April 07, 2009 @ 20:38:51   Foto Kurt Arrigo

ROSEBUD/TEAM DYT sailing off Comino

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Having celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the first Rolex Middle Sea Race last year with another record-breaking international fleet, the Royal Malta Yacht Club might be forgiven for taking things easier this year. Not a bit of it. 2009 marks the thirtieth race in the forty-one year history of the 606 nautical mile course. Another excuse for a celebration in Malta later this year.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club has its work cut out. In November 2008, it locked the doors on its former club house in walls of the 18th Century Fort Manoel for the last time and moved half a mile further up the Marsamxetto to new premises in Ta'Xbiex. The Club is now hard at work upgrading the former-government building in readiness for its flagship race that starts on 17 October.

Seemingly one thing the RMYC need not worry about is entries. The trickle started soon after the finish of the last race and with the Notice of Race just published, a rush is now expected especially from the foreign crews looking to secure dock space before the event starts and convenient accommodation. One such crew is Legally Brunette from Ireland. Paul Egan and Cathal Drohan took part in 2008 and such was the quality of the experience, that Egan - whose 15-year old son Eugene won the Youth Cup as the youngest participating crew - wrote to the RMYC a few days after finishing to congratulate it on its organisation and being such a wonderful ambassador for Malta, saying “we're spreading the word, but most importantly, we have decided unanimously to return to Malta in 2009… we may entertain reveries of achieving honours, but the fun will be to be there and to participate, both in the race and onshore.”

Egan explains that the decision to race last year came from hearing about the experiences of other competitors, “my co-owner and skipper Cathal Drohan and I had read the reports of the 2007 Rolex Middle Sea Race and decided that we just had to be there in 2008. We marshalled our crew, got together our paperwork, made our plans, ensured that we worked up our miles and registered at the earliest opportunity.” Egan goes onto add that, “after the race the crew insisted we had to take part again this year.”

Legally Brunette is certain not to be alone in returning. Andres Soriano's 69-foot Alegre (GBR) - winner of Line Honours and a tremendous front of the fleet battle with the two STP65s Rosebud and Moneypenny - is slated to return too. If he does so, Soriano looks likely to find himself engaged once again in a battle with two other similar-sized boats. Former motor-racing champion Udo Schutz's Container (GER) is threatening to fly the flag for the STP65s, whilst Bella Mente (USA) the R/P IRC 69 of Hap Fauth also has the race in her 2009 programme.

The Maltese, of course, will not be out-done and three familiar names have already lodged their entries. After the brutal 2007 race, Jonas Diamentino traded in his old IOR two-tonner for an ILC 40, Gasan Mamo Comanche Raider II, which stood up to the test of last year's race well-enough for Diamentino to enter again. Arthur Podesta has also changed steeds and for this edition, his thirtieth lap of the challenging course, is stepping into a Beneteau 45, Elusive II, for another crack at the race he so nearly won last year. Commodore Georges Bonello DuPuis has entered for his fifth assault on the challenging course with Escape and last year's 'newcomer' Jonathan Gambin also looks to be catching the bug, having entered for a second time with Ton Ton.

With seventy-seven boats on the start-line in 2008, the Royal Malta Yacht Club is looking to extend its run of record sized fleets and to break the eighty-boat barrier this year. “It can be done,” say Bonello DuPuis, “but naturally we will be satisfied to put on another successful race that matches or exceeds the expectations of all the competitors - however many they are and wherever they come from.”

The Rolex Middle Sea Race commences on Saturday 17 October 2009.

Entries close on 10 October. The final prize giving is on 24 October 2009.

George David's Rambler established the current Course Record of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds in 2007.


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