them to compete? Can they hire the design, boatbuilding and sailing talent needed?

This will put the nationality rule into sharp focus– can they get approvals from the Defender as an "emerging nation"? Where will it be held? Don't expect billionaires to line up for an unattractive venue with security risks. What advertising space on the yacht do they have to sell to their sponsors and what space will be taken by the event and in what product categories? Will Prada or Louis Vuitton return as a sponsor? Above all, is there a chance to win or is it simply too stacked up against us?

Expect entry fees to remain the same or increase. US$3,350,000 plus a bond of US$1m was the cheapest entry last time. Expect the challenges to again contribute towards the costs of the challenger selection series unless a sponsor agrees to fund it as did Prada last time.

Finally, who gets to amend the Protocol and the Class Rules? Can anyone competitor block a change? Will there be a tyranny of the majority or simply a Defender and Challenger of Record dictatorship?
Drafting a Protocol involves a delicate balance of many issues both sporting and commercial. Get it wrong and it could be 2007-2010 all over again. Nail it, and it will be back to the big America's Cup heydays of Fremantle 1986-87 or Valencia 2007.

INTERESTING TIMES

For the top end of the international sailing world, the next ten days will be extremely interesting, as we can only guess at the global wheeling and dealing and drafting going on behind the scenes. And when the AC37 Protocol is published, we can be quite sure there'll be controversy, which is meat and drink to the communications industry in all its forms.

In fact, controversy is the gift that just keeps on giving. For even after you've agreed a settlement on whatever is causing the current high profile controversy, you can then go on to have a controversy about how the word "controversy" should be properly pronounced… 

Published in W M Nixon

The Royal Malta Yacht club says it is only too aware that the outcry over the finish of its 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race has damaged the reputation and legacy of its most important race, something it is committed to rectifying.

The 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race, which started on Saturday 23 October 2021, had the hallmarks of being a spectacular success. The make-up of the fleet and the weather forecast suggested records would fall and that yachts would have wind throughout the course area making for an exciting contest.

Late on Tuesday 26 October, the weather situation changed. A severe north-easterly gale was predicted to hit the east coast of Malta some time on Wednesday 27 October. The Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) Race Committee recognised it as a danger to those crews still to complete the race. Crossing the finish line at the entrance to Marsamxett Harbour in such circumstances would be extremely hazardous. An Alternative Finish Line at South Comino Channel is designed to address this possibility and all yachts are required to take their time at this point in the race, irrespective of whether the line is in use. The Sailing Instructions are clear and unequivocal on this point.

When invoking the Alternative Finish Line, the Race Committee acted with the safety and wellbeing of those still sailing in mind. The decision was not influenced by the possibility that other boats, safe in harbour, might find their result materially affected.

The RMYC is sympathetic to those competitors and followers of race that feel aggrieved by the eventual outcome. It recognises that, in this instance, in writing a sailing instruction related to safety it inadvertently, but seriously, impacted the race results.

The RMYC will take action to make sure that a similar situation does not arise again. It will do its utmost to ensure that the rules and regulations surrounding future editions of the race are fit for purpose. In this regard, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has already sought guidance from appropriate authorities within the sport.

Over the years, the RMYC has prided itself on the hospitality and the welcome it shows to all participants. It has put huge effort into making sure visiting crews become the most effective ambassadors for the race. The last thing the club wanted was the frustration, disappointment and anger provoked by the circumstances of the 2021 race.

The 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is scheduled go ahead next October. The club hopes that those who enter will see that changes have been made and will trust it to continue to apply all rules fairly and correctly to all those who participate regardless of size, nationality or ambition.

Further Background

The Royal Malta Yacht Club traces its roots back to 1835. It is a volunteer-run club promoting all aspects of sailing from its junior programme to its pinnacle offshore event, the Rolex Middle Sea Race. The club exists to serve the sailing community of Malta and all visiting sailors including those who participate in its most famous race. It has a membership of 700.

The Middle Sea Race was launched in 1968 to offer a course in the Mediterranean that would match the Newport Bermuda Race, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the Fastnet Race in distance and challenge. The time of year was chosen because of the increased likelihood of strong winds ensuring a worthy test of ability and seamanship.

