The Rolex Middle Sea Race: A Thrilling Sailing Adventure

Explore the World-Famous Yacht Race and Its Challenges

Greetings, sailing enthusiasts and adventurers! Do you want to experience the ultimate test of your sailing skills and endurance? Then you must join the Rolex Middle Sea Race, one of the most prestigious and challenging yacht races in the world. This annual event attracts professional and amateur sailors from around the globe to navigate a 606 nautical mile course around the stunning Malta archipelago. In this journal article, we’ll share everything you need to know about this thrilling race, its history, rules, advantages, disadvantages, FAQs, and more. So, get ready to hoist your sails and ride the waves!

Introduction to the Rolex Middle Sea Race:

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is an exciting and demanding offshore sailing competition, first held in 1968. It was created by the Royal Malta Yacht Club to promote sailing and tourism in the region and to challenge sailors to navigate complex courses in varying sea and wind conditions. The race takes place every October, attracting a diverse fleet of yachts that range in size from 9 to 30 meters. The course runs clockwise around the Maltese Islands, starting and finishing in Grand Harbour, Valletta, and passing through the Strait of Messina, the Aeolian Islands, and the Egadi Islands. Sailors must navigate through multiple hazards, including strong winds, changing currents, heavy seas, and rocky coastlines. The race typically takes from two to seven days to complete, depending on the conditions.

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a Category 2 offshore race, which means it’s open to boats equipped with safety equipment and capable of covering long distances offshore. The race is scored on a handicap basis, so boats of different sizes and types can compete fairly. The winner of the race is awarded the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy and a Rolex timepiece, while other prizes are given to the top finishers in different classes.

The History of the Race:

The Rolex Middle Sea Race has a rich and fascinating history, full of memorable moments and personalities. The first edition of the race was won by a British yacht named Josian, skippered by John Ripard Sr. Since then, notable sailors, such as Sir Chay Blyth, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and Johnny Walker, have participated in the race and left their mark on it. The race has witnessed many exciting battles, such as the duel between the Spanish yacht Fortuna and the Italian yacht Brava Q8 in 2003, where only 3 seconds separated the two boats after almost four days of racing. The race has also faced some unfortunate incidents, such as the sinking of the yacht Otra Vez in 1977 and the tragic loss of the Maltese sailor John Spiteri in 2011. Nonetheless, the race has continued to attract more participants and fans throughout the years, making it a beloved and respected event in the sailing world.

The Rules of the Race:

The Rolex Middle Sea Race follows the International Racing Rules of Sailing (IRRS), developed and managed by the World Sailing Association. The rules cover all aspects of the race, including eligibility, registration, safety, navigation, penalties, protests, and scoring. Sailors must read and understand the rules before entering the race to avoid any disqualification or penalty. Some of the essential rules include:

Rule Description
Rule 1 Participants must comply with the IRRS and any other instructions by the race organizers.
Rule 2 Participants must have a valid and current rating certificate from a recognized authority.
Rule 3 Participants must have the required safety equipment and follow the safety procedures and recommendations.
Rule 4 Participants must not use prohibited propulsion devices or engage in unsportsmanlike conduct.
Rule 5 Participants must respect the environment and not dispose of any waste or pollutants in the sea.

The Advantages of Participating in the Race:

The Rolex Middle Sea Race offers many benefits and rewards for those who dare to embark on this challenging adventure. Some of the advantages include:

1. Testing Your Limits and Skills:

The race provides an excellent opportunity for sailors to push themselves to their limits and improve their sailing techniques and strategies. The changing sea and wind conditions, combined with the competition from other boats, make the race a tough but rewarding challenge.

2. Exploring the Mediterranean and Its Beauty:

The race course takes sailors through some of the most scenic and historic spots along the Maltese Islands and neighboring regions, allowing them to appreciate the natural and cultural wonders of the Mediterranean. The azure waters, majestic cliffs, quaint villages, and ancient ruins offer a unique and unforgettable experience.

3. Connecting with Like-minded People:

The race attracts a diverse and international community of sailors, who share the passion for sailing and the thrill of adventure. The race provides an opportunity for networking, making new friends, and exchanging ideas and stories with fellow participants.

4. Winning Prizes and Certificates:

The Rolex Middle Sea Race offers attractive prizes, trophies, and certificates for the top finishers and class winners, which can boost your reputation and credentials as a competitive sailor. Additionally, the race provides a chance to gain recognition and media coverage from local and international news outlets.

The Disadvantages of Participating in the Race:

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is not for everyone and has some drawbacks and challenges that sailors must consider before signing up. Some of the disadvantages include:

1. High Costs and Logistics:

The race requires extensive preparation, equipment, and travel arrangements, which can be costly and time-consuming. Sailors must invest in boats, sails, navigation tools, and safety gear, as well as transport and accommodation for themselves and their crews. Additionally, they must comply with customs and immigration regulations and procedures, which can vary from country to country.

