Action at the 2016 Middle Sea Race got underway on Wednesday with a 21-mile coastal race.

Organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club as a warm-up opportunity to put in some practice ahead of the main event which starts on Saturday, some 33 teams entered.

Principal Race Officer Peter Dimech set a course offering various sailing angles and the race was sailed in decent breeze building from 8 to 15 knots during the race.

Starting from Marsamxett Harbour, the first leg was downwind under spinnaker to the Valletta Fairway Buoy, followed by a reach to the Munxar Cardinal Buoy and a beat to Benghisa Cardinal Buoy off the south east corner of Malta.

The fleet then returned on a reciprocal course back to Marsamxett. The First 45 Elusive 2 sailed by Podesta family from Malta came out on top as overall winners.

The westerly breeze coming off Malta meant there were plenty of puffs and shifts all along the east and south east coast of the island for crews to take advantage of. Going offshore in search of stable breeze or looking for lifting pressure inshore proved the main tactical puzzle.

With opportunities to sail different angles and play shifts caused by the land effects during the three to four hours of racing, the Coastal Race was a great rehearsal for the 608-mile offshore classic.

Elusive 2, jointly skippered by siblings Aaron, Christoph and Maya Podesta, all members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, completed the course in the quickest elapsed time as well as the best corrected time under IRC.

Yves Grosjean’s French J/133 Jivaro was second overall and Nils Lindemann's X-p 44 Xpedite took third. Class winners were: Vasily Shumarin’s Raketa 1200 Belka 2 from Russia, Hartl & Wolf's double-handed Austrian entry the J/109 2Hard, Vadim Sklyarov's Ukranian Dufour 45 Du4 and, of course, Elusive 2.

Prizes were awarded in front of some 300 guests at the Middle Sea Race Owners' Reception & Coastal Race Prize Giving held at the historic Fort St. Angelo, overlooking Valletta's Grand Harbour.

Fort St. Angelo was originally built in the medieval period and named the Castello al Mare. Soon after their arrival in 1530, the Knights of the Order St. John set about repairing and strengthening the fort’s substantial defences.

The repairs proved their worth 35 years later when Fort St. Angelo played a heroic role in the Great Siege of 1565. The epic resistance of the Knights during the three-month siege gave the Fort its legendary status as protector of the Maltese nation.

In recognition of its importance, the fort was recently subject to a €14 million restoration project under the management of Heritage Malta.

The next racing action at the 37th Middle Sea Race will be the offshore race start at 11.00 on Saturday, 22 October.

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