In its early years the race caught the attention of many of the world's most respected crews. Then, from 1984 to 1995 the race dropped out of the calendar following a decline in interest.

In 1996, a group of RMYC members decided to reinstate the race. It was not without difficulty. Some of those involved are still active today and have watched the race grow from a fleet of 20 yachts to consistently over 100 with 25 countries represented.

Although the Race Committee is entirely volunteer, it is regularly reminded that it is running an elite level competition that demands the highest standards. A plan was already in place to review and streamline the race documentation at the end of the 2021 race and to improve the registration experience.

The Race Committee is also aware that its obligation is to the entire fleet, not just the top one or two, or even top ten. Its obligation is to be impartial and to apply the rules as they are written. It accepts that it may be protested by a competitor, and for the rules or their application to be tested. A properly constituted, independent International Jury is in attendance for that purpose. Once the decision to use the Alternative Finish Line was made, all yachts had to be scored for the purposes of time correction (handicapping) at South Comino Channel. Submitted times, verified by the tracking system, were uploaded to the results programme. It was a very real shock that the reduction in the 606nm course length by 12nm would have such a significant effect on the first two boats - one 30.48m/100ft and one 11.80m/39ft.

Since making the decision, the RMYC has had its conduct and integrity, and the competence of its race management, questioned. It is only too aware that the outcry has damaged the reputation and legacy of its most important race, something it is committed to rectifying.

Sailing instructions

Results of all Jury Hearings

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The 30.48m/100ft Maxi Comanche (CAY) has been confirmed as the overall winner of the 42nd Rolex Middle Sea Race. Skippered by Mitch Booth, the exceptional crew of 23 included in its ranks the likes of Will Oxley, as navigator, Tom Slingsby, Kyle Langford, Shannon Falcone, Hugo Rocha, Justin Slattery, Willy Altadill and Luke Molloy. Victory under IRC time correction is added to the monohull line honours and monohull race record secured in a contest dominated, initially at least, by what many have described as a once in a lifetime weather system.

Round the race winner Justin Slattery of Cork was on board the record breaking Comanche for her Middle Sea Race winRound the race winner Justin Slattery of Cork was on board the record breaking Comanche for her Middle Sea Race win

Comanche finished the race on the morning of Monday 25 October and was in pole position until the arrival of the JPK 1180 Sunrise on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 October. The race narrative then altered in the early hours of Wednesday 27 October, with some 23 boats still on the racecourse. A serious and adverse change to the weather forecast led the Royal Malta Yacht Club Race Committee to invoke the alternative finish line, as per the sailing instructions.

“The decision to invoke Sailing Instruction (SI) 11.3, was made after careful consideration of a changing weather pattern and the potential danger to those yachts that were still racing, when approaching the finish,” explains Peter Dimech, Principal Race Officer of the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) for 12 years. “First and foremost, the RMYC has to consider the safety and wellbeing of those participants that are still at sea. SI 11.3 enables the Race Committee to use an alternative finish line in the South Comino Channel if severe weather conditions make it unsafe to enter Marsamxett Harbour. The rule was written specifically in anticipation of the forecast severe north-easterly, which would have made Marsamxett Harbour extremely dangerous to enter. For that reason, we made the call, which was announced to all competitors whether finished or racing, in accordance with rules.”

According to available records, this is the first time in the 53-year history of the Rolex Middle Sea Race that the alternative finish line has had to be used. 19 yachts have been able to finish the race using this line.

As a consequence of the decision, all yachts taking part have been scored for the purposes of time correction using the alternative finish line. Competing in IRC Class One, Comanche’s corrected time to the alternative finish line of three days six hours 30 minutes and 20 seconds has proved just over an hour faster than second placed Sunrise (IRC Class Five) and almost four hours ahead of Daguet 3 – Corum in third (IRC Class Two). No one left racing is able to meet the time required to change this result.

Comanche has achieved the trifecta of overall winner, monohull line honours and a monohull race record. Comanche’s race record of 40 hours, 17 minutes and 50 seconds is based upon the full course distance of 606nm. Two boats have previously achieved this monohull triple crown: Robert McNeil’s 22.86m/75ft Zephyrus IV in 2000 and George David’s 27.5m/90ft Rambler in 2007.

