Archive for the ‘News from Malta’ Category

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.

What a sunbather!

August 7, 2012

Largest solar-powered boat arrives for brief tour of the island –

When Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed around the world in the 16th century, he left Spain with 280 men aboard five ships.

Only one ship and some 20 men would make it back. And while sailing techniques have evolved considerably, taking to the high seas remains a resource-hungry endeavour.

Unless you are one of the five crew members aboard the MS Tûranor Planetsolar, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, which earlier this year made it around the globe without expending a single gram of fuel.

The 100-foot catamaran is covered with more than 500 square metres of high-efficiency solar panels, which are connected to two electric motors found in its hulls.

Everything aboard, from its navigation system to coffee machine, is powered by the sun’s rays. Malta’s beating summer sun meant that the boat was generating more energy than it could store, captain Eric Dumont explained.

He was reluctant to say how much the boat cost to build, although the Guinness Book of Records puts its cost at a whopping €15 million.

Resources Minister George Pullicino paid the boat and its crew a brief visit yesterday morning. As he admired the feat of engineering, Dr Pullicino drew parallels with the increased uptake of solar-generated electricity by Maltese households.

The majestic boat arrived in Malta on Saturday as part of a brief Mediterranean tour. It will be making brief stops in Balluta Bay, St Paul’s Bay and Għadira Bay on Thursday before docking overnight at Mġarr, Gozo.

It will then leave Maltese shores on Friday morning, gradually making its way back to its home berth in Monaco, where it is expected to undergo a revamp based on the lessons learned throughout its round-the-world voyage.

I love you Malta – grazzi, says Laura

August 3, 2012


Italian star who has sold over 45million albums across the world performs some of her greatest hits at a sparkling concert in Ta’ Qali where she got a warm welcome

Italian singer Laura Pausini returned to the Maltese islands to give yet another show-stopping performance on Wednesday night.

Numerous fans packed the open-air grounds at the MFCC, in Ta’ Qali, to welcome back the artist who had given a successful concert here in 2009.

The singer performed some of her most popular hits such as La solitudine and Strani amori and numbers from her latest album, Inedito.

Video projections and costume changes complemented the performances.

The artiste showed her warmer side as she interacted with the audience continuously during the one-and-a-half-hour show. She also dabbled in Maltese, telling the crowd “inħobbokom” (I love you) on a number of occasions and “grazzi ħafna” (thanks a lot), among other phrases.

“It was a fantastic show,” said one fan, “despite some minor hitches”. The concert began about half an hour late because of some lighting problems. “This left the stage somehow dark,” according to the concert-goer.

Ever since winning the 1993 edition of the Sanremo festival with La Solitudine, Pausini has sold over 45 million albums throughout the world, winning three Latin Grammy Awards.

She is not only loved in Italy but also Spain, France, The Netherlands and as far away as South America.

Her latest world tour, titled Inedito like her latest release, is directed by Marco Balich, creator of the Winter Olympics’ ceremonies in Turin in 2006 and the inauguration of the Juventus stadium last summer.

The set was designed by Mark Fisher, who has worked with Pink Floyd and U2.

Vittoriosa to twin with St Tropez

July 25, 2012


Former French sex symbol Brigitte Bardot may not have descended on Vittoriosa in the 1960s, elevating it to an upmarket destination as the icon had done in St Tropez. But one of the Three Cities is benefitting from her celebrity influence many years down the line.

The French Riviera port in the south of France, associated with famous and wealthy guests, may appear to be worlds apart from Vittoriosa but the two cities are about to be twinned and the latter stands to benefit from the link to the exclusive St Tropez brand.

For the first time, the Côte d’Azur destination, often referred to as the “playground” of jet-setters, models and millionaires, has decided to twin with another port and chose the once neglected but recently regenerated Vittoriosa over others in Europe.

For its mayor, John Boxall, the twinning between the “smallest island in the middle of the Mediterranean, the smallest country in the EU, and one of France’s richest cities means a lot”.

Vittoriosa, he maintained, would automatically experience a quality leap in terms of popularity and the link was expected to “boost Birgu”, leaving an impact on its tourism, with the arrival of more superyachts in the marina serving to strengthen its economy.

“The yachting industry is big business,” Mr Boxall acknowledged, adding it led to even more regeneration. He was convinced the town, which already hosts luxury yachts and was still being upgraded, should benefit from the connection with the internationally known seaside resort and so should the country.

The twinning idea was born a couple of years ago through former Maltese Ambassador to France, Mark Miggiani, and Ambassador Pierre Clive Agius has continued in his predecessor’s footsteps.

The hook has been the prestigious regatta Trophée Bailli de Suffren from St Tropez to Malta, which has, since this year, ended at the Vittoriosa Waterfront and should be the yearly finishing line.

Although the two ports would not appear to have much in common, French Admiral Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez (1729–1788), who served with the Knights of the Order of St John, is a common denominator that has been capitalised on.

Thanks to the regatta and the consequent twinning, the two ports could take advantage of each others’ potential, be it history, or tourism, Mr Boxall said.

“Big names have already started arriving in Vittoriosa, thanks to the regatta, and more are expected in the future,” he continued.

