The leg­end lives on ...

Malta Independent - - SPORT - Wil­fred Sul­tana

Forty-eight years ago, in 1968 an idea was con­ceived not based around the dream world of fa­bles and fan­tasy but on the ad­ven­ture of men and their boats in a test of strat­egy and skill.

Trig­gered by a con­cept of Club mem­bers Jimmy White and Alan Green the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Rac­ing Club co-founded the 606 nau­ti­cal miles Mid­dle Sea Race which from a mer­est be­gin­ning of 8 starters grew into a “must do” com­mand­ing Event par­tic­u­larly since af­firm­ing Rolex as ti­tle spon­sor.

Today, the Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race, now in its 37th edi­tion and with a record en­try of 122 boats in 2014 is proudly part of the Rolex World of Yachting fea­tur­ing some of the most an­cient and spec­tac­u­lar sea races in the world. The Course record of this off­shore clas­sic, es­tab­lished by Ram­bler (USA) in 2007, is 1day, 23hours, 55mins 3secs.

“In 1968 we were only 8 starters, among which the fa­mous Stor­mvo­gel and the Ital­ian Navy Stella Po­lare. In 1970 there were 25 starters with Stor­mvo­gel and Stella Po­lare back again. Also of note was the fa­mous One Ton­ner Kerkyra with Olympic Gold Medal­list Ad­mi­ral Straulino at the helm. With my brother Paul and Arthur Podesta on board and a mainly Mal­tese crew, Josian and Tikka II were the over­all win­ners of the 1968 and 1970 races re­spec­tively. On both oc­ca­sions we were the only par­tic­i­pat­ing Mal­tese boat”, re­calls John Ri­pard Sr win­ner of two of the first edi­tions.

John Ri­pard Sr be­lieves that the Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race was in­stru­men­tal in en­hanc­ing the growth of sail­ing, par­tic­u­larly by en­cour­ag­ing Mal­tese sailors to par­tic­i­pate in off­shore rac­ing. “In the early six­ties the sadly de­parted great skip­per Arthur Podesta started his rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with me in the Royal Malta Yacht Club’s sev­eral off­shore rac­ing pro­gramme. In 1974 when we won the Cruiser Di­vi­sion of the Mid­dle Sea Race on Zizanie, my teenager son John Jr had his first ex­pe­ri­ence of the RMSR” re­marked John Ri­pard Sr..

Even­tu­ally John Ri­pard Jr to­gether with An­drew Calas­cione went on to win the 23rd Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race in 2002 on board Mar­ket Wiz­ard.

The first time I re­ferred to Chris­tian Ri­pard in an ar­ti­cle was in early 1976 when, then aged 13, to­gether with his fa­ther Paul he won the Sports­man­ship Cru­sade spon­sored by UNESCO. In the same year Chris­tian placed 7th out of 51 chal­lengers in the 1st World Mir­ror Dinghy Cham­pi­onship in Hol­land. Two years later in 1978 he raced his first RMSR, aged 15.

How would you de­scribe the evo­lu­tion of the event and its con­tri­bu­tion to the in­volve­ment of lo­cal teenage sailors?

“A lot of young Mal­tese sailors have now done this race with a lot more com­ing out of the var­i­ous lo­cal dinghy clubs, soon able to qual­ify. This race is on all their ‘bucket lists’ as the race is at the pin­na­cle of the sport both lo­cally and In­ter­na­tion­ally. The race at­tracts a lot of sail­ings top pro­fes­sion­als, be it Olympic medal­ists and World cham­pi­ons in­clud­ing all the best ‘one off’ race yacht’s and se­ries pro­duc­tion boats avail­able any­where in the world today. This makes the race all the more ap­peal­ing to the young as­pir­ing sailor who have an op­por­tu­nity to race against and mix so­cially with the top names in the sail­ing world.”

Chris­tian Ri­pard, who has raced 27 RMSR with Four wins (1996-Big­foot, 2001-Strait Dealer, 2011-Ar­tie , and 2014-Ar­tie), is the helms­man with the most num­ber of vic­to­ries.

On the two vic­to­ries on Ar­tie Chris­tian was to­gether with Lee Satar­i­ano who sailed his first RMSR in 2004. Lee was one of the many young­sters in­tro­duced to the Event by Chris­tian.

A race with so many sto­ries, of achieve­ments and dis­ap­point­ments too, so many records of par­tic­i­pa­tion and of vic­to­ries. The past 36 Edi­tions gave 16 Wins to Italy, 7 Wins to Malta, 4 Wins to the USA, 2 Wins each to France, Ger­many and to the United King­dom and 1 Win each to South Africa, Aus­tria and to Greece.

Among the en­trants there are also eight lo­cal boats. These are Ar­tie (Lee Satar­i­ano-Chris­tian Ri­pard/Se­bas­tian Ri­pard), Elu­sive (Maya, Aaron, Christoph Podesta), Geisha (David Piz­zuto), Otra Vez (Aaron Gatt Floridia), Ton Ton Mal­tachar­ters (Jonathan Gam­bin), Unica (Jamie Sam­mut), XP-Act (Timmy Camil­leri), and Xpresso (Sean Borg). Good Luck Boys….and Girls too!

The start of the 37th edi­tion of the Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race is set for next Sat­ur­day from Grand Har­bour. A se­ries of starts are sched­uled to be held be­tween 11 and 12 noon.

Ar­tie, a J122 model, the boat that won the 2011 and 2014 edi­tions of the Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race for Malta and for Lee Satar­i­ano and Chris­tian Ri­pard Photo: Rolex/Kurt Ar­rigo

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