The appeal of the race is clear: first-rate competition, a largely Corinthian atmosphere, a fascinating racecourse. 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". Starting from the Grand Harbour, Valletta, beneath Fort St Angelo and the Saluting Battery in Valletta, the fleet head north along the eastern coasts of Sicily up towards the Straits of Messina. Mt Etna is usually visible on the fleets port side, billowing ashes and lava throughout the night. Once through the Straits, the course leads north to the Aeolian Islands and the active volcano of Stromboli where the yachts turn west to the Egadi Islands. Passing between Marettimo and Favignana the crews head south towards the island of Lampedusa, leaving Pantelleria to port. Once past Lampedusa the fleet turns northeast on the final leg towards the South Comino Channel and the finish at Marsamxett Harbour. En route the crews take in an amazing diversity of landscape and sea conditions, all of which combine to create the attraction and challenge of the race.
In any race of this type, the most coveted prize is for overall victory. Along with Hasso Plattner's 86 footer- Morning Glory- another recipient of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy is in attendance. Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard’s J/122 ARTIE-RTFX ended a near ten-year wait for a Maltese victory in 2011, and become the sixth local boat to win the race-- in fact, they're two-time overall winners having done it before in their J/125! Joining them will be two more Maltese boats, one is the J/133 OILTANKING JUNO sailed by David Anastasi-- they nearly won their class in 2012 and lost in the final straits into the finish line! The other is Aaron Gatt Floridia's OTRA VEZ- they, too, were in leadership contention halfway through last year's race and hope to build on that this year!
There are two J/111s participating this year from Italy and, given the "stop & go" driving in light to moderate conditions that are typical of this race, these two boats may give their larger stablemates enormous headaches. Marco Flandin's BLACK BULL and Massimo Colosimo's J/STORM will be dueling for leadership not only in class but overall if they get a mix of the right reaching/ running/ beating conditions. Be sure to follow the fleet and the updates as all boats have YellowBrick trackers on them and you can track them each day as they progress around the course! Sailing photo credits: Rolex/ Kurt Arrigo For more Rolex Middle Sea Race sailing information