by Oliver Dewar
RORC Caribbean 600 and the six Class40’s in the race were reduced to five in the first 24 hours of racing with Gonzalo Botin and his Spanish crew on Tales forced to retire during the beat between Saba and St. Barths sustaining an ankle injury on board.
RORC Caribbean 600
By 20:00 GMT on Tuesday evening, Ned Collier-Wakefield and the five crew on board the Akilaria RC2 Concise 2 had rounded St. Maarten at the northern end of the course and were reaching south along the 185-mile descent to Guadeloupe averaging just under 11 knots in around 17 knots and holding a lead of 14 miles over fellow Briton, Matthew Sweetman, on Puff the Magic Dragon (Olivier Singelin’s 2009 Akilaria Gonser Group – Cambio) with David Ducosson in third on Fitz (Philippe Fiston’s akilaria RC2 Territoires Attitude) a further 22 miles astern.
At this stage in the 2010 RORC Caribbean 600, skippers were studying the weather files with increasing concern and an unchanging forecast of light conditions forced many to retire from the race. This year, however, models suggested stable north-easterly breeze of around 13-16 knots across the course.
As Botin and his two crew reached Jolly Harbour on Tales, the South African brothers, Lenjohn and Peter van der Wel and their four crew on Global Ocean Race 2011-12 entry, Ocean Warrior racing in CSA, trailed Ducosson and Fitz by 28 miles making slightly under ten knots in the lee of St. Martin while Martin Zeyer and the German crew on Pogo 2 reached St. Barths 20 miles behind the South Africans following a long port tack to the south-east after rounding Saba.
One hour later, Puff the Magic Dragon diverted from the route south and headed to English Harbour, Antigua, in a move that was followed by Ocean Warrior early on Wednesday morning, leaving 50 per cent of the original Class40 fleet racing.
At 09:00 GMT on Wednesday, Concise 2 were off the south-west tip of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe having given the island a wide berth, swinging west and avoiding a potential wind shadow, while Fitz, in second place 25 miles behind Collier-Wakefield’s Class40, opted for the inshore route around Guadeloupe sailing close to Ilet Kahouanne off the northern tip of Basse-Terre.
The inshore gamble failed to play-out for Ducosson and his team on board Fitz slowed to sub-4 knot averages along Basse-Terre’s western shore while Concise 2 kept the speeds at around 7-8 knots after a brief period of drifting off the island’s south-western tip. Meanwhile, the German team on Pogo 2 had shaved 19 miles off the deficit to Fitz and were trailing Ducosson by 46 miles as he struggled south along the coast.
Throughout Wednesday afternoon (GMT), Fitz continued inshore, overhauled by the IRC1 First 50 Hydrocarbon Logic taking a route further offshore, while Concise 2 kept pace with Piet Vroon’s Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens 3 at around seven knots as the two boats beat north-east through the channel between Guadelopue and the outlying island of Marie Galante. North of Guadeloupe, Pogo 2 made the best speed of the Class40 trio at 9.9 knots, enjoying the reaching conditions before negotiating the winds and currents to the west of the island.
With 194 miles remaining for the Class40 fleet leader, the three boats will head north towards Barbuda and the North Sails buoy, having left the island of Le Disirade off Guadeloupe’s eastern tip to port, then west to the uninhabited island of Redonda before a final beat to the finish line off Antigua.
Class40 ranking at 16:00 GMT Wednesday 23 February:
1. Concise 2 DTF 194nm Av spd 7.7kts
2. Fitz DTF 234nm Av spd 5.5kts
3. Puff the Magic Dragon RTD
4. Tales RTD
5. Ocean Warrior RTD
6. Pogo 2 DTF 268nm Av spd 9.9kts
RORC Caribbean 600 website