Maverick among early Rolex Middle Sea Race entries
Chartered by Michael Firmin with some experienced crew, the Infiniti 46R is among almost 80 entries 2½ months ahead of the race start in Malta on October 22.
The Infiniti 46R Maverick was among almost 80 entries for the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race as of August 10. The annual spectacle starts in Valletta’s Grand Harbour in Malta on October 22 before returning after an anti-clockwise lap around Sicily and surrounding islands.
The cut-off date for entry is officially September 23, but the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) has retained the discretion to accept late entries up to September 30.
This year’s entrants hail from across Europe, Australia, US, Canada, UAE and South Africa, and features the usual array of professionals, amateurs and adventurers. At the faster end, debutant Frank Slootman’s MOD70 Snowflake has been joined by Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi 70, which will mark its fifth appearance.
Among the monohulls, one entry to catch the eye is Maverick, which was campaigned around the 606nm course with great success on two previous occasions by Quentin Stewart, winning class both times and finishing third overall in 2016.
This year, Maverick has been chartered by Michael Firmin, who raced on the DSS foil-equipped flyer at the 2017 Rolex Fastnet and 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart, where she finished third in class. Firmin has not previously competed in the Rolex Middle Sea Race and leapt at the chance to charter Maverick when he learned she was available.
“Despite a longstanding love of the ocean and offshore racing, this will be my first Rolex Middle Sea Race. I have been very lucky to complete all the other major blue water events and I hold this one in high regard. It has long been on the bucket list,” Firmin said.
“Maverick is an awesome boat that I have had a long affinity with from the initial concept through to Quentin’s successful campaigning over many seasons. I know her pedigree very well.”
Firmin is joined by Stu Bannatyne, known as ‘King of the Southern Ocean’ and a four-time winner of the Ocean Race, two-time 29er world champion Steve Thomas, David Gilmour and Infiniti founder Gordon Kay.
The 30.5m Leopard 3, a Farr 100, is among the largest entries as it returns after a five-year absence. In contrast to Firmin, Chris Sherlock is no stranger to the Rolex Middle Sea Race, having first competed back in 1997 onboard Mike Slade’s IOR maxi, Longobarda. Sherlock has competed four times since as the skipper of Leopard of London in 2002, and Leopard 3 in 2009, 2010 and 2017.
“The Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the greatest offshore races in the world,” Sherlock said. “First, it’s a circle and that is unusual. It has the most amazing scenery, too. Most importantly, I think it is a fair race. You will get a bit of everything and because it is a circle every boat should get the conditions they perform best in at some point. It’s not just a straight line, so it’s never boring.”
In 2009, Slade and Sherlock brought the 30.5m Leopard 3 to the course and – in winds like 2007 – set a blistering pace, finishing just over 30 minutes outside the-then record time. Returning in 2010, and racing in less-favourable breeze, Leopard 3 was outgunned by Esimit Europa 2 in the battle for line honours. In 2017, Leopard 3 was under charter with Sherlock as skipper and finished second on the water behind Rambler in another ‘slow’ year.
For 2022, Leopard is under new ownership, while the crew includes a lot of Ocean Race experience as well as experience on Leopard, and includes Mitch Booth, Ian Budgen, Jan Dekker, Juanpa Marcos and Will Best as navigator
“We have a new owner who is currently building his familiarity with the boat. He is young, likes to helm and is keen to go offshore. We did the RORC Caribbean 600 as a taster and that went well,” Sherlock said. “The Rolex Middle Sea Race is the next challenge. It is one of my favourite races. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Within the main body of IRC entries, the impressive two-time winning Maltese co-skipper combo, Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard, are back hoping for a three-peat, with Satariano’s latest Artie.
Among yachts returning from last year, Frederic Puzin’s Daguet-Corum 3 finished first in IRC Class 2 and third overall, while Artie III was second in IRC Class 3 and seventh overall. Chenapan 4, Gilles Caminade’s Ker 40, finished in the top 20 overall, as did fellow French entry Ludovic Gerard’s Solenn for Pure Ocean (second in the Double-Handed Division).