The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a reference in the annual calendar of regattas in the Mediterranean. Its 606 nautical mile tour around Sicily is recognized as one of the most beautiful and challenging in the world, and in its 42nd edition it will bring together about 120 boats in front of the starting line in the imposing Grand Harbor of Valletta on Saturday, October 23. The stratospheric Swan 125 Skorpios, skippered by Spaniard Fernando Echávarri, leaves as a favorite for victory in real time.

Since its inception in 1968, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has managed to earn a place of privilege on the international high-altitude regatta circuit, and its 606-nautical-mile course around Sicily has achieved legendary status. Since 2002 it has been supported by Rolex, and together with the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race (625 nautical miles between England and France) and the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart (628 nautical miles in Australia), it completes the triumvirate of epic ocean competitions included in the sailing dossier the Swiss watchmaker, whose relationship with this sport began more than 60 years ago.

American Paul Cayard, Rolex ambassador and one of the world’s most renowned sailors, explains the appeal of the event:

“Boaters are naturally drawn to the challenge of racing on the high seas. Each of them is a test of your resources in a battle against the sea, the wind, the currents and the tides, the exhaustion and your opponents. The environment in which they take place is another of its attractions, and the geography of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the most beautiful imaginable ”.

A journey through history
The Rolex Middle Sea Race begins and ends in the capital of Malta, Valletta, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980. The imposing Grand Harbor, at the foot of the city’s bastions, forms a natural amphitheater for the spectacular sunset. on stage at the start of the regatta, accompanied by the roar of the Saluting Battery cannons, which each year mark the start of the competition. On Saturday, October 23, they will sound at 11:00 am to premiere the 42nd edition of the test.

After departure, the tour directs the fleet north along the eastern coast of Sicily to the Strait of Messina. Once this important tactical crossroads has been overcome, the stage towards Stromboli begins, a geographical landmark that will remain engraved in the memory of the participants forever. It then heads west along the northern coast of Sicily, towards the rugged Aegadian Islands, before starting a long leg south to the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa, before returning to the finish line in Malta.

The tour passes the active volcanoes Etna and Stromboli, and guarantees regular sightings of marine life, remote islands, and rock formations. Its condition of circumnavigation in an anticlockwise direction around Sicily entails frequent changes of direction and, consequently, varied conditions. The regatta tends to expose crews to a mix of rough seas and harsh winds in the open water segments, with more fickle breezes and even total calm near land. Participation requires unwavering concentration, great competitiveness and intuition to adapt to the volatility of the environment.

Second round for Skorpios
The size of this year’s fleet confirms the appeal of the challenge and its ability to attract a variety of boats, teams and nationalities. Around 120 boats from 20 countries are expected on the starting line, manned by professional and amateur sailors, a diverse fleet that contributes to the personality and popularity of the regatta.

The absolute winner in the last two editions, the First 45 Elusive 2 of the Podesta family, will try to match the feat of three consecutive victories established by the Nita IV between 1978 and 1980. The regatta record remains unchanged since it was established in 2007 the American Rambler in 47 hours, 55 minutes and three seconds, but this year’s fleet has three serious contenders to beat it if the conditions are right: the very fast Rambler 88 (26.82 meters in length), winner in real time in five occasions between 2014 and 2019 and armed by George David; the powerful Comanche (30.5 meters), skippered by Mitch Booth, who has already shown himself capable of winning races like the Rolex Sydney Hobart; and the colossal ClubSwan 125 Skorpios (43 meters), skippered by the Spanish Olympic champion Fernando Echávarri. The largest ship in the history of the regatta made its successful debut at the Rolex Fastnet Race in August, and continues to attract the attention of the international sailing community as the fastest flightless monohull of all time.

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