Jason Carroll’s MOD 70 trimaran Argo (USA) also completed a triple crown winning the Multihull Class under MOCRA time correction, taking multihull line honours and setting a new outright race record of 33 hours, 29 minutes and 28 seconds.

Some 89 yachts of the 114 that took part in the race have so far finished with 25 officially retiring.

The 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race prize giving takes place on Saturday 30 October at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, the former Sacra Infermeria built in the 16th century by the Order of St John.

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The Rolex Middle Sea Race Organisers are recalculating race results for this week's 600-mile race in which the Fastnet Race overall winner looked set for a unique double win and while some competitors are still at sea. 

At 1700 CEST today, a note to competitors issued to all race entrants said it had put into effect the provisions of Sailing Instruction 11.3, Alternative Finish Line.

11.3 states: 

In the event that severe weather conditions prevent boats from entering Marsamxett Harbour to finish, the Race Committee reserves the right to have all boats finish by crossing an alternative finish line in the South Comino Channel formed by the following coordinates: - Cirkewwa Point 35˚ 59.50’ N 14˚ 19.80’ E Comino Island Point 36˚ 00.30’ N 14˚ 19.50’ E If the alternative finish line is being used, the Race Committee will make every effort to advise boats by VHF Channel 72 or other means, such as SMS to the registered mobile phone.

Organisers also stated that "Results for the race are being recalculated accordingly, this will take some time".

A competitor told Afloat this pm: "The weather closed in here, so an alternative finish line was used in the Gozo channel, it has caused big changes in results"

Currently, provisional results on the site (at 1745 hrs) show the 100-footer Comanche as having won the 2021 edition of the race as opposed to the earlier situation that saw British entrant JPK 1180 Sunrise as the clubhouse leader.

The latest provisional results also show Sailplane (sailed by Ireland's Kenny Rumball and Barry Hurley) as finishing 16th in her class as opposed to second as Afloat reported this morning.

However, there appears to be some confusion over the current position with one entrant telling Afloat: "We don’t know if new results are now correct".

The full notice is below: 

The text below is a Notice to Competitors issued to all race entrants at 1600 CEST on Wednesday, 27 October 2021 by the Race Committee. No further press releases will be issued today.

Notice to Competitors
Competitors are advised that the Organising Committee, earlier today, put into effect the provisions of Sailing Instruction 11.3, Alternative Finish Line.

Results for the race are being recalculated accordingly, this will take some time.

Results will of course still be provisional as some boats are still racing.

Race Committee
1600hrs
27/10/2021

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Irish sailors on board the Matt 12 Sailplane have taken second in IRC Class four of the Middle Sea Race and a win on ORC. 

Based on provisional results for the 21-boat class, the Robert Bottomley skippered 12-metre yacht now adds the Meditteranean result to the fifth overall scored in August's Fastnet Race. 

From Cork Harbour, Barry Hurley and Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball were on the Sailplane crew for the 600-mile race.

Racing continues in Malta today where the JPK 1180 Sunrise, the 2021 Fastnet winner, holds the clubhouse lead on IRC overall.

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About The Middle Sea Race

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a highly rated offshore classic, often mentioned in the same breath as the Rolex Fastnet, The Rolex Sydney–Hobart and Newport-Bermuda as a 'must do' race. The Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club co-founded the race in 1968 and 2007 was the 28th Edition. Save for a break between 1984 and 1995 the event has been run annually attracting 25–30 yachts. In recent years, the number of entries has rissen sharply to 68 boats thanks to a new Organising Committee who managed to bring Rolex on board as title sponsor for the Middle Sea Race.

The race is a true challenge to skippers and crews who have to be at their very best to cope with the often changeable and demanding conditions. Equally, the race is blessed with unsurpassed scenery with its course, taking competitors close to a number of islands, which form marks of the course. Ted Turner described the MSR as "the most beautiful race course in the world".

Apart from Turner, famous competitors have included Eric Tabarly, Cino Ricci, Herbert von Karajan, Jim Dolan, Sir Chay Blyth and Sir Francis Chichester (fresh from his round the world adventure). High profile boats from the world's top designers take part, most in pursuit of line honours and the record – competing yachts include the extreme Open 60s, Riviera di Rimini and Shining; the maxis, Mistress Quickly, Zephyrus IV and Sagamore; and the pocket rockets such as the 41-foot J-125 Strait Dealer and the DK46, Fidessa Fastwave.

