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Title defence: George David's RAMBLER 88 is on-track to defend her Line Hornours crown in the Rolex Middle Sea Race which starts in Malta on 22nd October.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club says it's experienced strong interest for the 608 nautical mile classic, which has seen past fleets in excess of 120 boats, representing more than 20 countries, including entries from Australia and New Zealand.

Rambler will face competition from two Volvo 70's, Green Dragon and Trifork, plus some similar sized, but less performance orientated starters.

2015 saw an impressive mix of mono and multihulls take part, with Rambier taking Monohull Line Honours, arriving not far behind Lloyd Thornburg's MOD 70 Phaedo 3. The latter was the first Multihull home.

Michele Galli's Italian TP52, B2 won the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy for the Overall Winner, whilst fellow' Italian Vincenzo Onorato's Cookson 50, Mascalzone Latino won the Boccale Del Mediterraneo, the overall winner of the ORC class.

The 2015 edition of the race was made more interesting by the fact that the fleet was more varied, from the big, professionally crewed boats to smaller yachts with Corinthian sailors as well as two big multihulls, both from the United States. One of these was Lloyd Thornburg's Phaedo3.

According to navigator of overall 2015 winner B2, Nacho Postigo, "in a typical Middle Sea Race you struggle to find the wind, and when you do, it happens in excess." On the 2015 race he noted, "it was more about managing the light than about strong winds. For me, this is one of the most challenging races in the world."

"It is similar to races like the Fastnet or the Caribbean 600 in terms of dealing with the islands, whether you stay offshore or you get closer," he said. After starting in Malta's Valletta Grand Harbour, the fleet heads north along the eastern coasts of Sicily up towards the Straits of Messina. Mt Etna's spectacular volcanic lightshow is usually visible on the fleet's port side. Once through the Straits, the course leads north to the Aeolian Islands and the Stromboli, where the yachts turn west to the Egadi Islands. Passing between Marettimo and Favignana the crews head south towards the island of Lampedusa leaving Pantelleria to port.

Once past Lampedusa the fleet turns northeast on the final leg towards the South Comino Channel and the finish at Marsamxett Harbour. The race's huge diversity of landscapes and sea conditions all combine to add to its attraction for sailors from around the world, 4www.

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Publication:Offshore Yachting
Date:Oct 1, 2016
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