Rolex Middle Sea warm-up
October, and the yachting world shifts to Malta for one of the final events on the offshore racing calendar, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, which gets underway this Saturday, 22 October. The 606-nautical mile offshore race starts in Grand Harbour, Malta, and goes anti-clockwise around the island of Sicily, the Aeolian Islands, the Egadi Islands, around Pantelleria and Lampedusa to port, and finishes back in Marsamxett Harbour.
This year, for the 32nd edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, 81 boats from 18 countries are making the trek from around the Mediterranean, as well as the UK, Australia, and South Africa.
Today was a warm-up of sorts, as 16 boats from the Rolex Middle Sea Race fleet, in two IRC classes, competed in a coastal race, a chance for visiting crews to experience some of the prevailing conditions, for the locals to fine-tune their boats and get a last chance for crew practice – prior to the offshore race start on Saturday. The fleet represented a cross section of the overall entries, with boats from Malta, Italy, France, the Netherlands, UK, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Russia, and Slovenia.
The 35.6-nautical mile Coastal Race for the Malta Rolex Cup started off Fort St Elmo in Valletta in an 8-12 knot southerly, which took the fleet down to the southern end of Malta, around the island of Filfla to starboard and then back up the coast to the finish opposite the Royal Malta Yacht Club in Marsamxett Harbour.
First across the finish line in today’s race was Esmit Europa 2, the 100ft maxi from Slovenia, skippered by German Olympic medallist, Jochen Schumann. She eventually corrected out to win overall as well and will be awarded the Malta Rolex Cup Trophy for their win.
Finishing third overall was Goranko Fizulic’s Karuba V (Hong Kong), an X-65. Fizulic, the former head of the Croatian Sailing Federation, is an avid competitor who formerly competed on an X-61 that he eventually sailed around the world. The new Karuba was launched in 2010; Fizulic has assembled a very able crew made up of half a dozen Croatian plus a mix of international sailors.
Tactician on board Karuba V is Tomislav Basic, a former 470 Olympic sailor (who competed in Athens in 2004), who has moved up to ‘big boats’ and now sails on the RC44 circuit. Basic operates as coach and skipper as well, and he was pleased with the day’s performance, especially given that the crew has not sailed together before and that they were using cruising sails, the racing sails due in Malta tonight. Basic added, “For sure we’ll need some time to know what we can do and can’t. Today we were a bit conservative because we want to keep the boat in one piece.”
As to why they chose to enter this race, Basic said, “I sailed in the Rolex Middle Sea Race for the first time five or six years ago, on a Volvo 60. I like offshore sailing…and with this kind of boat it’s really good for this. The Rolex Middle Sea is a really beautiful race. And there are some connections with Croatia and this race: 300 years ago, people from Croatia sailed all the way to Lampedusa to fish in small fishing boats. So, we have lots of different things to see and talk about.”
The XP44 Vikesha II is a recently launched performance cruiser. Owner Oleg Evdokimenko, from Russia, is a Dragon class sailor, as is many of the Russian crew, which also includes grand-prix and Olympic sailors. The lone Maltese sailor on board, Timmy Camilleri, brings local knowledge and a wealth of experience, having competed in the offshore race 16 times, and as part of a winning crew on three occasions. Evdokimenko and Camilleri are competing in their third RMSR together, and this year with a new boat, they should be one to watch.
The boat was well sailed today finishing 2nd overall and 1st in the IRC 2 division. About the long-distance race, Camilleri said, “It’s become one of the biggest offshore races on the circuit and so now when you get to race against the top teams, it’s too important to miss. It’s always different and always a challenge. Last year was the first year I didn’t do it, and it was hard to sit on shore and watch.”Owner Oleg Evdokimenko, from Russia, is a Dragon class sailor, as is many of the Russian crew, which also includes grand-prix and Olympic sailors. The lone Maltese sailor on board, Timmy Camilleri, brings local knowledge and a wealth of experience, having competed in the offshore race 16 times, and as part of a winning crew on three occasions. Evdokimenko and Camilleri are competing in their third RMSR together, and this year with a new boat, they should be one to watch.