In 2006, Mike Sanderson and Seb Josse on board ABN Amro, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, the super Maxis; Alfa Romeo and Maximus and the 2006 Rolex Middle Sea Race overall winner, Hasso Platner on board his MaxZ86, Morning Glory.

George David on board Rambler (ex-Alfa Romeo) managed a new course record in 2007 and in 2008, Thierry Bouchard on Spirit of Ad Hoc won the Rolex Middle Sea Race on board a Beneteau 40.7

The largest number of entries was 78 established in 2008.

Middle Sea Race History

IN THE BEGINNING

The Middle Sea Race was conceived as the result of sporting rivalry between great friends, Paul and John Ripard and an Englishman residing in Malta called Jimmy White, all members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. In the early fifties, it was mainly British servicemen stationed in Malta who competitively raced. Even the boats had a military connection, since they were old German training boats captured by the British during the war. At the time, the RMYC only had a few Maltese members, amongst who were Paul and John Ripard.

So it was in the early sixties that Paul and Jimmy, together with a mutual friend, Alan Green (later to become the Race Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), set out to map a course designed to offer an exciting race in different conditions to those prevailing in Maltese coastal waters. They also decided the course would be slightly longer than the RORC's longest race, the Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as used today.

Ted Turner, CEO of Turner Communications (CNN) has written that the Middle Sea Race "must be the most beautiful race course in the world. What other event has an active volcano as a mark of the course?"

In all of its editions since it was first run in 1968 – won by Paul Ripard's brother John, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has attracted many prestigious names in yachting. Some of these have gone on to greater things in life and have actually left their imprint on the world at large. Amongst these one finds the late Raul Gardini who won line honours in 1979 on Rumegal, and who spearheaded the 1992 Italian Challenge for the America's Cup with Moro di Venezia.

Another former line honours winner (1971) who has passed away since was Frenchman Eric Tabarly winner of round the world and transatlantic races on Penduik. Before his death, he was in Malta again for the novel Around Europe Open UAP Race involving monohulls, catamarans and trimarans. The guest list for the Middle Sea Race has included VIP's of the likes of Sir Francis Chichester, who in 1966 was the first man to sail around the world single-handedly, making only one stop.

The list of top yachting names includes many Italians. It is, after all a premier race around their largest island. These include Navy Admiral Tino Straulino, Olympic gold medallist in the star class and Cino Ricci, well known yachting TV commentator. And it is also an Italian who in 1999 finally beat the course record set by Mistress Quickly in 1978. Top racing skipper Andrea Scarabelli beat it so resoundingly, he knocked off over six hours from the time that had stood unbeaten for 20 years.

World famous round the world race winners with a Middle Sea Race connection include yachting journalist Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Les Williams, both from the UK.

The Maxi Class has long had a long and loving relationship with the Middle Sea Race. Right from the early days personalities such as Germany's Herbert Von Karajan, famous orchestra conductor and artistic director of the Berliner Philarmoniker, competing with his maxi Helisara IV. Later came Marvin Greene Jr, CEO of Reeves Communications Corporation and owner of the well known Nirvana (line honours in 1982) and Jim Dolan, CEO of Cablevision, whose Sagamore was back in 1999 to try and emulate the line honours she won in 1997.

THE COURSE RECORD

The course record was held by the San Francisco based, Robert McNeil on board his Maxi Turbo Sled Zephyrus IV when in 2000, he smashed the Course record which now stands at 64 hrs 49 mins 57 secs. Zephyrus IV is a Rechiel-Pugh design. In recent years, various maxis such as Alfa Romeo, Nokia, Maximus and Morning Glory have all tried to break this course record, but the wind Gods have never played along. Even the VOR winner, ABN AMro tried, but all failed in 2006.

However, George David came along on board Rambler in 2007 and demolished the course record established by Zephyrus IV in 2000. This now stands at 1 day, 23 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds.

At A Glance - Middle Sea Race 2022

The 43rd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 22 October 2022.

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