This year marks the half century for the Middle Sea Boat Race. This challenging sailing competition started in 1978 as a rivalry between two British sailors; thousands of people have braved the elements and pushed themselves to the limit in the competition since then. It’s become a high profile fixture on the racing scene.
This year 30 countries will take part, including the UK, Italy, Russia, Chile and the Philippines. Middle Sea is known as the most beautiful race in the world and the windy autumn conditions keep it exciting (last year almost half of the entrants had to retire). Here’s what to expect:
Where, when and how much?
You can watch the race for free from vantage points in the Grand Harbour and Valletta on the 20th October, at 11am. You’ll see the crews training for a few days before the race too. The prize giving is on the 27th October at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
What’s the course?
The 606 nautical mile course heads out from the Grand Harbour in Valletta, beneath Fort St Angelo and the Saluting Battery in Valletta. It runs anticlockwise around Sicily, going towards the Straits of Messina, with Mt. Etna on the left. The active volcano (Stromboli) is one of the marks on the course, which then goes south to Pantelleria and Lampedusa. The home stretch funnels sailors towards the South Comino Channel and the Marsamxett Harbour finish line.
How do I get closer?
If you want to get near the action, you can hire your own boat and head onto the water. If all 131 entrants cross the start line, this will be a record breaking year and seeing dozens of sails leaving the harbour will be quite the spectacle. Just don’t get in the way!
What’s on the menu?
To get into the nautical vibe, eat at The Galley, the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) restaurant. Unsurprisingly, the menu features a lot of seafood; try the Famous Fried Calamari or go ultra-traditional with Spaghetti and Local Rabbit Sauce. Dessert could be at trio of doughnuts filled with ricotta, Nutella and crème pâtissière.
What to look for?
High profile boats from the top designers in the world will be in the harbour and looking for glory. Try to spot Open 60; Riviera di Rimini - the maxis; Mistress Quickly; Leopard of London; and Rambler, which set the current record of 47 hours and 55 minutes in 2007.
Who’s the favourite?
In the monohull category, George David's Rambler is still the one to watch as it goes for a record fourth win. Multihulls to watch include Giovanni Soldini’s 21.2m Multi70, Maserati.
Who is representing Malta?
Malta has seven entrants including the Maltese Falcon, Comanche Raider III, Elusive 2 (sailed by Arthur Podesta’s children; Podesta competed annually until his death in 2015) and Unica.
Where can I find out more?
The Royal Malta Yacht Club has an expo open to help crews and also talk to novices about opportunities to get involved in sailing. Find them at Ta’ Xbiex Seafront.
"In its half century of existence, the RMSR has had an incredible amount of dizzying moments… This is the race which has gripped not just the island but the global yachting fraternity. The course is historic, iconic, and challenging. The scenic part is difficult to beat.”
Take a bottle of wine, find a spot high above the Grand Harbour, and enjoy the show.
By Helen Raine
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