Annoh discovers the world of yacht racing around four corners,
narrow straits, volcanoes, a myriad of islands and different
influential weather regimes …
and Yachting have courted each other since the late
1950s and this relationship has strengthened year
by year. If you are a yacht racing enthusiast, then
it is worth noting that the Rolex Middle Sea Race
is now the most famous racecourse, rubbing shoulders
with the Rolex Sydney Harbour and the Rolex Fastnet
as one of the “must do” events on the
yachts racing calendar.
it all began
In 1968, a group yacht racing friends living in Malta felt
that it was time to match the test set by the other, illustrious
600-nautical mile races; so they designed a race track featuring
four corners, narrow straits, volcanoes, a myriad of islands
and different influential weather regimes. They then created
a course that has attracted all types of sailors, from the
Corinthian adventurer to the full professional, all with
a common goal of mastering the challenge.
This year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race is no different
from when it started. If at all, it has got very exciting.
On 23 October 2010, 77 monohull and multihull yachts between
30-100 feet in length made up of one orange, ten green,
21 purple, 22 yellow and 23 blue, set off to conquer the
over 606-nautical mile offshore race through Malta’s
Aeolian Islands, Stromboli’s Egadi Islands –
Pantelleria – Lampedusa and back to Malta. The Race
is organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club in conjunction
with the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Classes include IRC and
ORC/ORC Club Handicap for monohull and MOCRA for Multihull.
boats started the race, and 60 finished one of the highest
numbers of finishers in recent years. The fleet included
boats from 17 nations, a veritable United Nations of competitors
and certainly along the quay at Grand Harbour Marina, boats
from Hungary, Italy, UK, US, Spain, and Slovenia, among
others, bore this out. The weather forecast for the entire
race itself was not exciting but these determined sailors
were prepared and always know what to expect during these
races. For us the spectators, the heavens were kind to us
and gave us a beautiful day of glorious sunshine with clear
blue skies; something to put us to put us in the right frame
of mind to bid them luck with a good cheer.
to this, participants had warmed-up with one inshore
warm-up race off Malta followed by a welcome party
hosted by George Bonello DuPuis, Commodore of the
Royal Malta Yacht Club. DuPuis welcomed competitors,
guests and teams to the newly opened Royal Malta Yacht
Club in Ta’Xbiex with a live band and good food.
The Clubhouse was especially opened one week prior
to the event. The history of Maltese Yacht Club dates
as far back as 1896 under various names but the current
club was created on13 November 1978 and after an extensive
nine-month refurbishment programme acquired its present
status and home in 2009.
Malta? - A Harbour of many names
Malta is full of history and fortifications. The race starts
from the Grand Harbour in historic Vittoriosa. Home to the
beautiful Camper & Nicholsons Marina, the Grand Harbour
was originally used by the Knights of St John who arrived
in Malta in 1530 after being exiled by the Ottomans from
their home in Rhodes. The Knights used the Harbour which
was then known as the Galley’s Creek as a safe haven
for their fleet of Galleons.
In the 1800s
the harbour was renamed Dockyard Creek by the British Colonial
Government and was subsequently used as the home port of
the British Mediterranean Fleet. In fact, Fort St Angelo,
conveniently located at the tip of the Vittoriosa peninsula
became the seat of the Admiralty and was given the title
of HMS Fort St Angelo. Unsurprisingly, Her Majesty, Queen
Elizabeth II, one of Malta’s loyal friends, officially
opened the Grand Harbour Marina as it is known today in
Harbour aside, Malta and its sister islands are very well
located. The Race itself glorifies the 16th Century bastions
of Valletta with a course that takes the yachts on a partial
circumnavigation of Sicily, within touching distance of
active volcanoes, through the narrow Strait of Messina that
saw monsters challenge Odysseus, past scenes of immense
sea battles, through waters used by every great trading
nation before returning to an archipelago
Valletta, the Malta’s de facto capital, has reunited
its old waterfront with the very new in its nineteen historical
250-year-old sumptuous warehouses, built by Grand Master
Pinto at the height of the baroque period in Malta. Today,
the historical Quay Wall where the Knights of St John and
European merchants used to unload their wares is now home
to restaurants and bars and large cruise ships.
Waterfront is also the gateway to Malta’s capital
city, Valletta – a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.
It is also one of the most successful Mediterranean ports.
to stay in Malta
The Corinthia Hotel St. George’s Bay
Hoteliers can either “hit” or “miss”
with seaside resorts especially when it comes to mixing
business with pleasure but the Corinthia Hotel St. George’s
Bay makes an exception to this rule. The staff are courteous,
well-trained and provide efficient customer service that
comes as a second nature to them.
I was particularly
impressed by how a family hotel of this size can be efficiently
managed to double as a business hotel. The hotel is well
located with astounding views of the sea.
It offers five-star
amenities, a selection of restaurants with a focus on Mediterranean
cuisine and its close proximity to the centre of Malta’s
vibrant nightlife, make the hotel a perfect destination
for an animated stay. Every room has a generous terrace
where you can relax and unwind while enjoying the beautiful
views or choose to have dinner by the pool to the sound
of lapping waves.
highly recommends the Corinthia Hotel St. George’s
Bay, in Malta.
