Please select your home edition
Musto 2023 Hikers LEADERBOARD

IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge 2023-24 to set sail with Rolex Middle Sea Race

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 19 Oct 2023 13:04 BST 21 October 2023
Guido Paolo Gamucci's Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X passes the active volcano Stromboli during the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race © Kurt Arrigo / Rolex

The International Maxi Association's 2023-24 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge starts this Saturday (21 October) with a huge, top quality maxi yacht line-up as part of the Royal Malta Yacht Club's Rolex Middle Sea Race.

In the 44th edition of this 'classic 600 mile' anticlockwise lap of Sicily, starting and finishing off the Maltese capital Valletta, 17 maxi yachts of 60+ft LH are entered. In addition is Alexia Barrier's outright line honours favourite, the MOD70 trimaran Limosa, sailed by her all-women's Jules Verne Trophy (non-stop round the world record) team The Famous Project. They return to defend their title - in 2022 Limosa was Riccardo Pavoncelli's Mana.

Among the monohulls, the scratch boat is Bryon Ehrhart's Lucky, a boat which knows the way for as Rambler 88, under her original owner George David, she won line honours on five consecutive occasions between 2015 and 2019. Ehrhart has kept the majority of David's crew, led by America's Cup and offshore legend Brad Butterworth.

Personally Ehrhart holds a perfect track record in the Rolex Middle Sea Race - in 2010 he entered it in his TP52, also named Lucky, and impressively won overall under IRC on his first attempt. This will be his first time back. He says: "In 2010 it was such a tough race through every condition possible. Truly the race is a great test of sailing skill and we look forward to the test again this year. Thanks to Royal Malta Yacht Club and Rolex for keeping this event so strong for so many years. It is a classic!"

The longest maxi competing this year is the 107ft Paprec Sailing Team (aka Spirit of Malouen) skippered by Stéphane Névé. This started life as Sir Charles Dunstone's Wallycento Hamilton, was then acquired by Thomas Bscher, extended to 107ft and renamed Open Season. She was sold to present owner Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, who has evolved her into being an offshore racer.

The 100ft Leopard 3 will be one to watch. Under original owner Mike Slade, Leopard 3 was transformed from a racer into a race cruiser. Under her present Dutch owner she has been transformed back. In a massive refit earlier this year her rig was replaced with one 350kg lighter, permitting bigger, longer luffed, jibs. The central part of her deck (mast back to main winch) and cabin top were replaced so she now has a tighter sheeting angle for her headsails. She has a full new winch package. In total she is now five tonnes lighter.

The mods are working as Leopard 3 won both line and overall honours in July's Aegean 600. For the Rolex Middle Sea Race skipper Chris Sherlock says they have bolstered their crew, including re-recruiting Volvo Ocean Race skipper Neal McDonald as a watch leader. Tied to the nav station will again be Will Best.

Sherlock is impressed with this year's maxi line-up: "It is a pretty hot fleet and there's a lot of good guys on all the boats." As to the conditions he says that the big breeze originally forecast for the first day is now passing through on Friday. After the start it is currently looking light and upwind: "Our routing is telling us we will be on our J0 and J2 for near on 90% of the race, so a lot of upwind stuff and light-medium, which is also good for Bullitt. But everyone is going to have their good spots in this race where they go really well, but the boats are so diverse, it will depend on how much of that 'good stuff' you get for your boat."

Andrea Recordati's Bullitt has also been under the knife. Compared to how she was last year, the Wally 93 is more powerful with improved downwind performance thanks to a longer bowsprit, increased mast rake and increased sail area. She also now has a fixed keel drawing 6m with the bulb further aft producing a more bow-up trim, further augmented by the two tonnes of water ballast she now has each side.

Making her Rolex Middle Sea Race debut this year is Roy P Disney's Pyewacket 70 VO70, originally the 2011 vintage Telefonica. She was subsequently turboed when she was Peter Harburg's all-conquering Black Jack, before Disney acquired her in 2019.

Disney, and his father Roy E before him, are and were enthusiastic Transpac competitors who pioneered the West Coast maxi sleds (ULDBs), then the maxZ86s. Roy P has personally raced 26 Transpacs... "My father for years and years had this on his list," he says of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, a race his father ultimately never sailed. "It is a very romantic race. Everyone who does it talks about the beauty of it, all the way around and the finish is just amazing. I finally decided to close the loop. Now my boy is off to college, I have the time..." And Stromboli (the volcanic island the race passes) is a character from Pinocchio.

