Not surprisingly Neville Crichton's 90ft super maxi Alfa Romeo led the fleet across the finish line of the first race of the organised Rolex Middle Sea Race Week yesterday

The first inshore race of the Royal Malta Yacht Club-organised Rolex Middle Sea Race Week started from Lazzaretto Creek between Manoel Island and Valletta yesterday. The Rolex fleet raced a 36-mile course out and back to the rocky outcrop of Filfla to the south of Malta. The first boat home was Neville Crichton’s 90ft Super Maxi Alfa Romeo in slightly less than three and a half hours.

After a delayed start to wait for the wind to fill in the fleet set off under spinnaker and Alfred Manduca’s local boat Maltese Falcon II, a Beneteau 40.7, showed the way behind the giant Alfa Romeo, picking up a favourable whisper of wind on the northern side of the creek, the crew dousing the spinnaker and reaching out under headsail. Once the fleet settled into a more stable wind outside the harbour, Skip Sheldon’s 60-foot cruiser-racer Zaraffa found her legs and moved into second place on the water.

The first turn mark, situated just one mile offshore at the Valletta Fairway Buoy, saw the fleet round in order of length and head upwind to the south towards the bottom of the Island of Malta. The light conditions slowly stabilised at around eight knots of breeze, conditions that kept the fleet on the wind most of the way to the Filfla Rock, the halfway point.

The return leg saw spinnakers set and a reaching course sailed back to the east coast to the Valletta Fairway Buoy and then on to the finish. Just before two o’clock the New Zealand-registered Alfa Romeo crossed the line in the shadow of the impressive dome of the Carmelite church to take line honours.

Racing continues today with another inshore race, tomorrow (Friday is layday) and the 607-mile Rolex Middle Sea Race will start at 1100 on Saturday.