A volley of cannon fire from the fortress overlooking Malta’s Grand Harbour marked the commencement this morning at 11.00 of the staggered start of the 37th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race which saw 107 out of the 117 entries in the Royal Malta Yacht Club event, line out. The 608-nautical mile route gets underway from and finishes at Malta, taking the fleet on an anticlockwise circumnavigation of Sicily, with the Aeolian Islands, Egadi Islands, Pantelleria and Lampedusa to port.
The Rolex Middle Sea race fleet sailed out of the Grand Harbour in 10-knot NW. In the multihull category, the two MOD70s, Maserati Multi70 and Phaedo3, started at 12.40 with the English boat skippered by Brian Thompson first across the line tailed closely by her Italian rival.
The pre-race favourite amongst the monohulls this year is George David’s maxi Rambler 88, holder of the race record (1 d, 23 h, 55’ and 3”) unbeaten since 2007 and winner of the last edition. On paper at least no other boat in the 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race has the potential speed to get past the American maxi racer.
The clash between the two MOD70s in the multihull grouping (Mocra) looks set to be very much a clash of equals thanks to Maserati Multi70’s new configuration featuring a Mod rudder and C-foil on her starboard side.
Weather forecasts confirm the fleet will initially be racing in weak NW winds, so both MOD70s in the competition will be beating to windward. However, winds will freshen for the second half of the route from Stromboli on.
Just before he cast off from the spectator-thronged quays at Malta, Giovanni Soldini had this to say about the start of the race: “There’s not much air at the start. We’re expecting very little in the way of wind until the Strait of Messina. But it should kick in from Stromboli onwards”.
Maserati Multi70’s pre-race shakedown confirmed that all aboard is working to perfection. “Yesterday’s test run went brilliantly. We put the boat through her paces – the rudders are rotating and everything is fine. We’ll be giving it our all!“