As clouds sailed across a blue, autumn sky above Valletta’s Grand Harbour on the 19th of October 2019, some of the finest yachtsmen and women in the sailing world gathered to participate in this year’s 40th Rolex Middle Sea Race. Last year’s race attracted a record fleet of 130 yachts, all celebrating the Royal Malta Yacht Club’s 50th anniversary of the founding of the race.
This year battling it out over Malta’s seas were a total of 117 yachts who had assembled from all over the world. Great Britain’s competitors numbered 16 and France was represented by a respectable 14 yachts, while Italy had amassed a total of 20 representatives. The race begins in Malta, leaving Valletta’s Grand Harbour, circumnavigates Sicily, Lampedusa, Pantelleria and the Egadian and Eolian islands and later returns to the harbour to celebrate its winners. Each year the autumn season generates great enthusiasm, its more challenging, windier conditions fueling the long course, as the yachtsmen and women engage in this exciting contest. The Rolex Middle Sea Race continues to attract a wide variety of local and international representatives of professional and Corinthian standards, whilst embracing the participation of first-timers and serial participants, many of these local. This exciting and colourful event continues to showcase Malta as an excellent host.
Malta has always been a favourite destination for many sailing and yachting enthusiasts with its deep, clear waters, breathtaking coastline, and historic coastal viewpoints. With so many mooring opportunities, the yachting enthusiast can always find wonderful places to eat and drink, socialize and enjoy the wonderfully historic views beneath the majestic, honey colored walls.
Malta is ideal as a destination for international events and occasions such as this highlight the attractions in this area. Indeed, Malta’s charms are increasingly attracting quality events which are a real boost for the tourism industry. Minister for Tourism, Konrad Mizzi, explained, “We are constantly working a strategy to put Malta on the forefront as a host of major international events. At the moment, the private sector and local associations are doing their part to reach this objective and the government is committed to continue promoting the country in the sporting world through Yachting Malta, to continue attracting to our country the best sailing boats.”
As the race drew to a close with the approach of the first yacht at 7.31pm on Thursday evening, it was apparent that Maltese yacht Elusive 2 had won with an impressive 15 minute margin. A Maltese win was highly anticipated, the last being in 2014, and adding to a respectable total of eight wins since the race’s conception. During the race sailors were challenged with very fierce waves buffeting the yachts around Lampedusa and around Pantelleria as winds were excessive. While these stiff wind conditions continued, the sea became easier to navigate as they passed Comino on the home stretch of their journey. Despite these conditions, 54 yachts finished the race while another 42 are still set to complete the course with only 17 yachts retiring.
While the celebrations began and congratulations as to the success of the race were being made, thoughts were already turning to the challenges of next year’s race.