Geneva, 16 October 2020 – Famed for its magnificent racecourse and revered for the scale of the challenge it presents, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the most prominent events on the international yachting calendar. Rolex has supported the race and its organizers, the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC), since 2002.
Rolex has been a close partner of sailing for more than 60 years, and with the offshore discipline in particular since the pioneering solo round-the-world feats of Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in the 1960s. Today, the brand’s commitment to yachting encompasses several 600-nautical mile races that examine and inspire sailors of all backgrounds and ages. Together with the Rolex Fastnet, the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the Rolex China Sea Race and the RORC Caribbean 600, the Rolex Middle Sea Race forms an integral part of the company’s association with the sport.
The 41st edition of the race is scheduled to commence from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta’s capital Valletta on Saturday, 17 October, and, in light of the global pandemic, the RMYC has put in place special protocols and arrangements to ensure the safety of competitors, ashore and at sea.
Entry numbers for the anticlockwise circumnavigation of Sicily have been on an upward trajectory over the past decade, with more than 100 yachts from 20-plus countries regularly on the start line. This year may have fewer participants, but the attraction of the 606-nm racecourse – unique in offshore yacht racing as it starts and finishes in the same place – remains strong. The Mediterranean course’s competitive, historical, cultural and geological allure is perhaps without equal. Contested on waters where empires have risen and fallen and that form the setting for Homer’s Odyssey, the race takes in the active volcanoes of Etna and Stromboli and a myriad of islands. It is an epic adventure that stirs strong emotions and a sense of accomplishment in all who take part.
Crews comprise both professional and Corinthian sailors, veterans and debutants. The transfer of knowledge and the passing on of tradition from the experienced to the less-experienced are among the race’s great legacies. When Maltese yacht Elusive 2 won the race last year, the co-skippers were siblings Maya, Aaron and Christoph Podesta. They had served their apprenticeship under the guidance of their late father Arthur Podesta, himself a 35-race veteran and crew member of Josian, which won the inaugural event in 1968.
Two Rolex Testimonees have fond memories of taking part. US sailing legend Paul Cayard says: “Nothing prepares you for the beauty of the course. The race is truly a classic, with incredible drama and breathtaking backdrops.” Brazilian Robert Scheidt, a five-time Olympic medallist, agrees. “While it is one of the most beautiful races in the world, it is also very tough. When I competed, we faced strong winds and the heaviest sea I’ve ever witnessed in my career. At the finish line we were exhausted, but felt a profound sense of achievement.”
The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a test of endurance, even for crews on the fastest yachts. The race record of 47 hours, 55 minutes has not been broken since 2007 and line-honours times in recent years have regularly exceeded 60 hours.
This supreme test of seamanship comes from the prevailing conditions and the shape of the course. October can be a difficult month in this part of the Mediterranean, bringing strong winds and brutal seas, interspersed with flat calm. As the fleet rounds Sicily, the numerous corners break up the race into distinct sections, each with its own characteristics and obstacles to overcome. The navigational and tactical conundrums stretch even the most experienced sailors. “The race is relentless,” adds Scheidt. “There is no time to rest on your laurels. Your opposition is often within sight and there is constant pressure to be in the best position to take advantage of the next wind shift.”
A NATURAL AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER
Rolex has always associated with activities driven by passion, excellence, precision and team spirit. The Swiss watchmaker naturally gravitated towards the elite world of yachting six decades ago and the brand’s enduring partnership now encompasses the most prestigious clubs, races and regattas, as well as towering figures in the sport, including ground-breaking round-the-world yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester and the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, Sir Ben Ainslie. Today, Rolex is Title Sponsor of 15 major international events – from leading offshore races such as the annual Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race, to grand prix competition at the Rolex TP52 World Championship and spectacular gatherings at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup. It also supports the exciting SailGP global championship in which national teams race identical supercharged F50 catamarans on some of the world’s most famous harbours. Rolex’s partnerships with the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Royal Ocean Racing Club, Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, Royal Malta Yacht Club, New York Yacht Club and Royal Yacht Squadron, among others, are the foundation of its enduring relationship with this dynamic sport.
AN UNRIVALLED REPUTATION FOR QUALITY AND EXPERTISE
Rolex, a Swiss watch manufacture headquartered in Geneva, is recognized the world over for its expertise and the quality of its products. Its Oyster Perpetual and Cellini watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. The word “Perpetual” is inscribed on every Rolex Oyster. But more than just a word on a dial, it is a philosophy that embodies the company’s vision and values. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of the company, instilled a notion of perpetual excellence that would drive the company forward. This led Rolex to pioneer the development of the wristwatch and numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism, invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 500 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Furthermore, Rolex is actively involved in supporting the arts and culture, sport and exploration, as well as those who are devising solutions to preserve the planet.
For further information on Rolex and Yachting please contact:
Ms Virginie Chevailler
+41 22 302 26 19
Mr Giles Pearman
+44 7365 802815
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ROLEX YACHTING PRESS KIT