A visit to Malta will not be complete without a visit to
Mdina. I was particularly enchanted by the exclusivity of
road access to the Noble residents of Mdina as well as the
unique properties behind the medieval walls.
Mdina, the old
capital of Malta, is a medieval-walled town situated on
a hill in the centre of the island. Punic remains uncovered
beyond the city’s walls suggest the importance of
the general region to Malta’s Phoenician settlers.
Mdina is commonly called the "Silent City" by
natives and visitors. The town is still confined within
its walls, and has a population of less than three hundred,
but it is contiguous with the village of Rabat, which takes
its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population
of over 11,000.
to stay and eat at Mdina
is a real paradise out of the middle ages with no
apartments. The walled medieval city has two kinds
of streets; the curved streets which were built during
the time of the Arabs as a form of defence as well
as the bastions. Going up these narrow curved streets,
one can find accommodation at the 17th Century Xara
Palace which is perched in the medieval, walled city
of Mdina and owned by the Zammit Tabona Family. Guests
can enjoy the spectacular views from the terrace and
dine at the Trattoria Xara Palace restaurant.
On the bastions
are lovely tea rooms, where on a sunny day one can enjoy
a coffee on the terrace and take in a splendid view at the
same time. As you walk along the bastions you can admire
the thickness of these walls and see three-quarters of Malta
on a clear day. This is also the place to be if you want
to get a good idea of what the countryside actually looks
were built during the time of the Order of St John in the
16th century and are built straight. The Arabs built bastions,
but the bastions built by the Arabs differ from the bastions
built during the time of the Order of St John. The bastions
built during the time of the Arabs are built vertically,
because at the time of the Arab rule, people used to climb
up the walls and they would be thrown down to their death,
whereas when the Order of St John came to Malta, gunpowder
started being used hence the slight angle, so that the cannon
ball would ricochet back on the person who fired it –
Island of Gozo: Some Places of Interest
Temples, Xaghra – Gozo
name Ggantija Temples means “place of giants”.
It is one of the oldest free standing structures in
the world. The site dates back to the third millennium
BC. The Ggantija temples stand at the end of the Xaghra
plateau, facing towards the south-east. Considered
as one of the World Heritage Sites, the Ggantija Temples
are one of the most important archaeological sites
in Malta. The origins of Ggantija dates back to the
Ggantija phase (3600 – 3200 B.C.). John Otto
Bayer was the first to excavate the temples in 1827.
Extensive archaeological and restoration work was
carried out in the early 20th century to ensure their
megalithic complex consists of two temples surrounded by
a massive common boundary wall. The temples are built with
rough, coralline limestone blocks and each temple contain
five apses connected by a central corridor leading to the
innermost trefoil section. The first temple is larger and
contains a variety of features such as altars, relief carvings
and libation holes. The second temple was built later and
is devoid of such features. Also of interest is the corbelling
technique evident on the inwardly inclined walls, suggesting
that the temple was roofed.
past, some locals even believed that the Islands’
temples, in particular those of Ggantija, were the work
of giants. This particular temple site in Gozo bears witness
to this ancient legend: its name, Ggantija, is Maltese for
Legend has it that this is the place where ODYSSEUS was
a prisoner of love for seven years. He was imprisoned by
Calypso, who promised him immortality if he would stay with
her. But he escaped, as soon as he had the possibility and
returned to his wife Penelope.
the Inland Sea and Fungus Rock
Visitors to Gozo should include Dwejra on Gozo's southern
coastline which is also a diver’s paradise.
often use the Inland Sea as their shore base for exploring
some of the most exciting deep waters around Gozo.
Another enchanting thing about Dwerja is the Fungus
Rock and the Azure Window. The Azure Window is mighty
rock which as been created by waves and rough seas
breaking on the rocks over a period of thousands of
years; the result is captivating. On the top of two
giant columns of rock, each with a diameter of about
40 metres, rests a huge ledge of rock measuring about
100 metres in length and 20 metres in height, forming
a giant window which one can see beyond. For centuries
the Gozitans have known this rare rock formation as
it-Tieqa (the Window).
also as il-Gebla tal-General (the General's Rock),
Fungus Rock stands proudly on its own as a unique
small island. It was here that Fungus Gaulitanus,
a fungus much prised by the Knights for its medicinal
powers, once grew. This rare plant was for centuries
kept under constant guard and anyone caught stealing
it was instantly put to death. It was so prized that
it was often presented as a precious gift to distinguished
noblemen and visitors to the islands. Due to the height
and the sheer sides of the tall rock it was almost
impossible to scale these from the sea, so the Knights
erected a hoist that could carry a man to its flat
top from the nearby watchtower on land. It still remains
to Malta with Air Malta. Air Malta flies from direct daily
from London and other UK airports to Malta including London
Heathrow and London Gatwick.
addresses for yachting enthusiasts in Malta
Full colour coverage of the Rolex Middle
Sea Race in the November 2010 digital