While St Tropez enjoyed celebrity status, Vittoriosa – “the cradle of Maltese civilisation” – boasted the history, Mr Boxall pointed out. He was recently invited by St Tropez mayor Jean-Pierre Tuveri for the start of the regatta and to lay wreaths at the admiral’s monument.

The plan is to sign the twinning agreement in the fitting and newly renovated Auberge de France during Birgufest in October, which includes the Birgu by Candlelight event.

Chapels at the root of life

April 20, 2012


Many small churches and chapels dot villages in Malta and the surrounding countryside and visitors to our islands will probably equate them with religious pastoral care only.

But a closer look at the buildings and their beginnings reveals that they mirror the roots of the present Maltese European culture and are a pointer to how our society has developed over the years.

Eddie and Tony Aquilina, of Miranda Publishers, continue their tireless efforts to record this Maltese history in print and have just come out with the second volume of The Historic Chapels of Malta and Gozo 360.

The text and research on the chapels has been left in the hands of Joe Grima while the photography was once again entrusted to Enrico Formica.

Eddie Aquilina spent a lot of time scouting the areas and making contact with the people responsible for the chapels so that, once the photo­grapher arrived in Malta, no time would be lost.

Most of the images are animated with people and the photo­graphs were taken at different times of the year to make the best not only of the seasons but also of the liturgical feasts, natural light and cloud formations.

“This is not digitial photography,”said Mr Aquilina. “It is not a case of stitching images together digitally. These are slides, some of which measure up to 30 centimetres, in one complete shot.

“This is art photography at its best.”

In the same breath, he acknowledged all the help and support he got not just from his sponsors but also from the villagers and residents without whose participation “the production of the book would have been an impossible task”.
The series’ third volume is expected to hit the shelves later this year.

Malta becomes biggest ship registry in Europe

January 23, 2012


For the first time in its maritime history, Malta has been confirmed as the country with the largest ship register in Europe.

Following a 16 per cent increase in tonnage, the island surpassed Greece
By the end of the year, 5,830 vessels – a total of 45.6 million tonnes – were registered under the Maltese flag, Transport Minister Austin Gatt has said.

“Following a 16 per cent increase in tonnage, the island surpassed Greece for the first time. Although it’s the smallest European country, Malta has the seventh largest ship register in the world,” he said.

Dr Gatt said that during 2011, the Maltese shipping register generated over €12 million in revenue for Transport Malta alone.

This significant achievement was mainly attributed to the register’s high-service quality which attracted reputable companies, Dr Gatt added. Applicants had to pass through a rigorous selection process and not every owner who expressed interest in joining the register was accepted.

The condition and the age of prospective members are a major factor in the determination of whether they would make it to the register.

Malta’s register listed various types of vessels, including cruise liners like the Royal Caribbean, and super yachts, which registered an increase of 18.6 per cent over the previous year.

Malta has the lowest inflation in eurozone – Times of Malta

January 23, 2012


Malta registered the lowest rate of inflation in the euro area in December, according to data issued by Eurostat.

The EU’s statistics office said the island’s inflation stood at 1.3 per cent, 1.4 per cent below the average in the 17-member eurozone.

The rate of inflation in December was, in fact, the lowest registered in Malta for the year, after the island registered a significant four per cent inflation in 2010.

Across the EU, the lowest annual rate of inflation last month was seen in Sweden (0.4 per cent) and Malta and Bulgaria (two per cent), while the highest was in Slovakia (4.6 per cent), Poland (4.5 per cent) and Cyprus (4.2 per cent).

Fuel used for transport, heating oil and gas and electricity once again had the largest upwards impact on the EU’s inflation rate.

Record-breaking 80 entries registered Previous best was 77 in 2008

October 13, 2011

A record has been broken even before the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race on October 22, it was announced yesterday.

Days before final registration for this year’s event, entries have risen to a record-breaking 80 and there are still a few days to go before the last entry can be accepted.

New entries from Italy, Serbia, Slovenia and the UK have pushed the numbers up to 80, three more than the previous record of 77 in 2008.

“We can accept late entries up until October 17 and we do expect one or two more, said Georges Bonello Dupuis, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

“As it is, entries for this year are incredible and we are really looking forward to seeing them all berthed outside our headquarters… the place will be buzzing,” he added.

A handful of boats are here, including previous RMSR line honours and overall winner, Alegre together with back-to-back Rolex Fastnet winner Ran 2.

Other arrivals include the UK Swan 57 Yellowdrama, who’ll be fighting for the new Nautor Swan Cup, Echo, Doppelbock (Germany and UK) and Filando and Tyke from Italy.

Filando’s 14-man crew are here for the first time to take part in a race that they consider “the best offshore regatta in the Mediterranean.”

Many of the entries will arrive this weekend, including the brand new 85-foot Nautor Swan Berenice, from Italy.

While good weather over the weekend will ease the passage of arriving yachts, Bonello Dupuis cautioned: “I expect one or two might have problems but fingers crossed that everyone arrives here safely… they will certainly receive a warm welcome.”

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is organised in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.