The middle sea race started yesterday. This is one of the great races. I had the pleasure of sailing the race in 2009, a race which saw 33 boats withdraw the first night, before reaching the Straits of Messina between Italy and Sicily. We finished, but not well enough for silver.
The Middle Sea Race starts this saturday. It is one year ago that I was in Malta preparing for the Race on a chartered boat “Nix” with Bugs Baer and a crew I now call friends.
Weather in the Mediterranean is fickle and for those of us used to rather predictable systems in the northern hemisphere even more difficult to grasp. The recent conditions in Malta were “blowing dogs off chains” but who knows what will happen during the race.
Carravaggio fled to Malta in 1608. As everywhere he went, he left his mark. The collection of the Cathedral of St. John in Valletta of his paintings is one of the finest I have ever seen. In the last 25 years I have gone to every exhibit of Carravaggio I could; each with a tale of it’s own.
Carravaggio was dubbed a knight by the time he left Malta, depending on which version you read, leaving behind some of the most visceral, powerful paintings I have ever seen. A man with such self destructive talent.
How do I reduce the image of Malta into a few photographs? .
I was here for the Middle Sea race ( see the blog of the race :http://www.tripsailor.com/blogs/2667-blog-rolex-middle-sea-race-2009) and had to try to stay focused on that. Even preparing the boat as the sun moved across the sky my impressions of Malta were ever changing.
I never was able to see more of the island country than going to and from the boat, which left me yearning to see and understand more.
The 2009 version of the Middle Sea Race is done and dusted as the English are apt to say. I sailed on a 61 foot X-yacht called “Nix” under charter to Bugs Baer, with whom I had sailed the 2005 Trans-atlantic race. As in 2005 I came aboard not knowing any of the crew; and left with new friends.
On Thursday before the race, the entire crew spent the entire day without a stop emptying the boat of as much excess weigh as we could. It amounted to a considerable amount. Friday, we had a crew practice, as we had never sailed together before. We hit 16.5 knots, a new record for the boat. I do not think we went faster than 14.5 knots during the race itself.
The 606 mile race starts in the Grand Harbour of Malta, heading for the south eastern tip of Corsica, northward through the Straits of Messina. From there rounding Stromboli to port, the Egadi Islands, Pantelleria and Lampedusa Islands, the South Comino Channel, keeping Malta to starboard, to the finish line in Marsamxett Harbour. We finished the race in 3 days 20 hours and 54 minutes. I suspect that if “Nix” had been weighed, her rating would be considerably lower, and our results would have been improved.
77 Yachts entered and 37 withdrew largely because of the severe weather. Starting October 17, the water is still quite warm; this can produce small violent squalls. We encountered a few. These squalls can be seen on radar, but not always avoidable. We even had hail, the size of grapes, others reported hail the size of golf balls. “Rosebud” the 65 footer lost her mast, and “Belle Mente” withdrew.
I took photographs when I was able, and will post them at a later date. Of no less importance and a visual overload is Malta itself. One can stand in one place and in the course of the day the view will change, the light, the shadows, the perspectives created by the centuries of building. The history of Malta is familiar to almost everyone, but to see it is remarkable. There are churches everywhere, each more beautiful than the previous.