October 24, 2009

If your senses have been under siege at sea for an extended period, what better place to unwind than the Sacra Infermeria. Dating from 1574, the venue for the prize giving of the 30th Rolex Middle Sea Race was built by the Knights of St John as a hospital to care for its sick and injured brethren. The Royal Malta Yacht Club hosted its deserved guests in this medieval vault and divided up the spoils from a truly tremendous race.

The prize giving ceremony at the end of this 606 nautical mile adventure is always emotional. One last chance for the sailors to recount tales from the race track before returning home, a last chance for the Royal Yacht Club members to say thank you to the international contingent that help set this race apart from others of its kind.

Top prize of the event, the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy and Rolex Yacht-master Chronometer for finishing first overall under IRC Handicap went to Andres Soriano, skipper and owner of the 69-foot Mills designed Alegre. For a successful businessman and seasoned offshore sailor, Soriano is openly thrilled to have won this year’s race. He has beaten the whole fleet and significantly, within his Class, he has beaten some of the best sailors in the world sailing on some of the world’s best grand prix racing yachts. Soriano acknowledged the organisers work in putting on the race and described not just the winning, but also the taking part in this edition as « the experience of our lives. » Continuing, he thanked the Royal Malta Yacht Club for being such generous hosts.

Winners were varied and from throughout the fleet. Sean Borg, aged 16 and a half, sailing on Strait Dealer was awarded the Youth Cup by Bernard Vassallo, CEO of the Malta Sports Council. Strait Dealer, as first Maltese skippered yacht across the finish, was awarded the Malta Maritime Authority Trophy by Mr Mark Portelli, Chairman of the MMA – a body which had bent over backwards to assist with the start arrangements in Grand Harbour, including clearing tugs, barges and other service ships from immediate environs. Lee Satariano and Artie won the Starboard Trophy, for first Maltese boat on handicap.

One of the biggest cheers of the proceedings went to Cambo III and cousins, Steven and Michael Clough who won the John Illingworth Trophy for being first boat on corrected time in the Double Handed Class, despite being last boat home more than 24-hours after the penultimate finisher. The Nations Cup went to the United Kingdom after Alegre, Rán and ICAP Leopard combined for the best three-boat score under IRC. Winner of the Boccale del Mediterraneo Trophy for top boat overall under ORC was Luna Rossa.

Notable IRC Class winners were Elusive II Medbank and Arthur Podesta (Class 3), Podesta celebrating his thirtieth race in style. As someone whose DNA is inextricably linked with the history of this great race, Podesta considers himself a winner every year he gets to the start line, particularly so nowadays racing with his three children. Anonino Fava and Velado from Marzamemi in Sicily took the laurels in Class 4, on this first his Rolex Middle Sea Race venture. Matt Hardy’s Nikata, which earlier in event had taken the plaudits for best on-course menu, took home Class 2.

The presentation of the RLR line honours trophy and the Malta Tourism Authority trophy for first non-Maltese yacht home to ICAP Leopard, was followed by a moving tribute by the RMYC to Paul Ripard who died earlier this year. The name Ripard is another intertwined with the legend. With a son, Christian, and a nephew, Sebastian, participating this year Paul’s legacy is a living one.

Commodore Bonello DuPuis’s opening remarks in which he thanked the network of committee members and volunteers that make the event possible were echoed by Malcolm Lowell of Edwards, Lowell Ltd representing Rolex S.A. Malta is an island that for centuries has enjoyed a significance out of proportion to its size. Each year, the Royal Malta Yacht Club organises a race that punches well above the club’s apparent weight. This year no less than others. Former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, perhaps encapsulated Malta and its spirit best when describing it as « that tiny rock of history and romance. » Such a sentiment could equally apply to the Rolex Middle Sea Race, which has plenty of both.

The 2010 Rolex Middle Sea Race will start from Grand Harbour on Saturday, 23 October 2010.