Archive for October, 2012

Seven days of thrilling racing

October 29, 2012


On the morning of October 20, 2012, the Saluting Battery, high up in Valletta, signalled the start of the 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race.
A record entry of 83 yachts from 19 countries started the 606-mile race witnessed by thousands of spectators crowded along the bastions overlooking the Grand Harbour.
The Slovenian Maxi, Esimit Europa 2, was to take line honours for the third consecutive year. However, it would be seven days before the last yacht would cross the finish line.
It was on day four that the 100-ft Maxi, Esimit Europa 2, crossed the finish line at 01:13.15 CEST. Jochen Schümann showered the Maxi crew with champagne dockside at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.
“That was a tough one,” explained Schümann. “We got caught up by Ran and Stig in the first parking lot at Stromboli but it was by no means the last.
“Our goal was line honours and it was impossible to relax during any part of the race.
“We are delighted to have taken line honours and finish off a great season in style.”
It was nearly seven hours before Niklas Zennstrom’s JV 72, Ran ,crossed the finish line, setting the bar for the rest of the fleet to better after time correction. Ran put in a magnificent performance to lead a highly competitive Class 1 and lay claim to an overall win but overall victory was to escape them.
In the early hours of day five, a massive thunderstorm and torrential rain engulfed Malta. Nick Lazos and Periklis Livas’ Farr 52, Optimum 3 Aspida reached the finish line at 03:00 to lead Class Two and the Rolex Middle Sea Race overall.
However, the Greek team’s tenure on this extraordinary race was very short-lived. At 04:18 Eddie De Villiers’s Welbourne 46, Hi Fidelity, completed the race to take the overall lead.
In driving rain with thunderbolts lighting up the bastions, the South African crew looked astonished to find out that they were hot favourites to win the overall prize.
“We didn’t have a clue how well we were doing until we finished, it is unbelievable,” exclaimed Hi Fidelity’s owner, Eddie De Villiers.
“The crew have been absolutely fantastic, I cannot give them enough praise. This has been one hell of a race, we have had just about everything thrown at us.
“Coming through the Comino Strait there was a terrific amount of thunder and lightning, it was all around us and the wind touched 37 knots.
“To come through the finish and find out that we have such a great result is amazing!”
By the afternoon of day five, it became clear that none of the yachts still racing could better Hi Fidelity’s corrected time and the latter were announced as the overall winners.
The team from South Africa became the ninth different country to provide a winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy joining yachts from Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In the early hours of day six, Josef Schultheis’ and Paolo Semeraro’s Xp44, XP-ACT, crossed the finish line. The team had come close to beating Hi Fidelity but had to settle for a win in Class 3 and third overall.
XP-ACT had three Maltese crew on board. However, Artie RTFX, with an all-Malta crew, became the first Maltese boat to cross the finish line and win Class 4.
Artie RTFX co-skipper Christian Ripard spoke dockside: “We did our best, it was a great race and everybody did a great job working really hard but we just kept on getting stuck in patches of no wind, which was very frustrating.”
On day 7, the Rolex Middle Sea Race came to a fairytale conclusion for the Irish Two Handed team racing Dinah.
There were emotional scenes at The Royal Malta Yacht Club as Irish sailors Barry Hurley and Andrew Boyle sailed home in their 35ft yacht to win the double handed class, finishing just 25 minutes inside the time limit after seven days of tense racing.

Under starter’s orders… the Mdina Grand Prix

October 12, 2012


It was pedal to the metal as the Mdina Grand Prix got under way yesterday with the Mtaħleb Hill Climb.
A convoy of classic cars left the Hilton in St Julian’s at 8.30am, turning heads across the island as they sped towards Mtaħleb for the start of this year’s event.
There were more than enough classic vehicles taking part to rev the engines of vintage car lovers, including eight Bugattis, a 1933 Alfa Romeo 6C and a convertible Porsche 356.
Many of the participants have come from overseas especially for this popular street race, now in its fourth year.
The action continues today with the Mdina Glass Concours d’Elegance, which will once again be held in the Silent City’s Cathedral Square.
Live classical music and car owners in period outfits will add to the festive atmosphere.
Tomorrow morning’s practice will take place on the 2.2-kilometre track below the Mdina bastions: an exciting circuit featuring fast straights and demanding corners. Drivers will be timed in the afternoon to determine the winner.
The race climaxes on Sunday with 80 cars vying to take the chequered flag first. Participants will have two runs in the morning and two in the afternoon to determine who will be spraying the champagne on the final podium.
Demonstration runs by classic motorbikes and supercars are also expected on Sunday.

Pictorial homage to autumn

October 4, 2012

by Lino Bugeja, from

The Ramblers’ Association recently launched its autumn programme, designed to include the unique natural characteristics of the Maltese Islands and enormous cultural and archaeological heritage scattered over the countryside.

These include a vast array of wayside chapels and folk art in very remote pathways.

The 20 organised walks – held on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays – provide panoramic and scenic routes through some of the finest and most exhilarating green spaces on the islands.

These include the rolling hills of Mtaħleb; the rugged coastline at Xrobb l-Għaġin and Għajn Tuffieħa; Torri Falka, Gomerino and Il-Qallelija − a vast expanse of shaft graves probably Roman where the fragrance of thyme on the garigue fills the air; and the Binġemma Ridge, which is a fine viewpoint on the western side of The Victoria Lines.

The urban historical trail takes ramblers to the Three Cities, Valletta and Floriana, where they will not only taste the history and culture of these places but also visit the beautiful gardens adorning Floriana.

Other exciting walks are the Manikata, Għajn Żnuber and Ras il-Waħx walk, with its rich texture of ecclesiastical and natural interest characterised by various giren (corbelled huts) of all shapes and sizes. The pathway leads to the rugged cliff face of Il-Qammieħ in the distance.

The Gozo Mystery Walk, on December 22, is a one-day trek exploring the fantastic coastline punctuated by fertile valleys.

The marathon walk along the length of Malta, on December 29, brings the autumn programme to a close.