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Rolex Sponsors the Rolex Middle Sea Race

Paul Altieri

In some parts of the world, the name Rolex is synonymous with sailing, and men who have won watches at the helm of their yachts. Rolex has long been a sponsor of sailing competitions around the world; as the brand notes, “Rolex has forged a privileged relationship with yachting out of a natural affinity with this dynamic sport and its time-honored values.” Over 50 years ago Rolex first entered into a mutually beneficial partnership with the famed New York Yacht Club which maintains lavish clubhouses in Manhattan and Newport, Rhode Island. These days Rolex also has “deep-rooted ties with the most prestigious yacht clubs, institutions and regattas in the world, sharing the highest standards of excellence with the custodians of yachting’s finest spirit.”

Rolex has since continued its support of sailing, sponsoring races and events around the globe. The brand is the title sponsor of 15 major international events. An important event coming up on the calendar is the Rolex Middle Sea Race, which will take place October 22 to 29, 2022, in Valletta, Malta.

Rolex Yacht-Master II Stainless Steel

43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race

Organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC), the Rolex Middle Sea Race course is approximately 606 nautical miles long and it is sailed counterclockwise. 

The strikingly scenic route starts from Grand Harbour in Valletta and the fleet heads towards the Strait of Messina (a narrow strait between the eastern tip of Sicily and the western tip of Calabria in Southern Italy) with views of the Mount Etna active volcano often visible on the port side. Once through the straight, sailors will be met with another view of an active volcano – Mount Stromboli – as they head north then west, sailing along the northern coast of Sicily. The fleet will then turn south, sailing with the islands Favignana, Pantelleria, and Lampedusa on the port side before turning north-east towards the South Comino Channel and then to the final leg to the finish line at the entrance to Marsamxett Harbour.

Last year’s event was when all records fell thanks to once-in-a-lifetime conditions. The maxi Comanche (a 100-ft yacht with skipper Mitch Booth at the helm) was declared the overall winner, completing the racecourse in a record-breaking time of 40 hours, 17 minutes, and 50 seconds, which was seven and half hours less than the previous record. This was the first time in 14 years that the course record was broken. 

The entry list of this year’s edition, the 43rd Rolex Middle Sea Race, currently stands at 120 yachts representing 25 countries.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold Oysterflex

Rolex and Yachting 

The first RMYC-organized Middle Sea Race sailed in 1968 and Rolex joined as an official partner in 2002. 

Some of the other yachting events and yacht clubs Rolex currently partners with include: 

  • Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
  • Rolex Fastnet Race
  • Rolex TP52 World Championship 
  • Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 
  • Rolex Swan Cup
  • SailGP 
  • Cruising Yacht Club of Australia
  • Royal Ocean Racing Club
  • Yacht Club Costa Smeralda
  • Yacht Club Italiano
  • New York Yacht Club
  • Royal Yacht Squadron

What’s more, Rolex counts yachtsmen Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Ben Ainslie as brand ambassadors. 

Rolex Yacht-Master II White Gold Platinum

Rolex Yachting Watches

Rolex has been making watches for yachting since 1992 when it debuted the Yacht-Master. While the first Yacht-Master was a solid yellow gold 40mm model, Rolex has since expanded the sporty watch collection to include a wide range of sizes, materials, and colorways. 

Regardless of the specific style, all Yacht-Master watches (except special edition gem-set ones) have the following design characteristics: 

  • Oyster case water-resistant to 100 meters (330 feet)
  • Bi-directional rotating timing bezel with raised numerals (0 to 60 minutes scale)
  • Date window on the dial, magnified by Cyclops lens on the sapphire crystal
  • Mercedes-style hands and geometric-shaped hour markers (round, rectangular at 6 and 9, and one inverted triangle at 12)
  • Automatic movements 

A particularly noteworthy offering within the Yacht-Master collection is the Rolesium models. Rolesium is the name Rolex gives to watches that mix steel cases and platinum bezels, which is a metal combination exclusive to the Yacht-Master line. Furthermore, the Yacht-Master was the collection that debuted Rolex’s newest bracelet, called the Oysterflex bracelet. The Oysterflex bracelet is composed of a metal blade interior that is shrouded in black rubber, which results in a sporty rubber strap style but benefits from the durability of a metal core. 

Rolex Yacht-Master II Everose Two-Tone

Rolex Yacht-Master II Watches

In 2007, Rolex released the Yacht-Master II, which was geared toward competitive sailors. The Yacht-Master II is one of Rolex’s largest and most technically complicated watches. It features a regatta chronograph, complete with a programmable countdown with the world’s only mechanical memory. Perfect for skippers to determine the best course of action at racetime.

Yacht-Master II watches sport 44mm cases, Ring Command bezels (which serve to set and synchronize the programmable countdown), Oyster bracelets, and run on Caliber 4160/4161 automatic chronograph movements. 

Rolex has currently made four Yacht-Master II references: 

  1. Yacht-Master II ref. 116688 in yellow gold 
  2. Yacht-Master II ref. 116681 in two-tone Everose gold and stainless steel
  3. Yacht-Master II ref. 116680 in stainless steel
  4. Yacht-Master II ref. 116689 (discontinued) with a white gold case and platinum bezel

Whether you’re a sailor yourself or simply enjoy wearing Rolex’s collection of nautical-inspired sports watches, the company’s association with the dynamic world of yachting is one that will no doubt continue for the foreseeable future.

Rolex Yacht-Master II Regatta Timer Stainless Steel
Paul Altieri