Esimit Europa 2 leads Rolex Middle Sea Race line-up

This year's Mediterranean classic 500 miler starts on 23 October

Wednesday August 11th 2010, Author: Giles Pearman, Location: Malta

The summer sailing season is halfway through in the northern hemisphere. For some yachts their autumn schedule is coming to the fore. The Rolex Middle Sea Race has its 31st edition this year starting from Grand Harbour on 23 October.

At present 25 yachts have committed themselves to the challenge, which according to Commodore Georges Bonello Dupuis is a good showing at this stage in proceedings: “Of course, we’d be happier with more, we are always greedy! We have grown used to a surge in September as those that have planned the race for some months finally submit their entry form. We always hope to beat the previous year’s fleet, but 70 yachts may prove too much.”

To date the largest and fastest yacht entered is the 30.5m super maxi Esimit Europa 2 (formerly Alfa Romeo II). The yacht itself has graced the four-cornered race once before in 2006. She was unable to show her true pedigree as light winds plagued the second half of the course, which takes the fleet from Malta, through the Strait of Messina, past Stromboli across the northern coast of Sicily, through the Egadi Islands and south to Lampedusa and Pantelleria, before heading eastwards back to Malta. Under the new ownership of Slovenian Igor Simcic, and new management of Italian America's Cup helmsman and one design ace Flavio Favini, Esimit proved herself still to be the fastest yacht in Europe by winning line honours at the Giraglia Rolex Cup in June. On 23 October we will know if Esimit has a shot at the course record of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds set in 2008 by the American yacht Rambler.

At the moment, the newest yacht expected on the start line is the 24.5m Singularity. Designed by Adrian Konynendyk and built by McConaghy in Australia, Singularity was launched earlier this year. According to racing skipper, Bouwe Bekking, who won the race overall on his last visit in 2006 with Morning Glory, Singularity looks and performs like a racing yacht, but conceals a full interior designed by Mark Tucker and Design Unlimited. “She defies logic,” says Bekking. “With her performance polars you’d imagine she must be like a Volvo 70 down below. She’s not at all. She has a lightweight interior, but of the highest quality and luxury. We’re looking forward to the race; it is a true tactical challenge. Hopefully, we’ll get breeze all the way around the course.” On 23 October we will get to see what Singularity is truly made of.

Looking at other parts of the fleet: the oldest yacht entered to date is the 40 year old Andrea (NED), a Camper & Nicholson 55 skippered by Jacobus Labeij. The smallest yacht is Claudio Barzan’s X-362 Spinone Offshore (ITA) with a length overall of 10.72m. The furthest travelled category is likely to be taken by American Bryon Erhart’s modified TP52 Lucky, although the Ukrainian entry Moryanka of Yaroslav Isakov claims its homeport is in The Seychelles. Jonas Diamantino, Comanche Raider II Gasan Mamo Insurance (MLT) holds pole position as most experienced skipper with nine races under his belt, closely followed by Filippo Lancelotti, Sciara (ITA), who is aiming for his ninth Rolex Middle Sea Race.

With substantially more entries expected, between now and October, a number of these claims may well be supplanted. What is certain though is that all competitors, young and old, professional or Corinthian, contender or adventurer, fast or slow, that are on the start line on 23 October will be shaping more of the history of this remarkable race.

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