The Royal Malta Yacht Club is a hive of activity today, as the 110-boat international fleet taking part in the 38th Rolex Middle Sea Race, continue their preparations ahead of the start on Saturday.
Light winds are expected for the first part of the race, with a significant northwesterly arriving by the third day.
According to the latest weather forecasts, the start is forecast to have a moderate easterly breeze, which is due to fade on the first night. Light winds should then affect the majority of the fleet throughout Sunday. By dawn on Monday, a fresh Mistral is expected to arrive in the vicinity of Favignana and these strong winds from the northwest are forecast across the race course for around 48 hours.
Fourteen teams from Russia will be taking part this year, including Yuri Fadeev’s Reflex 38 Kabestan Intuition, which has only one non-Russian in the crew, Patrice Ernandez from France. “We are out practising today, and especially looking at our downwind trim.” commented Fadeev. “The boat is provisioned, and we are ready to race. It looks like we might have light winds for the first couple of days, then we are expecting a lot more wind, and we are hoping to get past Stromboli before it arrives, or it could turn into a tough beat to round the famous volcano.”
Ross Applebey, skipper of British First 45 Scarlet Sailplane, knows all too well how the weather can change in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. “Racing Scarlet Oyster in 2014, we experienced a full-blown gale, and we snapped our rudder, and retired from the race.” explained Applebey.
“I think it is important to reduce sail early if you are expecting bad weather, and make sure everyone has had a good meal before it arrives. In 2014, the skies became very overcast, and a mist descended before the front arrived, so I would say that would be a good sign to look for!”
The northwesterly wind, known as the Mistral or majjistral in Maltese, emanates from the Rhone Valley. After a period of settled weather, there is change afoot in the Alps with snow forecast. The cooler air flow down the mountains will funnel through the valley and out onto the warm waters of the Mediterranean, where the winds will be energized produce high speeds as far south as Malta.
The 38th Rolex Middle Sea Race starts from Grand Harbour, Valletta at 11.00 CEST on Saturday, 21 October.