2. Physical and Mental Demands:

The race is physically and mentally demanding, as sailors must cope with sleep deprivation, seasickness, cold, heat, and fatigue while facing stormy and unpredictable weather conditions. The race can also be stressful and competitive, as sailors try to outmaneuver their rivals and avoid accidents and mistakes.

3. Safety Risks and Hazards:

The race course involves many risks and hazards, such as rocks, shoals, reefs, shipping lanes, fishing nets, and other boats. Sailors must be alert and cautious to avoid collisions or grounding, which can damage their boats or cause injuries or fatalities. Additionally, they must be prepared to cope with emergencies, such as rescues, medical issues, or equipment failures.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1. Can anyone participate in the Rolex Middle Sea Race?

No, only boats that meet the eligibility criteria and comply with the rules and safety requirements can enter the race. Additionally, sailors must have sufficient experience and skills in offshore sailing.

2. What is the entry fee for the race?

The entry fee varies depending on the boat’s size and type and the registration date. The fee covers the race package, including the welcome ceremony, the race briefing, the tracking device, and the prize-giving ceremony.

3. How many crews are allowed in each boat?

The number of crews is limited to the boat’s rating certificate and safety equipment. Some boats may require more or fewer crews depending on their size and complexity.

4. What is the race course like?

The race course is roughly a 606 nautical mile circuit around the Maltese Islands, passing through the Strait of Messina, the Aeolian Islands, and the Egadi Islands. The course can vary depending on the weather and sea conditions.

5. What safety equipment is required for the race?

The safety equipment includes life jackets, harnesses, lifelines, safety tethers, flares, life rafts, and first aid kits. The boats must also have VHF radios, GPS, AIS transponders, and other communication and navigation devices.

6. What happens if my boat breaks down during the race?

If your boat experiences a problem or failure during the race, you must inform the race organizers immediately and follow their instructions. They may provide you with assistance or arrange for a rescue if necessary, depending on the situation.

7. What is the time limit to complete the race?

The race has a time limit of six days, starting from the official start time. Boats that do not finish within the time limit may be disqualified or scored DNF (Did Not Finish).

8. What happens if I violate a rule?

If you violate a rule, you may face a penalty, such as a time penalty, a disqualification, or a protest. The race jury is responsible for reviewing and resolving any protests or rule violations.

9. How are the boats scored?

The boats are scored based on their elapsed time corrected by their rating handicap. The boat with the lowest corrected time is the winner. The race has several classes, each with its own rating system and prizes.

10. How can I follow the race from the shore?

You can follow the race online or through the race tracking app, which shows the boats’ positions, speed, and ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) in real-time. Additionally, there are several vantage points along the race course, such as the Grand Harbour in Valletta, where you can watch the boats start and finish.

11. How is the race affected by the weather?

The race is highly dependent on the weather and sea conditions, which can vary widely and rapidly. Sailors must monitor the weather forecasts and make strategic decisions based on the wind, waves, and currents. The race may also be postponed, shortened, or canceled if the conditions are deemed unsafe or unsuitable.

12. How can I prepare for the race?

You can prepare for the race by training regularly in offshore sailing, practicing navigation, safety procedures, and teamwork. You can also participate in other offshore races or regattas to gain experience and confidence. Additionally, you can seek advice and guidance from experienced sailors or coaches to improve your skills and tactics.

13. What advice would you give to first-time participants?

We would advise first-time participants to approach the race with respect and caution, as it can be daunting and challenging. They should focus on safety, communication, and teamwork, rather than winning, and learn from their mistakes and experiences. They should also enjoy the journey and appreciate the beauty and diversity of the Mediterranean.


The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a thrilling and prestigious yacht race that offers a unique and demanding challenge for sailors of all levels. The race course, the rules, the advantages, and the disadvantages of the race must be carefully considered before entering to ensure a safe, fair, and enjoyable experience. The race provides an opportunity for sailors to test their skills, explore the Mediterranean, connect with like-minded people, and win prizes and recognition. We encourage you to join this exciting adventure and discover the magic of offshore sailing.

Thank you for reading this journal article, and we hope you found it informative and engaging. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please feel free to leave them below. Happy sailing!

Closing Disclaimer:

This journal article is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice or endorsement. The Rolex Middle Sea Race and its organizers are not affiliated with this article and are not responsible for any inaccuracies, omissions, or errors. Sailors and participants must follow the official rules and regulations of the race and take full responsibility for their actions and choices. The author and the publisher disclaim any liability for any damages or losses arising from the use or misuse of this article.