Aside from her success in the Transpac and other races on the US West Coast, Pyewacket 70 proved she is competitive by winning this spring's RORC Caribbean 600 outright. "Because it is a Volvo boat, it gets more comfortable the more breeze there is!" Disney continues. "We are up against some 100 footers so we may not win on the water, but I think in the light air we are going to have them. Reaching we should be at least up with them."

Surprisingly it will also be a first Rolex Middle Sea Race for Pyewacket 70's legendary navigator Peter Isler (who started the heavy weather race in 2007 aboard Tom Hill's maxi Titan 12, but then retired). "My expectation is to see a volcano, get the through the Strait and beat Lucky!" His forecast is similar to Sherlock's: "It is a good navigator's race. It is looking like it will be a broadish reach about half way to the Strait [Messina] and then a front goes through and once that clears it turns on the wind in the Strait with a fair bit of punch and then it's westerly all along the top of a lot of Sicily. So a lot of upwind."

In addition there are the usual array of former Volvo Ocean Race boats including the VO70s Ocean Breeze and Green Dragon and the VO65s Ambersail 2 and Sisi. Among the hot 60s are is the DSS-equipped Wild Joe sailed by Marton Jozsa and Guido Paolo Gamucci's canting keel Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X. For Jozsa and his largely Hungarian crew, the race will be their 12th Rolex Middle Sea Race.

More information at

Related Articles

IMA Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series concludes
Allegra claims inaugural series by a point The first running of the International Maxi Association's Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series concluded on Sunday with the end of the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival held out of Nanny Cay, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Posted on 9 Apr
Strong 100 footer competition IMA Maxi Europeans
31 registered entries for May's event at the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia With seven weeks remaining until the third edition of the IMA Maxi European Championship, so far there have been 31 registered entries with 24 firmed up for the event, organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia in conjunction with the IMA. Posted on 8 Apr
IMA Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series finale preview
Two horse race as the series heads for its BVI conclusion Next week the International Maxi Association's inaugural Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series (CMMS) has its deciding event in the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, taking place out of Nanny Cay, Tortola. Posted on 29 Mar
New IMA Mediterranean Maxi Multihull Challenge
IMA's latest series will provide a framework and some focus for the owners of maxi multihulls To complement its recently announced IMA Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series, the International Maxi Association is to hold its first IMA Mediterranean Maxi Multihull Challenge in 2024. Posted on 6 Mar
IMA Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series launched
Starting with the RORC Caribbean 600 Following its successful series in the Mediterranean for maxi monohulls, the International Maxi Association has similarly gathered together the most popular local sailing events to create the IMA Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series (CMMS). Posted on 14 Feb
Strong entries already for 3rd IMA Maxi Europeans
Returning to Sorrento and the Bay of Naples Following two successful editions, the IMA Maxi European Championship returns to Sorrento and the Bay of Naples for a third consecutive year in May 2024. Posted on 6 Dec 2023
IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge concludes
Wallyño wins for the second time While it was close when International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont's Wallyño won the first ever edition of the IMA's Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge (MMIC) in 2019, this year it wasn't. Posted on 17 Oct 2023
Winners crowned at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez
Cannonball, Lyra, Wallyño and Stella Maris win in the Maxi classes The final day of maxi yacht competition at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez took place on a large trapezoidal course off the Bay of Pampelonne in a 7-10 knot easterly in seas that ranged from flat to occasionally lumpy and irregular. Posted on 6 Oct 2023
Wallyño wins class at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez
Decisive win with a day to space in Maxi C While in some classes the victors are now close to being decided going into tomorrow's last race for the 39 maxi yachts at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, more light conditions off the Cote d'Azur produced some new winners today. Posted on 5 Oct 2023
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez 2023 Day 3
Big breeze and straight bullets for Lyra and Wallyño Today the crews of the 39 maxi yachts competing in the Bay of Pampelonne braced themselves for a well-forecast pummeling with winds that built into the mid-20s allowing the faster boats to hit 20+ speeds. Posted on 3 Oct 2023