The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a 606-mile annual offshore race that takes place in the autumn in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Middle Sea Race is organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) and was founded in 1968, only four years after Malta’s independence from Great Britain.

The race began as a rivalry between two British sailors who were living in Malta at the time, Alan Green and Jimmy White, and two Maltese brothers Paul and John Ripard, all of whom were members of the RMYC.

Like other offshore classics, the Middle Sea Race attracts all kinds of yachts, from the 100ft Maxis to Corinthian cruiser-racers, along with some of the fastest multihulls racing at the moment.

The race ranks alongside the other classic 600-mile offshores, and is only slightly shorter than the Rolex Sydney Hobart race. The Rolex Middle Sea Race takes advantage of the warmer autumn weather of the Mediterranean, but frequently sees several days of strong windy conditions for competitors.

What is the Rolex Middle Sea Race course?

The course’s start and finish line are set at the Grand Harbour, Valletta in Malta and the route is an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Sicily.

After two days of inshore racing to get the fleet warmed up, the Rolex Middle Sea Race itself takes the boats around one of the most stunning courses on the yachting circuit – 607 miles anti-clockwise around Sicily, first north past Mount Etna and through the Straits of Messina, around the volcanic island of Stromboli.

The Middle Sea Race then heads west to the Egadi islands and Trapani at the north-western corner of Sicily, before heading south past Pantelleria, around the island of Lampedusa, close to the north African coast and finally back to Malta.

Rolex Middle Sea Race record

2021’s 42nd edition of the the race was dominated by an exceptional weather window that offered fast downwind sailing virtually the entire way around the course.

This lead to record breaking runs for both the course record and the monohull record.

During that race, the 100ft Maxi, Comanche completed the 606-nautical mile racecourse in a time of 40 hours, 17 minutes and 50 seconds, setting a new monohull record, seven and half hours inside the previous best.

At the same time, also able to take full advantage of the conditions, was Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo powering around the course in a time of 33 hours, 29 minutes and 28 seconds, setting a remarkable outright race record

The Rolex Middle Sea Race has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.